The Amoy dialect word for tea is “te” and
it was the pronunciation from foreign traders that the
English word tea came from. The legend of the discovery
of tea harkens back to 2737 B.C. by the father of Chinese
medicine, Emperor Shen Nung. One day Shen Nung was resting
under a wild tea tree when some or its leaves fell into
the boiling water that he was preparing. He tasted it
and felt refreshed and revitalized, realizing that the
brew had medicinal powers. And so, tea was discovered.
During the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906), tea reached the
height of fashion also referred to as the “golden
age” of tea. Tea was no longer taken as a medicinal
tonic but drunk for pleasure. It was this time that tea
began to spread outside of China, first to Japan in A.D.
729, next to Korea and then to the Middle East.
Tea reached Europe in the early 17th century by Dutch
and Portuguese traders. By the middle of the 17th century,
drinking afternoon tea became a common habit for Dutch.
In 1658, Thomas Garraway, a general merchant was the first
to advertise the virtue of tea at his London coffee house.
Tea-drinking in Britain took a lucky turn in 1662 when
King Charles II married the Portuguese princess, Catherine
of Braganza. She served her friends afternoon tea and
very soon it became the talk of aristocratic drawing rooms
across the capital. Ladies enjoyed tea at home, while
gentlemen drank theirs in the coffee houses. The British
adopted the Dutch habit of drinking afternoon tea since
America, the reaction to tea was quite different especially
after the famous incident known as The Boston Tea Party.
On December 16, 1773, a group of Americans dressed as
Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and threw all the
teas overboard into the Boston Harbor in protest of an
increased tea tax imposed by King George III. The Boston
Tea Party ended America’s liking for both the British
and their teas and signaled the beginning of America’s
coffee-drinking tradition. This changed in 1908 when the
“tea bag” concept was brought to the US by
a New York tea trader, Thomas Sullivan. He filled small
bags with tea and sent them out as samples to his customers
and helped renew the country’s interest in tea.
Today, more teas are consumed around the world than any
other beverage. Every nation has established tea traditions
and there are many different kinds of teas to suit each
individual and social taste. Not only are teas being enjoyed
for their delightful taste, but as a fashionable social