History of Tea





Tea is nearly 5,000 years old and was discovered, as legend has it, in 2737 b.c. According to legend, the Shen Nong (or Shen Nung), an early emperor was a skilled ruler, creative scientist and patron of the arts. He was called “The Divine Healer.” Numerous other medicinal plants were attributed to this legendary emperor. His far-sighted edicts required, among other things, that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. One summer day while visiting a distant region of his realm, he and the court stopped to rest. In accordance with his ruling, the servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from the near by bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid was infused into the water. As a scientist, the Emperor was interested in the new liquid, drank some, and found it very refreshing. And so, according to legend, tea was created.

Shen Nong

Although the famous ninth century Tea Master Lu Yu affirms that tea was discovered by Shen Nong, a king or emperor named Shen Nong probably never lived. In China's remote past, Shennong was the name of a primitive farming tribe. One clever unnamed Shennong chieftain is said to have invented plowing tools and grow crops, thus helping them evolve to an agricultural society from a fishing and hunting economy. In addition, he advocated setting up regular markets on a barter basis. He was believed to have tasted all the local herbs and become expert in the properties of herbal medicines. He taught people how to cure their diseases and collected his prescriptions in a book called the Materia Medica of Shen Nong. These achievements accorded him the status of a divinity, the name 'king or emperor' Shen Nong, and the title, 'Father of Tea'.

Based on the medical book 'Pen Tsao', attributed to Shen Nung, there are references which credit tea with being 'good for tumors or abscesses that come about the head, or for ailments of the bladder. It dissipates heat caused by the phlegm, or inflammation of the chest. It quenches thirst. It lessens the desire for sleep. It gladdens and cheers the heart'.

Shen Nong is also credited for developing the theory of "opposing natural forces" which would later play an important part in Taoist philosophy.

Almost 3,000 years later, Confucius was the first to really apply Shen Nong's theory of opposing forces. Confucius declared that it was man's responsibility to live a moral and just life, that by following a code of ethics and behavior, man could influence the opposing poles of good and evil that maintain the order of the universe. Gradually, the theory was expanded to describing everything in the universe as opposite poles - Yin and Yang - hot and cold, black and white, passive and aggressive and so on.

Lao Ziu translated Confucius' views of universal order into his own philosophy. Lao Ziu believed that man shouldn't interfere with fate, that the universe should be allowed to follow its destined the path (Tao). Lao Ziu's theories became hugely popular, gaining many followers, and gathering momentum until the religion called now known as Taoism was born. Despite Lao Ziu's basic theory of noninterference and allowing the natural order of events to take place, Taoists composed guidelines or a path (Tao), which when followed, eventually led to the "Great Tao" or the AbsoluteExternal.

Taoism became more than a religion, it became a blueprint of life. Taoists believed that man was a universe unto himself. Not only did a disciple of Taoism learn a moral code to follow to reach universal harmony but he also learned what foods to eat and what herbs to take to reach an internal harmony. Following the principles of Yin and Yang, hot and cold, Taoists began categorizing foods by their properties. They recommended "cold" foods such as fruit, vegetables, crab and fish to reduce heat in the body and "hot" foods such as fatty meats, eggs, spicy and fried foods to increase heat and vitality in the body. They soaked medicinal plants and herbs in alcohol, creating Yin and Yang, hot and cold, balancing tonics. These early tonics are the roots from which evolved the pills, creams and potions that comprise the pharmacopoeia of traditional Chinese herbal medicine today.

Sui Dynasty

During the Sui Dynasty (581-617), tea started to be drunk more for its taste than for its medicinal benefits. It was also during this period that China began to use tea as a currency, bartering tea bricks with her Mongolian neighbors for items such as herbal medicines, horses, wool and musk. In the far reaches, tea pressed into cakes served as a medium of exchange almost from the beginning of the tea trade. Tea cakes continued in this role even after paper money was introduced in the eleventh century.

Tang Dynasty

During Tang Dynasty(618-907 A.D.), tea drinking evolved into a form of art. Tea consumption spread throughout the Chinese culture reaching into every aspect of the society. In central Asia, tea was brought from China during the Tang dynasty (7th century); it was given to the nomads of Tibet and Mongolia. Tea was a great source of vitamin C, and these nomads were unable to find green vegetables in the plains of central Asia. As a matter of fact, the Chinese government during the Ming and Ching dynasties was able to manipulate these threatening people by trading tea with them.

In 800 A.D. Lu Yu wrote the first definitive book on tea, the Ch'a Ching (The Holy Scripture of Tea). Drawing from his vast memory of observed events and places, he codified the various methods of tea cultivation and preparation in ancient China. The pantheistic symbolism of the time was urging one to mirror the Universal in the Particular. Lu Yu, a poet, saw the same harmony and order which reigned through all things in the Tea-service. He has since been worshipped as the tutelary god of the Chinese tea merchants.After writing his great book,he attracted many students and became a friend of the Emperor.

Ch'a Ching

An abridged version of the Ch'a Ching's description of the proper tea making process is as follows: After being plucked on a sunny day, the tea leaves must be baked over an even fire, with no wind. After baking they should be placed in a paper bag to cool. When completely cold the leaves can be ground. Then spring water should be heated to just under the boiling point and a pinch of salt added. Then bring it to a second boil, and stir only the middle portion of the liquid. Steep the ground tea leaves in this water in each cup individually and drink before it cools. The first and second cups taste the best, and more than four or five cups should not be consumed. During this time tea was baked in a cake form, and to prepare a cup of tea, a bit was shaved from the edge into boiling water to which salt had been added. Several different preparations were used to make tea, including the addition of onion, ginger, orange, or peppermint. Milk and sugar were never added to tea, although both were available and used in other foods. Different preparations of teas held different medicinal purposes, although by this time tea was primarily thought of as a beverage in spite of its believed healing properties. The tea was typically drunk from bowls or cups that had been glazed blue on the inside, which was thought to bring out the greenness of the tea. By 850 people were also beginning to prepare tea in the form of detached leaves, not compressed into bricks.

Lu Yu's work clearly showed the Zen Buddhist philosophy to which he was exposed as a child. It was this form of tea service that Zen Buddhist missionaries would introduce to imperial Japan.

