History of Tea
Enjoy a range of black, white, green and herbal teas
According to Chinese legend, in 2737 BC, one of the first tea drinkers was Emperor Shennong, a skilled ruler, scientist and renowned herbalist. He was sitting beneath a tree while his servant prepared boiled drinking water for his Master. Some leaves blew off a nearby tree and into the hot water, creating an infusion, which Shennong decided to taste and then liked. He continued to samples different herbs and tea leaves to determine their medicinal value.
Zen Buddist monks drank tea as a means to stay alert during their long hours of meditation and fasting.
Tea continued to grow in popularity in China and Japan and then was first introduced to England by Portuguese and Dutch traders in clipper ships to England. In the mid 1600s it was sold in coffee shops as a medicinal infusion. King Charles II started to serve tea at Court to the wealthy courtiers and landowners and soon it was a prized beverage to be consumed only by the elite due to the high cost of obtaining it.
In time, it became more readily available to the British and was regarded as the passion of the people. Tea leaves were so revered that they were reused to brew additional cups and the industry of England’s fine bone china was born. The ritual of adding milk to the teacup first was to prevent the scalding tea from cracking the fine porcelain cup.
When tea was first brought to America, the purveyors would sell the tea in silk pouches, which the customer would often put directly into the teapot and infuse the tea in that way, in essence, creating the first teabags!
In 1773 England tried to impose the Tea Act on its colonies by charging an import tax on tea. When this tax was being imposed on America, the Americans revolted in what became known as the Boston Tea Party, tossing the tea into Boston harbour to avoid paying the tax.
By the end of the 1800s tea prices had radically dropped enabling others to adopt this as their beverage of choice. Britain soon started looking to India for its vast growing potential of black tea and large plantations were established to grow teas in abundance for export to England and other countries.
The popular mint tea has an interesting history behind it – it was believed to have been brought by Arabs traders over the desert on camels to a sea port where it was loaded onto clipper ships to England.
Another story goes that Queen Anne of England gifted the leader of Morocco with mint tea after the release of some British prisoners.
In much more recent times we get to enjoy the special tea called Buckingham Palace Garden Party which is a glorious blend of Orange Pekoe, pure high grown Ceylon Earl Grey, Green tea, malty Assam and soft Jasmine from the Fujian province.
This tea is specially selected to be served at the Queen’s annual garden party in May at Buckingham Palace where about 4000 people attend. These invitations are extended to guests from throughout the British Commonwealth and they come in all their custom finery to mingle with the aristocratic British society.
The fare of the day is the traditional finger sandwiches which include cucumber and watercress and Smoked Scottish salmon as well as an assortment of delicate dessert dainties and fresh scones, all beautifully set up outside in the west gardens of the Palace. To all that attend, it is an honour and an unforgettable experience, particularly for those who actually get to speak with a Royal family member for a few moments.
Today tea is grown in many places around the world and we are fortunate to be able to enjoy all the wonderful varieties and their distinct flavours and properties.