Who invented the Tea

Tea a Short History. The World’s Most Popular Beverage has a Long Heritage. Tea drinking came from China to northern Europe via Portugal and Holland but it was the British who took to tea with a passion. Tea has many varieties to suit all tastes.

Who discovered the Tea

Five thousand years ago Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, noticed that when some tea leaves accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water it turned a light brown colour. Curious Shen Nung supped the water and found the flavour to his taste. He is accidentally discovered the tha.

For many thousands of years the Chinese jealously guarded the secret of tea, but as China opened up to the west knowledge of this refreshing drink spread.

Portuguese and Tea

The first Europeans to experience the delights of tea drinking were the Portuguese who, in the 16th century, were granted the right to establish a trading station at Macao in return for ridding the region of pirates. So began the exportation of Chinese tea to the west.

Dutch and Tea

Eventually as the Dutch turned their eyes and ships to the Far East they were the first to introduce tea to northern Europe and the first to reserve a special room in their houses simply for the pleasure of drinking the brew. Although coming late to tea drinking it is the British who took to tea with a passion; a Mr Richard Wickham wrote to Macao in 1615 asking to be sent the best ‘pot of chaw’ that it was possible to obtain.

Tea and the British

Portuguese princess Catherine de Braganza, daughter of the Portuguese monarch John IV and queen to Charles II, established the tea craze in Britain, introducing the habit to the fashionable and noble circles of London.

With a swinging import tax of 200% tea was an expensive taste, with one pound (½ kilogram) costing more than a skilled man’s weekly wage it was not a drink that the poor could afford. As a result tea smuggling from Europe thrived in many English ports and as no tax was paid on smuggled tea it became affordable to the British middle class.

But it was not until taxes were reduced in the 18th century that tea began to establish itself amongst less affluent Britons. The eventual abolition of tea tax ended smuggling and increased tea’s popularity, so much so that it replaced ale as the tipple of choice. During this time the trend for afternoon tea was established. This was a semi-formal gathering of ladies where drinking tea was combined with the consumption of dainty sandwiches and pastries and no doubt a soupcon or two of gossip.

India and Tea Growing

Tea growing was still a Chinese monopoly. Until the British challenged the Chinese by establishing tea gardens in India, no one outside China had seen a tea tree, and certainly none but Chinese hands had planted, picked and prepared tea. But Indian tea soon equalled and passed its Chinese competitor in quality and in the range of varieties.

Tea Varieties

Even though all teas are produced from the same plant tea comes in a rainbow of varieties; the difference is in the processing. The more oxygen that is allowed into the fermenting process the blacker the tea, little oxygen produces green tea and tea where no oxygen is allowed into its production produces the most delicate of teas: white tea.

Black Tea

Black tea is the world’s most commonly drunk tea. It has a kaleidoscope of flavours and is the most robust tea.

Oolong Tea

Oolong has been called the Champaign of teas, grown mainly in Taiwan; Oolong has a delicate flowery, fruity flavour that is reminiscent of peaches, it also has a smoky tone, and a fluid that is pale yellow; most experienced tea drinkers preferring Oolong straight.

White Tea

White is a relative new-comer it is grown in China’s Fujian province. White tea is made from the youngest leaves that are dried in the sun or by steaming. The fluid is almost colourless and the flavour is subtle, slightly sweet with a nutty quality.

Green Tea

Green tea has an astringent taste reminiscent of fresh leaves, and it is a yellowish green in colour.

Both black and green teas may prevent tooth cavities and contain anti-oxidants called flavonoids, these give the body some protection against blood clotting and lowers the levels of cholesterol in the blood.

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