Sung Dynasty

During Sung Dynasty (690-1279 A.D., ). every aspect of tea was further refined. Tea was originally made in bowls, but pots were introduced during this period. Harvests became carefully regulated affairs. Before the harvest began, sacrifices were made to mountain deities. After a specific day was chosen to harvest the leaves at their peak, the tea pickers picked leaves to the rhythm of a drum or cymbal. The tea pickers were usually young girls who had to keep their fingernails a certain length in order to pick the leaves without touching their skin. The freshly harvested leaves were sorted by grades with the best grades sent to the emperor as tribute. A cake of high grade tea could be worth several pieces of gold while one of the highest grade would be priceless. In the Sung dynasty the whipped tea came into fashion and created the second school of Tea. The leaves were ground to fine powder in a small stone mill, and the preparation was whipped in hot water by a delicate whisk made of split bamboo. The new process led to some change in the tea-equippage of Lu Yu, as well as in the choice of leaves. Salt was discarded forever. The enthusiasm of the Sung people for tea knew no bounds. Epicures vied with each other in discovering new varieties, and regular tournaments were held to decide their superiority.
Tea Houses
The tea began to be not a poetical pastime, but one of the methods of self-realisation. Tea rooms and houses were built in order to enjoy tea at a social and spiritual level. Tea houses sprung up in the towns and cities. Men would gather there to gossip, and to take part in tea contests, where they would engage in "blind taste tests" of different kinds and qualities of leaves and water. There were even competitions among tea connoisseurs who were judged on the way they conducted their ceremony and on the quality of the tea leaves, water, and brewed tea. They could also listen to music there, and admire works of art. For the aristocrats there were small private pavilions, some of them quite splendid. Within the moveable rice paper walls spaces were tastefully furnished and perfumed with rare incense and flowers, enlivened by music, story tellers, or games, all conspiring to provide a poetic mood suitable for the tasting of tea. One could also have tea served in the public baths, hotels, stores, etc., and vendors walked the streets offering infusions to those who desired them. The art of making ceramic tea equipment was developed a great deal during this period. Tea bowls became deeper and wider to aid in the whipping. Since the prepared tea had a very light green hue, black and deep blue glazes were used on the bowls to enhance the tea color. The most famous style of these bowls was a black bowl with lines running down the bowl called rabbits fur. royal philosophy dominated this period and tea preparation became less complicated and more peaceful. The Japanese art of tea has its roots from this era.

During the 8th century, trade spread the tea habit to the Mongols, Tartars, and Tibetan nomads. These peoples had existed entirely on meat and milk products, so tea quickly became an essential part of their diet, helping them fight diseases occasioned by the lack of fruits and vegetables. Horses and furs were traded to the Chinese in exchange for tea leaves. The journey by caravan was long and hard, lasting months, so the tea was dried, crushed, and formed into bricks before being placed on the backs of yaks for transport. Tea was prepared by grating some powder off the brick and putting it to boil with salt and yak butter, then churning it forcefully in order to produce a most invigorating drink, into which one dunked nuggets made from toasted barley.

The sudden outburst of the Mongol tribes in the thirteenth century resulted in the devastation, destroyed all the fruits of the Sung culture. Manners and customs changed to leave no vestige of the former times. The powdered tea is entirely forgotten.

Only green or semifermented tea was consumed. The black tea produced in China was entirely for export. Some say that the Western taste for black tea is the result of an error. The story goes that Europeans received a cargo of tea that had fermented because of the long boat crossing. The recipients believed that they were emulating the Chinese, and developed a taste for this kind of tea.

Gong Fu steeping method

Gong Fu(chinese - skillful) has been passed down to the present day from the days of Ming Dynasty Emperor Shen Tsung in 16th century China, so it boasts a 400-year history. The full aroma and sweetness of the tea can be brought out when using a small teapot to steep tea. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Ch'ing (1644-1911) dynasties, the purple clay ceramic teapots of Yihsing, Kiangsu were the most famous.


China has the greatest tradition of pottery-making in the world. The use of the word 'china' for any porcelain or porcelain-like products shows how closely the country is identified with ceramics. Pottery has been made in China from as early as the 3rd millennium bc, but it is only from the Han dynasty (206 bc - 220 AD) that a continuous tradition begins, low-fired, lead-glazed earthenware being made in large quantities for use in tombs. High-fired wares were also made, developing into the Yue wares of the Six Dynasties (251-589) and Tang (618-907) periods. These were stoneware, fired to a temperature of about 1,200°C and covered in a green celadon-type. The most important feature of Tang ceramics was the perfection of the fine pottery known in the West as porcelain in the 7th or 8th century. The Song dynasty (960-1279) was the golden age of Chinese ceramics, with famous kilns in both northern and southern China. Jingdezhen, in south-eastern China, became the most important ceramic centre from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) onwards. Underglaze cobalt painting started to be used at this time on the porcelain for which this area became famous. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), this 'blue and white' ware reached an unsurpassed level, particularly in the 15th century. Overglaze enamel colours were introduced in the 16th century, first in combination with underglaze blue (doucai or 'contending colours') and later on their own. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) 'famille verte' enamels became popular in the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) and 'famille rose' in the reign of Emperor Yongzheng (1723-35). The pink used in 'famille rose' enamels was derived from colloidal or opaque gold and was probably introduced from the West by Jesuit monks at court. The ceramic complex at Jingdezhen was managed by able directors during the 18th century and enjoyed court patronage, notably that of the Emperor Qianlong (1736-95). Another important kiln site was in Dehua, Fujian province. This produced the fine white porcelain, left unpainted with a milky glaze, that came to be known as 'blanc de Chine' in the West and was very popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Imperial wares of the 19th and early 20th century have recently begun to enjoy increased favour.
Yixing Teapots
Yixing(pronounced yeeshing) teapots are thought as superior to all other types for brewing tea. The pots are made from the signature clay of Yixing, an area situated 120 miles northwest of Shanghai in Jiangsu province. With continued usage the porous and unglazed teawares will absorb the aroma and flavors of your tea. It is said that if you use a Yixing teapot for many years, you can brew tea by just pouring boiling water into the empty pot. The exceptionally strong purple clay pottery will also increases in luster and color with repeated use. They have the ability to withstand high temperatures and are slow to conduct heat; therefore, t he handle remains comfortably cool even when pouring very hot tea. Yixing clay occurs naturally in three characteristic colors: light buff, cinnabar red and purplish brown. Other colors are created by mixing these three or adding mineral pigments; for example, the dusty black color is obtained by mixing in cobalt oxide and the blue color is made by mixing in magnesium oxide. A principal factor in determining the depth of the color is the concentration of iron in the clay. All the characteristic Yixing colors are called zisha, but the most celebrated of all Yixing wares is its zishayao, or purple sandware, in which a relatively high concentration of iron produces a deep purplish brown color, sometimes called "pear-skin." Western tastes tend to run to a wider range of colors other than the prized zishayao.
Ceramic made from china clay (kaolin) and feldspar (china-stone), closely related to pottery but fired at a much higher temperature to produce a fine, hard, translucent, white material. Porcelain was first made during the Tang dynasty (618-907 ad) in China, where a combination of easily accessible raw materials and superior kiln design resulted in the ceramic industry being many centuries in advance of the West.



