FIND OUT THE SECRET STORY OF TEA
Posted on May 01 2023
British people drink tea for over 350 years, but the truth is that the history of tea goes much further back, and is long and complex, spreading across several cultures. In fact, tea's birth story is infused with a blend of myth, facts and coloured by ancient concepts of spirituality and philosophy.
It is thought that tea history has started around 2737 B.C., in China. There is an ancient legend that says that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong, accidentally discovered tea, white boiling water during his journey and a leaf, from an overhanging wild tea tree, drifted into his pot.
The tree was a Camelia Sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we today call tea. The legendary Emperor of China was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and restorative properties.
Until now, it is impossible to know if this story is true or not, but it certainly became established in China many centuries before it had even been heard about it in the West.
It is only on the second half of the 16th century that we start to brief some mentions of tea as a drink among Europeans. There were mostly from Portuguese people who were living in the East as missionaries or traders, but it was the Dutch the first to shop back tea as a commercial import when they started to encroach on Portuguese trading routes in the East.
Tea soon became a fashionable drink among the Dutch, and from there spread to other countries in continental Western Europe, but due to its high price, it remained a drink for the rich and wealthy.
British people were always a little suspicious about continental trends, and they did not gravitate towards tea immediately. Besides, coffee remained the preferred drink in coffee houses frequented mainly by men, but tea fad caught slowly with women who preceded it as a genteel drink.
It was in 1600 that the British East India Company had a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe, so it is likely that sailors on these ships to brought tea home as gifts. But it was the marriage between Charles II with Catherine of Braganza that would become a turning point in the history of tea in the United Kingdom.
Catherine of Braganza was a Portuguese princess, besides of a tea addict, and it was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage, first at court, and then among the wealthy classes.