A brief history of tea


One of the small comforts that I often find myself partaking in during this stressful time is curling up in a chair or on the sofa or even in my bed with a warm mug of tea. While I have never been a fan of stereotypes, the sitcoms and mockumentaries are probably right about Brits drinking a large amount of tea. A poll of tea drinkers in the UK showed that those who drink tea, on average have around 4 mugs a day. That’s 28 a week, 112 a month and 1460 every single year. So where did this wonderful drink that we Brits are obsessed with come from?

Well, it all started in China, although it’s origins can only be traced back to mere legends. It is said that the drink was discovered when leaves fell in Shen Nung’s boiling cauldron of water. He was boiling the water because there had been a decree that all water must be boiled before it can be drunk. First, the drink was seen as an aid for digestion before it became its only formal ceremony in China. From there, the popularity of tea only grew and grew, leading to the development of pots and trays all for the purpose of serving this newfound beverage. The drinks popularity grew so much that Chinese tea houses had become a focal point for Chinese social interactions. Families or groups of friends or acquaintances would gather at the tea houses and talk business, play games such as chess or mahjong and be entertained by performers that were present in the tea house. Some time point in the 3rd century, Buddhist monks who had travelled to China and discovered the tea, which they spread to Japan and Tibet, and even used in their own practices in the aid of meditation. 

Before tea was ever in England it was in North America, being enjoyed by the upper-class. It was only after the marriage of Catherine of Braganza, who fell in love with tea, to the King of England at the time, Charles II. After the tea was brought to England, merchants quickly set out to start trading companies bigger than even those run by the Dutch. Thus, the English India tea company was set up. The tax on tea was incredibly and reserved only for the confines of the upper-class home. Tea parties became a common thing in England and the ‘afternoon tea’ was coined by an English Duchess. The tea rooms that were popular in China began to gain popularity in England alongside coffee houses and were far more respectable for ladies to attend. 

Although tea lost its favour with people, the beverage is currently enjoyed across the globe and in many different forms. There are so many different types of tea, almost as many as there is to enjoy this warm and comforting liquid. As a lover of all things tea, I think a resurgence of this brilliant beverage is something I am certainly looking forward to watching unfold.



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