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Tea: a brief history

Tea in ancient times

According to legend, tea was first discovered in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor named Shen Nung when a few leaves fell into hot water. In fact, tea drinking was discovered much later in history (it is not known exactly when), and it is not known who discovered it. From China, tea spread to Japan. During the Middle Ages, the Japanese developed their own tea ceremony.

The first Europeans to drink tea were the Dutch. Their merchants brought tea from East Asia in 1610. In England, tea was first drunk in the middle of the 17th century. It was first sold in England in 1657. In 1658, tea was advertised in England as a Chinese drink.

However, the popularity of tea drinking was brought by a Portuguese woman named Ekaterina Braganza. She married King Charles II at Portsmouth in 1662. Catherine loved tea, and thanks to her, he soon became fashionable. At the end of the 17th century, milk was added to tea.

Tea in the 18th century

In the 18th century, the British became recognized tea drinkers. The tea table has become a common piece of furniture. However, at the end of the 18th century, the British introduced a tax on tea in the North American colonies, which caused bitter discontent among the colonists.

Then in 1773, the British East India Company sent tea for sale to the American colonies. Three ships were sent to Boston with 298 chests of tea.

However, Boston was the center of resistance to the British. On December 16, 1773, men dressed as Indians boarded the ships and threw the tea into the sea.

In the 18th century, it was customary to forge tea by adding leaves of other plants to it.

Laws against tea adulteration were passed in 1724, 1730 and 1776. (Falsification of food and drink was common in Britain until the end of the 19th century)

At the same time, tea was heavily taxed in the 18th century. As a result, tea smuggling was very common in England. However, the Switching Act was passed in 1784, which greatly reduced the tax on tea, making it much cheaper and ending tea smuggling.

In the 18th century, 19th century, and early 20th century, tea was stored in coasters made of wood, metal, porcelain, or tortoise shell. Early censers had padlocks. The word “caddy” comes from the Malay word “kati”, which meant a measure of weight.

Tea in the 20th century

Tea was originally grown in China. In India, it began to be grown on an industrial scale only in the 19th century. The first Indian tea was sold in Britain in 1839. Since the 1870s, tea has been grown commercially in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Earl Gray tea is named after politician Earl Gray (1764-1845). He was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1830-1834.
Iced tea was invented in the USA at the end of the 19th century. It became popular when it was sold at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

During World War II, tea was rationed in Britain. From July 1940, only 2 ounces per week was allowed. What’s more, tea has been rationed for over 12 years.

To make matters worse, milk and sugar rations were introduced in the 1940s. Sugar rationing was introduced in January 1940 and ended only in 1953! (Food rationing finally ended in England only in 1954).

Today, tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world.