Chinese Buddhist saint, Bodhidharma, became so overwhelmed by sleep while meditating that he tore off his eyelids and threw them on the ground. They took root and a tea plant grew. This explains both the invigorating effects of tea and the eyelid shape of the leaf.


Some tea was probably brought to Japan during the height of cultural contact with Tang China. Kukai, patriarch of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, brought tea in the brick form from China to the Japanese court in the early ninth century. The drinking of tea was confined to the court aristocracy and Buddhist ceremonies until the twelfth century. The first tea seeds were brought to Japan by the returning Buddhist priest Yeisei Myoan,(1141-1215), founder of Rinzai Zen, who had seen the value of tea in China in enhancing religious mediation. He planted tea seeds on the grounds of his temple near Kyoto, making medicinal claims that were published in the first Japanese book on tea called Kitcha-Yojoke, (The Book of Tea Sanitation). In this work, Yeisai acclaimed tea a 'divine remedy and a supreme gift of heaven' for preserving human life. Because of this early association, tea in Japan has always been associated with Zen Buddhism. Tea received almost instant imperial sponsorship and spread rapidly from the royal court and monasteries to the other sections of Japanese society. The process of refinement of the procedures to make tea involved a complex interaction of various elements: the ceremonial tea of the temples; the extravagant social teas of the aristocracy; the rise, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of a newly prosperous and influential merchant class; and the powerful personalities of three men, Murata Shuko, Takeno Jo-o, and Sen Rikyu. Murato Shuko (1422-1503) lived during the brilliant culture of the Muromachi period (1392-1573). Shuko was from Nara and had probably participated in tea gatherings that included popular amusement such as bathing. Later he came in contact with Noami, an artistic advisor of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa who was versed in the procedures of tea as it was served in Kyoto. After this meeting he moved to Kyoto, entered the Buddhist priesthood, and studied Zen under the direction of the famous Ikkyu (1394-1481), abbot of Daitokuji, from 1474 until the death of the latter. There is evidence that Ikkyu was acquainted to some extent with Chinese as well as Korean tea procedures, and it seems likely that he imparted what he knew to his pupil. Within the Tea of Murata Shuko was the awakening of the concept that tea went beyond entertainment, medicinal value, or temple ceremony; that the preparation and drinking of tea could be an expression of the Zen belief that every act of daily life is a potential act that can lead to enlightenment. This belief manifested itself in the development of a new aesthetic for Tea, an aesthetic which sought beauty in the imperfect and in the simple object of everyday life. Shuko once said that, more than a full moon shining brightly on a clear night, he would prefer to see a moon that was partially hidden by clouds. Likewise, Shuko found beauty in Japanese utensils, which had been considered inferior to those from China. In a letter to one of his disciples, he wrote, "It is most important to seek as many admirable traits in Japanese objects as in Chinese."

Tea Ceremony (Cha-no-yu)

Chado (The Way of Tea)experienced its prime during the the 16th century under the influence of the artist Sen Rikyu(1522 - 1591). The tea ceremony provided a venue and practice for recognizing the beauty of ordinary life. The aesthetic character of the ceremony was defined as wabi, or a rustic, simple quality -- a celebration of the humble aspects of life.

The basic idea of , or tea ceremony, is by four Chinese characters, WA(*), KEI(*), SEI(*, and JAKU(*). WA means harmony, KEI means respect, SEI means purity, and JAKU means tranquillity. Harmony can be formed among all matters in the world such as people, flowers, tea bowls, and so on. In fact, in a tea gathering, people talk to each other and to every piece of equipment a host uses in silence to form harmony in a tea room. People must respect all matters without their status; that is, people must not discriminate. For example, people use a crawl-through doorway to enter a tea room, so even a person who has a high social status has to lower his or her head to enter in although he usually lower his head. Purifying spirits is very important since the ideal spirit of the ceremony is a sort of religious mind. Then, after people can get the three ideas, harmony, respect, and purity, people can finally embody tranquillity.

The host kneels at the door of the teahouse, while guests wash their hands before entering, leaving shoes and weapons outside. The guests then kneel before the tokonoma, an shelf-like arrangement that serves as a physical center for the ceremony.

The host brings in the simple tea wares and displays everything, and the guests may take leave while the preparations are continued. When the water boils, the guests are called back with a gong and given food and possibly sake.

The powdered tea (it is called macha) is placed in the tea bowl and covered with hot, not boiling, water. After being beaten into a froth with a tea whisk, the drink is passed to the chief guest who imbibes and passes the bowl to the next guest, and so it continues.

In the past, the host may have given away all of the tea wares and tea making implements, except the bowl-which would be kept and then broken to symbolize the end of the ceremony.

Sencha Tea

In the 18th century, a tea seller in Uji, Kyoto, Nagatani Soen adapted the method of steaming, used in making powdered green tea, for making the new tea. He developed a highly original method of elaborately rolling and rubbing the steamed leaves into needle shapes on a drier. This made it possible to brew instantly a fragrant tea with a good flavor in a teapot. The tea is called sencha. It has its own tea ceremony, called sencha-do (literally, the way of sencha tea).

The sencha tea ceremony was advocated by the famous tea-seller Baisa-o(literally, the venerable Tea-seller) and became popular among literary artists called bunjin(literally, "cultured person"), who prized freedom under the hierarchical feudal system of the period. Tea played an important role in fostering communication and friendship among them. As a result, although the sencha tea ceremony became a ritual, it much less formal than cha-no-yu.


Cha-no-yu became an impetus for stylistic and artistic evolution in YiXing teapot designs. The tea ceremony which forms the basis for Japanese Buddhist "Teaism," serves as a natural expression and discipline of zazen meditation and is viewed as an art. Teapots detailed with themes from nature or sutras were desirable adjuncts to this art, and YiXing pots themselves became prized as creative works. The Japanese began making red clay or shudei teapots; they imported Chinese artists to teach them potting methods, and developed new techniques for creating these delicate wares. The old province of Bizen became an increasingly important center for Japanese ceramics. Raku, rough and dark earthenware, emerged.

Tea Garden

The Japanese tea garden plays an integral part in the tea ceremony, and as the ceremony has grown more elaborate through the years, so have the tea gardens. Japanese tea gardens are now comprised of two parts: the soto-roji (outer garden) and the uchi-roji, (inner garden). The outer section (soto roji) consists of a place where guests wait for the master to appear; the inner section contains the tea house itself. Stone lanterns light the pathway, either made of gravel or flat stones, between these two sections.

