The legend of tea drinking
has been traced back to the Chinese Emperor Chen Nung, 2737 BC.
He was sitting under a tree while his servant was boiling a pot
of water, when a few leaves from a tea plant fell into the water.
The aroma was so flavorful that he tasted it and he began drinking
tea as a daily ritual.
Tea consumption spread
throughout the Chinese culture and everyone began drinking it.
It became especially popular during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The tradition spread to
Japan where it was elevated to an art form in the creation of
the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
By 1610, shiploads of tea
reached Europe brought by the Dutch from China. Because of it's
cost, only the wealthy could afford to drink it. As importing
increased, the prices fell and it became affordable to all the
people of Holland. Apothecaries started carrying new blends along
with sugar to improve some of the more bitter flavors. Tavern
owners began serving their guests with tea pots and small heating
Of course the British can't
be forgotten as Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza,
a Portuguese Princess. She introduced the pleasures of drinking
tea to the English Court during the 1650's.
It was customary for the
English to only eat two meals a day, breakfast and dinner. Anna,
the Duchess of Bedford, (1788-1861) began to feel famished before
their evening meal. She adopted the European tea ritual of afternoon
tea, serving small cakes, assorted sweets, and of course, tea.
This practice spread through the country side and became a standard
practice which still is done today.
Craftsmen like silversmiths,
potters and linen makers were quick to respond to the new custom.
Tea Parties even produces their own style of clothing with flowing
and feminine attire.
Two different types of
tea services, high (served with more elegance in wealthier homes)
and low (served in the early afternoon in peasant homes) focused
mainly on presentation and conversation.
Tea Gardens began to spring
up all over England where ladies and gentlemen took their tea
outdoors where they were surrounded by music, flowers and greenery.
Small wooden boxes were placed on tables throughout the garden
where people would leave a tip ( which means To Insure Proper
Service). Thus the custom of tipping your server was created.
The first official tea
room was established in Britain around 1864. All the fine hotels
in America and England were serving Victorian ladies and gentlemen
afternoon tea. It became a popular meeting place and afternoon
tea dances became popular, the tango in particular.
Let's not forget India.
The Chinese had a monopoly on tea growing and decided on a solution
to plant tea in other places. Some were not successful, but the
seeds grew well in Darjeeling, North India and by 1875, tea cultivation
had become well established. Other varieties were found in Ceylon
and Sri Lanka by the end of the 19th Century.
The Russians enjoyed tea
as well, which arrived to them from China via camel train. It
was an 11,000 mile trip and took over 16 months to arrive. By
the end of the 18th century, many more trains were established.
The Russians loved there tea so much, they invented the samovar,
which is a tea pot that could run all day and serve up to 40 cups
of tea at a time.
Meanwhile, in America the
settlers became avid tea drinkers brought by Peter Stuyvesant
in 1650. In 1765 Britain began taxing the American colonies, without
their consent, with a tea tax. This infuriated the colonists.
We all know the story of the "Boston Tea Party" when
they threw 342 chests of tea into the sea when the first three
tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor. A band of men dressed as Indians
descended on the ships during the night of December 16, 1773.
The port of Boston closed and the city was occupied by the royal
troops. The colonial leaders met and declared the war. Within
a few years, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was made
and America was free.