Tea Information and Facts
History of Tea Parties
Origin of Teas
origin of tea
drinking has been traced back to the Chinese Emperor Chen Nung of 2737 BC, who
was also a scholar and herbalist, who discovered this refreshing drink when he
was sitting beneath a tree while his servant was boiling a pot of water. A few
leaves from a tea plant dropped into the pot of water, gave an excellent
aroma and he found it tasted as good when sipped.
Tea and it's role in
consumption spread throughout the Chinese culture reaching into every aspect
of the society. It was another 4,000
years before the brewing method that we use today was developed. During the
Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the Chinese began steeping tea leaves in boiled
water. With a few adaptations, the traditional Chinese lidded wine-ewer became
a perfect teapot.
It was not
until after 725 AD that tea cultivation spread from China to Japan. In Japan, Tea was elevated to an art form
resulting in the creation of the
consignment of tea reached Europe in 1610, brought by the Dutch from China to
Java and from there to Holland.
Because of the success of the Dutch navy in the Pacific, tea became very
fashionable in the Dutch capital, the Hague. This was due in part to the high
cost of the tea (over $100 per pound) which immediately made it the domain of
the wealthy. Slowly, as the amount of tea imported increased, the price fell
as the volume of sale expanded. Initially available to the public in
apothecaries along with such rare and new spices as ginger and sugar, by 1675
it was available in common food shops throughout Holland.
mention of adding milk to tea came in
1680. During the same period, Dutch inns provided the first restaurant
service of tea. Tavern owners would furnish
guests with a portable tea set complete with a heating unit. The independent
Dutchman would then prepare tea for himself and his friends outside in the
tavern's garden. Tea remained popular in
France for only about fifty years, being replaced by a stronger preference for
wine, chocolate, and exotic coffees.
The first tea
used in England came from Dutch sources between 1652 and 1654. When Charles II
of England married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, she
introduced the pleasures of tea drinking to the English Court.
Prior to the
introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals for the day -
breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread and beef. Dinner was a long,
massive meal at the end of the day. It was no wonder that Anna, the Duchess of
Bedford (1788-1861) experienced a "sinking feeling" in the late afternoon.
Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for
an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle.
The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches,
assorted sweets, and tea. The practice of
inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon
was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.
tea ceremonies demanded the necessary tea-drinking accoutrements. A successful
tea party required the full kit – cups, saucers, pots, jugs, spoons,
tongs, strainers, and napkins – in the season’s
styles and colors. Silversmiths, potters, and linen
manufacturers were quick to respond. The strain of so many afternoon tea
parties produced its own style of clothing as well. The tea gown
was a purpose-built outfit – soft, flowing, and feminine – into which an extra
slice of cake could expand unseen.
soon expanded to include wafer thin crustless sandwiches, shrimp or
fish pates, toasted breads with jams, and
regional British pastries such as scones
(Scottish) and crumpets (English).
At this time two different forms of tea services evolved: "High" and "Low".
"Low" Tea (served in the low part of the
afternoon) was served in aristocratic homes of the wealthy and featured
gourmet tidbits rather than solid meals. The emphasis was on presentation and
conversation. "High" Tea on the other
hand, was the main meal of the day for the middle and lower classes and
consisted mostly of full dinner items such as roast beef, mashed potatoes,
peas, and of course, tea.
experiencing the Dutch "tavern garden teas", soon the English developed the
idea of Tea Gardens. Here ladies and
gentlemen took their tea outdoors surrounded by music, flowers, greenery,
hidden arbors, or other forms of entertainment. Tipping
as a response to proper service developed in the Tea Gardens of England.
Small, locked wooden boxes were placed on the tables throughout the Garden.