The garden is a representation of the universe and its elements: fire in the form of a stone or iron lantern, earth in the form of stone, and water, air, plant, and animal life in their true forms. Gardens essentially divide between the dry landscape and the pond garden types. Even in a dry garden there is always some water, notably in dripping basins or suggested by waterfall chains from the down spouts.

The garden contains a wash basin, or Tsukubai. The Tsukubai is surrounded by Yaku-ishi, or (literally "accompanying stones"); one in front used for standing on, one on the right, and one on the left. The basin itself can be any shape, as long as it can be easily used. In fact, broken stone lanterns are often put to use as new wash basins. The tea garden also contains a resting place, for breaks in the tea ceremony. This resting area was not in the original tea gardens. The resting place's principal purpose, is to convey the spirit of wabi, or quiet solitude in nature.

Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

The plantation industry in Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, began in 1825 with the widespread planting of coffee. In 1839, Dr. Wallich, head of the botanical garden in Calcutta, sent several Assam tea plant seeds to the Peradeniya estates in Kandy district. Seeds of Chinese tea plants, brought to Sri Lanka by travelers such as Maurice de Worms, were also planted in the Peradeniya nurseries although these yielded disappointing results, and Chinese plants were gradually abandoned in favour of the Assam variety that is now grown on every estate in Sri Lanka. These early arrivals were largely ignored for the more lucrative coffee craze that had seized the region. However, this booming industry came to a dramatic halt in 1869 when a leaf disease Hemileia vastatrix (known as the "coffee rust") spread rapidly throughout the countryside, reaching every coffee district within the span of five years. While the plantation owners desperately cleared and replanted coffee at a remarkable rate, the disease continued to spread unhindered.

During the next twenty years, in a frantic effort to avoid financial ruin, planters in Ceylon converted their decimated acreage to tea; it was a remarkable effort that involved the wide-scale uprooting and burning of millions of infected coffee bushes. Perhaps the rapid cultivation of tea in Sri Lanka was aided most by the knowledge and experience of their fellow Indian tea planters and the fruitful initiative of James Taylor.

Back in 1851, near Mincing Lane, which was later renowned as the tea centre of the world, James Taylor had signed on for three years as an assistant supervisor on a coffee plantation in Ceylon. He was sixteen-year-old Scot, son of a modest wheelwright. Five years after he took up his post, his employers, Harrison and Leake, impressed by the quality of his work, put Taylor in charge of the Loolecondera estate and instructed him to experiment with tea plants. The Peradeniya nursery supplied him with his first seeds around 1860.

Taylor then set up the first tea "factory" on the island. It was in fact a rather rudimentary setup. The factory soon became famous throughout the island. In 1872, Taylor invented a machine for rolling leaves, and one year later sent twenty-three pounds of tea to Mincing Lane. Taylor trained a number of assistants, and from that point on Ceylon tea arrived regularly in London and Melbourne. Its success led to the opening of an auction market in Colombo in 1883, and to the founding of a Colombo tea dealers’ association in 1894.

The planters' association supported this propaganda campaign by organizing various publicity events. In 1891, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Czar Alexander III, Grand-Duke Nicolas, the queen of Italy and Emperor Franz- Josef all received sixty coffers of tea accompanied by an illustrated album on Ceylon. The promotional policy was so effective that by the end of the 19th century, the word "tea" was no longer associated with China, but with Ceylon. The island’s prosperity sparked covetousness on the part of British companies and London brokers, who wanted to acquire their own plantations and cut out the middlemen. This marked a turning point in the saga of tea-pioneers gave way to merchants whose name or label would soon become more important than the country in which the tea was grown.

Within the span of a few years, tea processing factories -- most resembling nothing more than shacks constructed from mud and wattle walls and floors -- sprang up across the island of Ceylon. Fresh-picked tea leaves were withered in separate sheds and hand-rolled on long, grooved tables before undergoing fermentation. Inside the factory building, lines of charcoal-burning ovens were situated across the mud floor, and it was over these ovens that the tea leaves were fired or dried.

Although many influential and successful planters were responsible for transforming Ceylon from ruined a coffee-producing region to one famous worldwide for its tea, nearly all of their names have been forgotten except for one -- Thomas Lipton.

Son of poor Irish immigrants, Lipton grew up amidst the slums of Glasgow. He left school at the age of 10 to help support his family and in 1865 sailed to America to work as a manual laborer and later manage a successful New York grocery store. It was here that he learned all the tricks and techniques of advertising and salesmanship that he later used to great effect when selling groceries and tea back in England and Scotland. 

He returned to Glasgow in 1871 and worked for a couple of years in the grocery shop run by his parents. By the age of 21, he had opened his own store, where he practised the retailing skills he had learned in America. His imaginative marketing and clever publicity stunts brought his new venture rapid success. By 1914 he had 500 outlets. His success was based on bulk purchasing a limited range of goods and selling them at cut-price rates with low-profit margins.

In 1890, already a millionaire, Lipton wanted to go on vacation and booked a passage to Australia. On the way, he broke his journey in Ceylon. He had an interest in tea as a product to sell in his shops. Lipton did not trust middlemen, and wanted to explore the possibilities of growing tea and bringing it direct to Britain. He couldn't have picked a better time. Because the economic effects of the coffee blight were still drastically affecting Ceylon, Lipton naturally chose this island as the inexpensive source for his tea. He bought four former coffee plantations and could now fully control his company's tea's quality and price.

Lipton's genius was not in the area of growing tea but rather in the marketing and distribution of the final product, and his tireless capacity to invent and popularize clever slogans and effective advertising campaigns are legendary. Instead of selling it loose from the chest, as was the custom at that time, Lipton packed his tea in brightly-colored, eye-catching packets bearing the slogan "Straight from the tea gardens to the tea pot."

Lipton's foray into tea was a huge success, and vastly increased his wealth. His 300 shops throughout England soon could not keep up with the growing demand for his inexpensive product, and so Lipton teas became available in other stores around Britain. The name of Lipton had migrated from a chain of grocery stores and became a trademark soon to be famous the world-over. In the 1930s company Unilever bought Lipton.


Along the trade routes of antiquity went caravans with as many as 4,000 camels bearing spices and the rich merchandise of the East, plodding along from Goa, Calicut and the Orient to spice markets in Nineveh and Babylon; Carthage, Alexandria and Rome.

The route from Gilead to Egypt was part of the "golden road to Samarkand" traveled for hundreds, almost thousands of years, bringing pepper and cloves from India, cinnamon and nutmeg from the Spice Islands (or Moluccas), ginger from China.

For hundreds of years frail ships clawed their way along the Indian coast, past the pirate-infested Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia and through the Red Sea to Egypt. Those were typical ways of bringing spices from the Orient to the Western world in ancient tunes.

