In the world, there are over 3,000 different varieties of tea on offer, with Earl Grey being one of the most popular types across the globe. In fact, the drink is so popular that it is the second most drunk beverage in the world, only losing out to water! But with all this consumption, our favorite tea has come a long way since its discovery. Behind this world favored drink is a long history that leads us up to the beverage we know today.
The truth behind the tea
Amazingly every type of tea comes from the same plant. Yes, you heard us right! The camellia sinensis is the plant that provides the world with every variety of tea possible, but there can be variables. While it may be the same plant, the origin and variety of the plant make a huge difference, as well as how the leaves are handled and processed after they’ve been picked.
The first cup
It was way back in 2737 BC that the first cup of tea was first brewed up, but apparently, it was a complete accident! While the emperor of China, Sheng Nung, was sitting under a camellia sinensis tree when a strong gust of wind blew some of the leaves into a boiling pot of drinking water. It was then that humanity realized the delicious taste they had been missing out on for so long. However, China wasn’t letting go of their secret quickly as it wasn’t until 815 AD that Japan mentions their Buddhist monks delivering the leaves to the temples.
In fact, tea became such a big part of Japanese culture that tea ceremonies were held, and were crucial parts of any Samurai class. Families would construct large tea structures for their rituals in their backyard, in addition to the girls having to learn a chanoyu (tea ceremony) before they were allowed to get married.
Pip pip, we’re off to Europe
While we now can’t think of the British without a cup of tea in hand, the beverage didn’t make its way over to Europe until the 1600s. It first landed in Dutch regions, but the British Royals discovered the secret and formed the East India Company. Their primary currency was tea which saw the business grow so much they had their own military and even took India, Hong Kong, and Singapore into their growing Empire – tea was quickly taking over the world. The American Revolutionary War was started when the British raised tea tax so much for the Americans it was impossible to buy. In fact, this is why traditionally Americans drink coffee as enjoying tea was once seen as unpatriotic.
High and low tea
During the 1800s, low tea, also known as afternoon tea, became a regular occurrence for the British Royals who would dress formally before sitting down to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. While it traditionally now remains an upper-class practice, it coined its name from the low lounge tables the sandwiches, cakes, and tea would be served from. High tea was far less formal and doesn’t usually occur until the early evening. High tea comes from the higher dining table used to serve the food which would consist of food such as roast beef, fish pies, baked beans, and casseroles with the tea; this would even sometimes be a substitute for dinner.
While most of us probably think we are being healthy with our herbal teas, they are, in fact, a mixture of tea leaves and flowers, herbs, seeds, or roots; they can also take up to 15 minutes to brew compared to a few minutes for standard varieties. However, teas can have an incredible number of health benefits, including boosting your immune system, helping with weight loss, and containing antioxidants just to name a few.
We never knew there was such a story behind tea, but next time we’re brewing up a cup, we’ll have to think about just how far the beverage has come over the years. Thank goodness we can now get something once so precious from the local store without starting a war – what a journey! But all this tea talk has got us thirsty – cup, anyone?