Inscribed on each were the letters "T.I.P.S." which stood for the sentence "To
Insure Prompt Service". If a guest wished the waiter to hurry he dropped a
coin into the box on being seated "to insure prompt service". Thus, the custom of tipping servers was created.
were early devotees of tea. Their tea arrived overland from China by camel
train. The trip was 11,000 miles long and took over sixteen months to
complete. As the passion for tea increased in Russia, the lines of
camels that snaked across Asia lengthened. By the end of the eighteenth
century, several thousand camels in trains of 200–300 at a time were crossing
the Chinese border. The Russians invented the samovar,
a combination of bubbling hot water heater and tea pot, that could run all day
and serve up to forty cups of tea at a time.
By 1650 the
Peter Stuyvesant brought the first tea to America to the colonists in the
Dutch settlement of 'New Amsterdam' (later re-named New York after the British
took over in 1674). Settlers here were avid tea drinkers and it was found that
the small settlement consumed more tea at that time then all of England put
Colonists took the habit of tea drinking with
them to other parts of the world, such as Australia, New Zealand, and South
Britain began to tax its American colony without its consent, imposing a tax
on tea. The colonists were infuriated. When the first three tea ships arrived
at Boston a band of men dressed as Indians descended on the ships during the
night of December sixteenth 1773. This was the famous "Boston tea party"
when they threw 342 chests of tea into the sea. Such leading
citizens as Samuel Adams and John Hancock took part. England had had enough.
In retaliation, the port of Boston was closed and the city was occupied by
royal troops. The colonial leaders met and war was declared. The War of Independence was the outcome. By
1776 the Declaration of Independence had been made and, within a few years,
America was free.
India and other countries
consumption increased in the early nineteenth century, the East India Company
looked for new sources of supply. Since the Chinese had a monopoly on
tea-growing, the solution was to plant tea elsewhere. The first experiments
with Chinese tea seed were conducted in Assam,
North East India. They were not successful, although the same seeds
subsequently grew well in Darjeeling, North India and tea cultivation
became well established by 1875. That same year, a new source of tea was found
in Ceylon, Sri Lanka and by the end of
the 19th Century, Java was added to the
list by the Dutch.
Tea rooms and the Tango
After the popularity of the English tea gardens diminished during the early
part of the nineteenth Century, the first official tea room
in Britain came around 1864. Fine hotels in America and England began to
offer tea service in the late 1880's and Victorian ladies and gentlemen would
meet for afternoon tea. They continued to be popular meeting places
especially when the concept of afternoon tea dances
were introduced at these elegant hotels as the popularity of certain dance
crazes, like tango were sweeping the nation.
Tea is more
popular than ever in America today.
Millions of Americans still reach for that first cup of coffee in the morning,
but tea is making inroads into the coffee market. National tea sales have
climbed from just over $1 billion to about $5.1 billion over the last decade,
according to the Tea Council of the USA, a trade group. And it's not just
traditional black and orange pekoe tea behind that growth - more people are
buying green and specialty teas.
is perhaps one of the biggest driving forces behind tea's acclaim.
re-awakening of interest in tea can be predominantly contributed to Americans
seeking a more positive, healthy lifestyle. A recent study by researchers at
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard medical School showed that
tea, unlike coffee, boosts the body's immune system to fight infection. It
also showed blood cells from tea drinkers responded five times faster to germs
than did those of coffee drinkers.
Baby boomers, looking to move away from
traditional coffee drinks, have likely helped feed into the tea frenzy.
This graying market segment is considering the important health benefits as
they age. In addition, the emergence of bottled ready-to-drink teas have
brought tea to younger people who normally view it as a drink for the older
Fine hotels throughout the United States are re-establishing or planning for
the first time afternoon tea services. Countless Tea Shops and Tea Rooms have
sprung up around the United States with the increasing demand and the numbers
are climbing steadily.
Tea parties are ever also popular among
ladies of all ages as well. Young girls enjoy the fantasy of pretending to be
grown-ups with their friends, dressing up in pretty gowns and using special
cups and dishes. A fringe benefit, is the etiquette, respect, and social
skills that the children learn in the process. Adults are also enjoying the
re-emerging of tea at informal or formal tea gatherings. It is a time
they can enjoy and relax with their friends or family and take time off from
their busy schedule to indulge in the niceties of an era long gone.