Suddenly European merchants realized these places could be reached by ship. Much of the mystery had had been removed from the lands of spicery, and Europe was awakened to a new quest.

While tea was at this high level of development in both Japan and China, information concerning this then unknown beverage began to filter back to Europe by Arabs via Venetians. By the 10th century Venice was beginning to prosper in the trade of the Levant. By the early part of the 13th century it enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of the Middle East, and by the 15th century it was a formidable power in Europe. Part of Venice's great wealth came from trading in the spices of the East, which it obtained in Alexandria and sold to northern and western European buyer-distributors at exorbitant prices. Earlier caravan leaders had mentioned tea, but were unclear as to its service format or appearance (One reference suggests the leaves be boiled, salted, buttered, and eaten!).

The earliest mention of tea in the literature of Europe was in 1559. It appears as "Chai Catai'(Tea of China) in the book 'Delle Navigatione et Viaggi (Voyages and Travels) by Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557). He served in diplomatic posts for the Venetian state and eventually filled the position of secretary in the Council of Ten. In the republic of Venice, a special tribunal created (1310) to avert plots and crimes against the state. It was a direct result of the unsuccessful Tiepolo conspiracy against the Venetian oligarchy. In 1335 the body was given permanent status. It consisted actually of 17 members : the doge, 10 members chosen by the grand council, and 6 elected by the lesser council. After 1539 three members served as inquisitors of state and investigated, by means of a secret police, all criminal, moral, religious, and political offenses. The inquisitors reported their findings to the Ten, who rendered an irrevocable verdict. As the power of the Council of Ten expanded, it came to control foreign relations and financial matters. In 1582 the conservative nobles attempted to reduce its authority but failed; the Ten remained the most important governing body of the state until the fall (1797) of the republic. Although the mystery that veiled its operations gave it an aura of tyrannical despotism, it was in general an efficient and highly effective body.

Ramusio's book was a collection of narratives of voyages and discoveries in ancient and modern times, including those of the Persian merchant Hajji Mahommed, who visited Venice, who is credited with first bringing tea to Europe. The reference describing tea says, 'One or two cups of this decoction taken on an empty stomach removes fever, headache, stomach ache, pain in the side or in the joints . . . besides that, it is good for no end of other ailments, which he could not remember, but gout was one of them. He said 'it is so highly valued and esteemed that everyone going on a journey takes it with him, and those people would gladly give a sack of rhubarb for one ounce of Chai Catai'. The beverage was first called Cha, from the Cantonese slang for tea. The name changed later to Tay, or Tee, when the British trading post moved from Canton to Amoy, where the word for tea is T'e.

Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) came to Macau in 1582, and when he died in Beijing in 1610, he had spent 28 years in China. Charged with the mission to spread Christianity in China, Ricci felt obliged to learn the Chinese language, its writing system, and the Confucian classics as basic tools to communicate with his potential Chinese converts. He also felt the need to acquaint himself with Chinese social customs and daily life so that he could work out a better strategy for the reception of a religion alien to the Chinese mind. His discerning observations of late sixteenth-century China and his own life experience as a foreign missionary were recorded in his journals, written in Italian in his later years. Ricci's knowledge of tea and tea drinking is mostly first hand. His accounts of the history, manufacturing process, and drinking habits of tea are general and reasonably accurate by sixteenth-century standard, although they become fuzzy insofar as detailed knowledge is concerned. Ricci also states that the use of tea "cannot be of long duration among the Chinese," because "no ideography in their old books designates this particular drink and their writing characters are all ancient." This bold statement that Chinese didn't drink tea until much later in their long history is interesting, but perplexingly misleading. It is true, however, that the word for tea, cha, never appeared in ancient Chinese texts; the character cha was created by Lu Yu in the eighth century during the Tang dynasty. Ricci knew that the ideograph cha did not exist in ancient Chinese texts, and for a foreigner, his knowledge of Chinese is quite impressive. However, the fact that the ancient texts do not contain the ideograph cha does not necessarily preclude the actual use of tea as a beverage in ancient times. Based on written records and more recently excavated archaeological evidences, we know that tea as a beverage had become rather popular in Central China along the Yangzi River and its tributaries during the Western Han period, or by the second century B.C. at the latest. All in all, Ricci's accounts of tea are basically accurate, provided his observations are confined to sixteenth- century practices. He made one major mistake, however. He believed that the tea plant could be found in the fields of Europe.


The Europeans knew the origin of the spices reaching Alexandria and, unable to break the hold of Venice, determined in the last third of the 15th century to build ships and venture abroad in search of a route to the spice-producing countries. So began the famed voyages of discovery. In 1516 (some say as early as 1515) the Portuguese opened up the sea routes to China, having discovered the sea route to the East. In 1557 they were allowed to establish a trading station at Macao in return for getting rid of the region of pirates.

Macau takes its name from A-Ma-Gau harbour, which in turn is named for A-Ma, the goddess of seafarers. The famous seafarers, the Portuguese, first set foot on Chinese soil in 1513, having heard of the 'Empire of the Chins' from their trading outposts in India and Malacca.

The port soon prospered, thanks to its strategic position midway on the lucrative trading route between India's west coast, Malacca and Japan. Chinese merchants were forbidden on pain of death to go abroad, and they eagerly embraced the opportunity to hire the Portuguese as agents. The wealth generated by Portugal's monopoly on trade between China and Japan was used to create a home away from home of luxurious European houses and baroque churches. Macau became a centre not only of trade in the Far East, but also of Christianity, with the Jesuit missionaries' Basilica de S?o Paulo hailed as the greatest monument to Christianity in the East.

The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz in 1560. He was the first of some Catholic priests, arrived to Cambodian king's court in 1555. de Cruz mentions tea in a letter home to Portugal from China, where he went after being an year in Cambogy. Portugal, with her technologically advanced navy, had been successful in gaining the first right of trade with China.

The Portuguese developed a trade route by which they shipped their tea to Lisbon, and then ships of Dutch East India Company transported it to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries.

But Portuguese fortunes were on the wane back home, and threats were posed by the colonial ambitions of nations such as Holland, with the Dutch making two serious attacks on Macau in 1607 and 1627. Macau's golden age came to an abrupt end in the 1630s when Japan was closed to foreign trade, the Dutch took Malacca by force and the port of Guangzhou was closed to the Portuguese. The golden port became an impoverished backwater. Restrictions regulating the activities of non-Portuguese residents were lifted in the mid-18th century, and Macau temporarily revived as a Chinese outpost for European traders - but only until 1841, when the British came along and took possession of Hong Kong. Macau's economic woes were forever eased by the introduction of licensed gambling in the 1850s.


Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611) left for Spain in December 1593 to continue his training as a merchant. The commercial ambitions of this adventurous son to a public notary in Haarlem reached, however, much further than the borders of the Iberian peninsula. While pursuing his fortune he gained the confidence of the archbishop of Goa, which made him the first Dutchman to get an impression of the gigantic colonial empire built by Portugal in the Far East. On his return to the Netherlands Van Linschoten sold the story of his travels to the Amsterdam publisher Cornelis Claesz, who published it in 1596 in a book elaborately illustrated with maps and prints. In the book Itinerario two of his other works have been included, both dealing with navigation: the Beschryvinghe van de gantsche custe van Guinea and the Reys-gheschrift vande navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten. The significance of this first Dutch survey of the former Netherlands East Indies lies in the valuable sailing instructions which Van Linschoten had managed to acquire, information that could only be found in the secret archives of the Portuguese administration. Abusing the trust put in him he had copied it page by page. Thus, in one go, the greatly coveted shipping route to the Netherlands East Indies and the route between the Asiatic sea ports as such, came within reach. Even more crucially, Van Linschoten had also obtained information on very delicate nautical data that provided insight into the currents, deeps, islands and sandbanks, and such knowledge was absolutely vital for safe navigation. Besides, everything was elucidated by coastal depictions and maps of unprecedented accuracy for those days.

Dutch pilots had been preparing for the long voyage to the Far East for quite some time by research, study and practice. Since 1580 several foreign manuals, in which the technique of navigating the oceans was explained in full detail, had been translated into Dutch. Cartographic horizons had also been broadened. Within a period of scarcely ten years the nautical scope of Dutch navigators was improved to perfection and extended to the Mediterranean and the whole area between the Canaries and Russia. The publication of the Itinerario in 1596 added the missing link to the research into itineraries and trade routes to the Indonesian Archipelago. A fleet under the command of Cornelis de Houtman sailed for the Spice Islands in 1595. Another expedition, commanded by Jacob van Neck, put to sea in 1598; and their ships returned home with rich cargoes of cloves, mace, nutmegs, and pepper. At that time Holland was politically affiliated with Portugal. When this alliance was altered in 1602, Holland, with her excellent navy, entered into full Pacific trade in her own right.

Dutch East India Company

In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed from a number of smaller companies by the States General of the Netherlands, and began to import tea, silk, spices, and other exotic items from Java, Japan, and China. Its monopoly extended from the Cape of Good Hope eastward to the Strait of Magellan, with sovereign rights in whatever territory it might acquire.

In 1619 Jan Pieterszoon Coen, regarded as the founder of the Dutch colonial empire in the East Indies, established the city of Batavia in Java (now Jakarta, Indonesia) as the headquarters of the company. From Batavia, Dutch influence and activity spread throughout the Malay Archipelago and to China, Japan, India, Iran, and the Cape of Good Hope. During the course of the 60-year war between Spain and the Netherlands (1605-1665), the Dutch company despoiled Portugal, which was united with Spain from 1580 to 1640, of all its East Indian possessions. It supplanted the Portuguese in most of present-day Indonesia and in the Malay Peninsula, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the Malabar Coast of India, and Japan. During this period it was also successful in driving English rivals from the Malay Archipelago and the Moluccas. In 1632 the Dutch killed the English factors, or agents, in Amboina, capital of the Dutch Moluccas; for this act the English government later exacted compensation. In 1652 the company established the first European settlement in South Africa on the Cape of Good Hope. At the peak of its power, in 1669, the Dutch company had 40 warships, 150 merchant ships, and 10,000 soldiers.

Between 1602 and 1696 the annual dividends that the company paid were never less than 12 percent and sometimes as high as 63 percent. The charter of the company was renewed every 20 years, in return for financial concessions to the Dutch government.

By the second half of the seventeenth century, the VOC had Established Cape Town as an important place for re-provisioning its ships with essentials such as water, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Both on the outbound journey to the VOC outpost at Batavia and the rest of Asia, and on the long homebound voyage, Cape Town was to perform an important role in the lives of the ships and the men who sailed them. That the colony grew, as each successive ship brought new arrivals to the Cape, including functionaries of the VOC and their wives and families, was almost incidental to the Company's purpose.

In 1624, Formosa thus became a colony of the Dutch VOC. The Dutch governors established an administrative center "Zeelandia" on a small island called "Tyawan" and a military fortress "Provintia" at Saccam just opposite the island. The Dutch rulers operated an effective government on Taiwan, spread Christianity and introduced some agricultural reforms to the island. They also persuaded elders of 28 aboriginal settlements in southern Taiwan to pledge their allegiance to the VOC in 1636 and to convene an annual "Landdag" (conference) from l641 until 1662 when they were ousted from Taiwan by Cheng Chen-kung of the Ming Dynasty. In 1644, they expelled the Spanish who had been in control of northern Taiwan since 1626.

The Dutch's colonization of Formosa was mainly based on the pursuit of their own economic profits. Formosa was used by the Dutch VOC as a center for their international trade with China, Japan and other countries. As confided by a Dutch governor, Formosa was "a good milking cow for the Company (VOC)." For example, the Company earned 330,000 reels from Formosa in 1653 alone, thereby making Formosa the most profitable colony of the Dutch.

In the 18th century, internal disorders, the growth of British and French power, and the consequences of a harsh policy toward the native inhabitants caused the decline of the Dutch company. It was unable to pay a dividend after 1724 and survived only by exacting levies from native populations. It was powerless to resist a British attack on its possessions in 1780, and in 1795 it was doomed by the ouster of the States General at home by the French-controlled Batavian Republic. In 1798 the republic took over the possessions and debts of the company.

It is related by Dr. Thomas Short, ( A Dissertation on Tea, London, 1730), that on the second voyage of a ship of the Dutch East India Co. to China, the Dutch offered to trade Sage, as a very precious herb, then unknown to the Chinese, at the rate of three pounds of tea for one pound of Sage. The new demand for sage at one time exhausted the supply, but after a while the Orientals had a surfeit of sage-tea, and concluded that Chinese tea was quite good enough for Chinamen. If the European traders had known the virtue of sage-tea for stimulating the growth of human hair, and had given the Orientals the cue, sage leaves might have retained their high value with the Chinese until now.

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.

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.

Besides Britain, Holland was the only West European country to popularly consume tea. Dutch ships competed with British to bring tea the most quickly from China to Europe in the “Tea Race.” This was not only important from the standpoint of sportsmanship, but also for the quality of the tea. The longer it remained on a ship, the more likely it was to be spoiled. This led the British and Dutch to consider importing their tea by land across Russia. The Russian tariffs made the tea too expensive, however, and the scheme was abandoned (Ottuv 853).