Types of Tea
Types of Tea
Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam, China Black, Nilgiri, Sikkim, Nepal and
In black teas, the fresh green leaves are rolled and crushed, then allowed to
fully ferment. This imparts the dark color and characteristic flavor of
Black Teas can be enjoyed with or without milk.
Green Darjeeling, Gyokuro Jade Dew, Kukicha First Flush Yama, Jasmine Dragon
Phoenix, Jasmine Litchi, Lungching, Gold Flecked Green, Chunmee Green,
are heated immediately after harvesting to prevent fermentation. This
preserves a fresh, vegetal or slightly pungent, green flavor, a delicate body
and aroma. The infusion is clean and light. Milk is never used. A great way to savor the different flavors and variety of green teas is to try a
e.g. China Ti Kuan Yin
Oolong, Farmosa Oolong, Imperial Gold, Orchid Oolong.
are partially fermented and fall somewhere between black and green, often
combining features of both. They vary from light, greenish, and flowery to
dark, spicy or toasted. Like the greens, they are taken without milk.
e.g. Amaretto, Chamomile,
Honeybush, Raspberry Leaf, Peppermint, Rooibos, Yerba Mate.
teas, properly speaking, should not be referred to as "teas" at all. Tea is
the beverage made from the leaves of the tea plant, and comes from no other
infusions, on the other hand, are beverages made from one or more herbs and
spices. The history of herbs and spices is more ancient than that of tea and
coffee, and in much of the world herbal infusions are referred to as Tisanes.
Herbal Infusions are naturally caffeine free.
e.g. White Peony, Sow Mee.
originally produced in China's Fujian Province, is unique. It is different
from all other teas in that the fresh leaves undergo only two processing
operations, in a rigourously natural fashion: Withering and drying. Very
little white tea is produced and its manufacture requires particular care. The
name white tea comes from the silvery-white colour of its leaves, wich often
have a white down on them. China is practically the only supplier of high
quality white teas. The tea is also only picked one week a year, as it
is composed of the tea leaf buds and very little leaf.
Brewing a Perfect Cup
A Perfect Cup of Tea
- Use a hot teapot, preheating it by filling it with
hot tap water and letting it sit while boiling the water for the tea.
- Bring fresh cold water to a full rolling boil.
Water that has been reheated gives tea a flat taste, and only boiling
water can extract the full flavor and benefit from the leaves.
- Use one teaspoon of tea per six ounce cup of water,
empty the hot water from the teapot, place tea in teapot and pour the
boiling water over the tea.
- Brew for five minutes, stir and serve. Don't judge
the strength of tea by its color. It takes time for the leaves to
unfold and release their flavor. If you like tea less strong, add hot
water after the brewing period.
Glossary of Tea Service
is served at approximately four o'clock and can consist of whatever the
hostess chooses (sandwiches, scones, cookies, a special dessert such as a
fruit tart or a rich cake). It can be formally served in the dining room or at
the living room tea table. Informal teas can be enjoyed in the kitchen,
garden, as a picnic, or any location of choice.
is a combination of a Ploughman's Lunch (heavy grained bread, sharp cheese,
fruit, and sausages or a meat pie), popular in British pubs, served with a
is a complete four-course Afternoon Tea with sandwiches, scones, sweets, and a
adds a glass of champagne or sherry to the Full Tea.
is a lighter version of Afternoon Tea with a scone and a sweet.
is an afternoon tea that features scones and clotted cream.
is most often served as a Full Tea, only more of the same. It is enjoyed at
approximately six o'clock and is a light supper for the family or a
before-theater meal. An entree such as chicken a la king or meat pie may be
served with breads, biscuits, salad, cheese, fruit, and sweets.