The Dutch grew their own tea in Indonesia. By 1892, the majority of their tea was imported from Java. In 1826, J.I.L.L. Jacobson had smuggled tea out of China, and established its cultivation in the Dutch East Indies.



Great Britain was the last of the three great sea-faring nations to break into the Chinese and East Indian trade routes. This was due in part to the unsteady ascension to the throne of the Stuarts and the Cromwellian Civil War. The first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and 1654. Tea quickly proved popular enough to replace ale as the national drink of England. R. L. Wickham, in charge of the English East India company's agency at Firando, Japan, achieved the distinction of supplying the first reference to tea by an Englishman. In a letter, dated June 27, 1615, to the company's agent at Macao, Wickham said: "I pray you to buy for me a pot of the best chaw." This is probably the earliest pidgin English for the Chinese ch'a.

King Charles II had married, while in exile, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza (1662). Charles himself had grown up in the Dutch capital. As a result, both he and his Portuguese bride were confirmed tea drinkers. When the monarchy was re-established, the two rulers brought this foreign tea tradition to England with them.

The John Company

Coat of Arms of East India Company On December 31, 1600 Elizabeth I had founded the John company for the purpose of promoting Asian trade. When Catherine de Braganza married Charles she brought as part of her dowry the territories of Tangier and Bombay. Suddenly, the John Company had a base of operations. The John Company was granted the unbelievably wide monopoly of all trade east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of Cape Horn with the formal restriction that it might not contest the prior trading rights of "any Christian prince." The company was managed by a governor and 24 directors chosen from its stockholders. And its power was based on the importation of tea.

In 1601, the first voyage of the East India Company set out under Captain James Lancaster and the ships the Dragon, the Hector, the Susan, and the Ascension. The fleet arrived in Aceh, in Sumatra, in 1602. Since the Dutch had already formed exclusive trading alliances, Lancaster resorted to piracy to bring back pepper, trading South India cottons and textiles in Java and Sumatra. The lack of success in the first EIC company expedition indicates that more funds were sorely needed to contest the Dutch dominance, and the East India Company would remain unsuccessful for the next twenty years because of the Dutch. In next voyages the company penetrated as far as Japan, and in 1610 and 1611 its first factories, or trading posts, were established in India in the provinces of Madras and Bombay. Under a perpetual charter granted in 1609 by King James I, the company began to compete with the Dutch trading monopoly in the Malay Archipelago, but after the massacre of Amboina the company conceded to the Dutch the area that became known as the Netherlands East Indies. Its armed merchantmen, however, continued sea warfare with Dutch, French, and Portuguese competitors.

England's first visit to China was made by John Weddell in 1637: like almost all of the EIC attempts, it was relatively unsuccessful. The Manchu Emperor opened his ports to foreign trade in 1685. The first trade base was Amoy, but later Guangzhou (Canton) became the center of commerce, especially the acquisition of tea. Although silk and chinaware factories were located many miles from Canton, it was the only place where foreign contact was permitted. Foreign merchants were allowed to establish factories along the Canton waterfronts. The main imports from China were tea, silk, and, initially, porcelain.

In 1650 and 1655 the company absorbed rival companies that had been incorporated under the Commonwealth and Protectorate by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. In 1657 Cromwell ordered it reorganized as the sole joint-stock company with rights to the Indian trade. During the reign of Charles II the company acquired sovereign rights in addition to its trading privileges. In 1689, with the establishment of administrative districts called presidencies in the Indian provinces of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, the company began its long rule in India. It was continually harassed by traders who were not members of the company and were not licensed by the Crown to trade. In 1698, under a parliamentary ruling in favor of free trade, these private newcomers were able to set up a new company, called the New Company or English Company. The John India Company, however, bought control of this new company, and in 1702 an act of Parliament amalgamated the two as "The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies." The charter was renewed several times in the 18th century, each time with financial concessions to the Crown. Their re-drafted charts gave the new East India Company a complete and total trade monopoly on all commerce in China and India. As a result, the price of tea was kept artificially high, leading to later global difficulties for the British crown. This company was organized into a court of 24 directors who worked through committees. The shareholders, dubbed the Court of Proprietors, annually elected these directors. When the company acquired control of Bengal in 1757, Indian policy was until 1773 influenced by shareholders' meetings, where votes could be bought by the purchase of shares. This led to government intervention. The Regulating Act of 1773 and Pitt's India Act of 1784 established government control of political policy through a regulatory board responsible to Parliament. Thereafter, the company gradually lost both commercial and political control, and its commercial monopoly was broken in 1813. From 1834 it was merely a managing agency for the British government of India. After the Indian Mutiny in 1857 it ceased to exist all together in 1873.

The victories of Robert Clive, a company official, over the French at Arcot in 1751 and at Plassey in 1757 made the company the dominant power in India. All formidable European rivalry vanished with the defeat of the French at Pondicherry in 1761.he Company saw the rise of its fortunes, and its transformation from a trading venture to a ruling enterprise, when one of its military officials, Robert Clive, defeated the forces of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah , at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. A few years later the Company acquired the right to collect revenues on behalf of the Mughal Emperor, but the initial years of its administration were calamitous for the people of Bengal. The Company's servants were largely a rapacious and self-aggrandizing lot, and the plunder of Bengal left the formerly rich province in a state of utter destitution. The famine of 1769-70, which the Company's policies did nothing to alleviate, may have taken the lives of as many as a third of the population. The Company, despite the increase in trade and the revenues coming in from other sources, found itself burdened with massive military expenditures, and its destruction seemed imminent. State intervention put the ailing Company back on its feet, and Lord North's India Bill, also known as the Regulating Act of 1773, provided for greater parliamentary control over the affairs of the Company, besides placing India under the rule of a Governor-General. In 1784 the India Act created a department of the British government to exercise political, military, and financial control over the Indian affairs of the company, and during the next half century British control was extended over most of the subcontinent.

In 1813 the company's monopoly of the Indian trade was abolished, and in 1833 it lost its China trade monopoly. Its annual dividends of 10.5 percent were made a fixed charge on Indian revenues. The company continued its administrative functions until the Sepoy Rebellion (1857-1859). In 1858, by the Act for the Better Government of India, the Crown assumed all governmental responsibilities held by the company, and its 24,000-man military force was incorporated into the British army. The company was dissolved on January 1, 1874, when the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act came into effect.

Social Changes

Menu Changes

Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals-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), one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. She 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, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." (London at that time still contained large open meadows within the city.) The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

A common pattern of service soon merged. The first pot of tea was made in the kitchen and carried to the lady of the house who waited with her invited guests, surrounded by fine porcelain from China. The first pot was warmed by the hostess from a second pot (usually silver) that was kept heated over a small flame. Food and tea was then passed among the guests, the main purpose of the visiting being conversation.

The social critic Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Seven makes the first mention in 1680 of adding milk to tea. Sugar from the plantations in Jamaica might also be added. About this time, as it was said, the Earl of Sandwich, who couldn't seem to tear himself away from the gambling tables long enough for lunch, had his valet bring him meats and other sustenance between two slices of bread so that he could eat and continue the games at the same time and thus the "sandwich" was born. The legend talks about John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, then it is only a legend. According to his biographer N.A.M. Roger, the Earl was so busy with his work in the government, so he hadn't have time even to eat. That caused him to invent the snack.

Chrismas Tea

Mulled wine (Gluhwein) was a favorite in Victorian England, for example, Negus - a type of mulled wine - was even served to children at their birthday parties. So, when the tea came along, it was added to the drink. Thus the Chrismas tea was born.

Coffee Houses

Tea was the major beverage served in the coffee houses, but they were so named because coffee arrived in England some years before tea. The first recorded Coffee House in England was in Oxford, open by 1650. The first known in London, at the Sign of Pasqua Rosee in St Michael's Alley off Cornhill, was open by 1652. But after the Restoration in 1660 London began to fill with coffee shops, where tea was also served, and by 1683 there were reported to be over 2000 such shops in London. The merchant Thomas Garway was among the first to trade tea in Britain. He offered it in dry and liquid form at his coffee house 'Sultaness Head' in Exchange Alley in the City of London, holding his first public sale in 1657. In a number of the weekly Mercurius Politicus ( a predecessor of the present London Gazette), dated September 30, 1658, occurs this advertisement: "That excellent and by all pysitians approved China drink called by the Chineans Tcha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee, is sold at the Sultaness Head, a Cophee-house in Sweetings Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London." In 1660, Garway issued a broadsheet selling tea for sale, extolling it (at £6 and £10 per pound) as "wholesome, preserving perfect health until extreme old age, good for clearing the sight," able to cure "gripping of the guts, cold, dropsies, scurveys" and claiming that "it could make the body active and lusty." Thomas Twining, who took over "Tom's Coffee House" and renamed it "The Golden Lion", sold tea in his fashionable Coffee House and from his house next door in the very early 1700s, but it wasn’t until 1826 that John Horniman set up a small business where he packaged tea and sold it with a guaranteed net weight - thus tea replaced ale and gin to become the favourite beverage of the era. Coffee houses were hubs of business and trade news. As coffee houses were places of sobriety and moderation, they were known as locales for discussions about literature, politics and art. One would go to a coffee house to read newspapers, hear the latest trade news, and to see friends. Most coffee houses had a distinct character and clientele, and every profession, trade and class had its coffee house of choice.

Penny Universities

Exclusively for men, they were called "Penny Universities" because for a penny any man could obtain a pot of tea, a copy of the newspaper, and engage in conversation with the sharpest wits of the day. The first regular daily paper was 'Lloyd's List', so-called because it appeared in Mr Lloyd's coffee house in 1734. It is still being published, now online. The others weren't regular, or weren't daily, and 'Lloyd's List' is the oldest daily newspaper in the world. The various houses specialized in selected areas of interest, some serving attorneys, some authors, others the military. They were the forerunner of the English gentlemen's private club. One such beverage house was owned by Edward Lloyd and was favored by shipowners, merchants and marine insurers. That simple shop was the origin of Lloyd's, the worldwide insurance firm. Coffee houses were so active in political discussion and free speech that the government felt threatened by them and made an attempt to abolish them. On December 29, 1675, Charles II issued a proclamation ordering that all coffee houses close permanently by January 10, 1676, as they were the "...resort of idle and disaffected persons". The outcry against this was so great he was forced to reverse his decision on January 8, and the coffee houses remained open.

Later in the 18th century coffee houses declined as regular 'gentlemen's clubs' arose, offering better facilities but tea and coffee continued to be drunk.

Tea Gardens

Experiencing the Dutch "tavern garden teas", the English developed the idea of Tea Gardens. Here ladies and gentlemen took their tea out of doors surrounded by entertainment such as orchestras, hidden arbors, flowered walks, bowling greens, concerts, gambling, or fireworks at night. It was at just such a Tea Garden that Lord Nelson, who defeated Napoleon by sea, met the great love of his life, Emma, later Lady Hamilton. Women were permitted to enter a mixed, public gathering for the first time without social criticism. At the gardens were public, British society mixed here freely for the first time, cutting across lines of class and birth. so from the tea gardens came the idea of the tea dance, which remained fashionable in Britain until World War II when they disappeared from the social scene.

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 (and so insure the tea arrived hot from the often distant kitchen) he dropped a coin into the box on being seated "to insure prompt service". Hence, the custom of tipping servers was created.

Tea Shops

In 1864 the manageress of the London Bridge branch of an Aerated Bread Company persuaded her directors to allow her to serve food and liquid refreshments in the shop. She dispensed tea to her more favored customers and soon attracted many clients clamoring for the same service. Not only did she unwittingly start the fashion for tea shops but also one foundation of women's emancipation, since an unchaperoned lady could meet friends in a tea shop without sullying her reputation. Tea shops spread throughout Britain, becoming as much a tradition as tea itself: and even today, despite the plethora of fast food and drink outlets, this tradition remains, attracting huge numbers of UK and foreign tourists.

Tea Lady

The tradition of the "tea lady" was first introduced in 1666 by a Mrs Harris, who was the wife of the Housekeeper and Beadle of the East India Company. She made tea for the Committee Meetings held by Directors of the Company, she was laying the foundation stone for a tradition that lasted for more than 300 years.

Tea Dances

As the tea shops and tea rooms fashion spread, the tea dance, which had it early beginnings in the tea gardens, was revived. It remained a fashionable pastime for all the nation until World War II, when circumstances forced it to disappear from the social scene.

Pidgin English

English tea interests still centered on the product's source-the Orient. There the trading of tea had become a way of life, developing its own language known as "Pidgin English". Created solely to facilitate commerce, the language was composed of English, Portuguese, and Indian words all pronounced in Chinese. Indeed, the word "Pidgin" is a corrupted form of the Chinese word for "do business".

So dominant was the tea culture within the English speaking cultures that many of these words came to hold a permanent place in English language.

  • "Mandarin" (from the Portuguese "mandar" meaning to order) - the court official empowered by the emperor to trade tea.
  • "Cash" (from the Portuguese "caixa" meaning case or money box)-the currency of tea transactions.
  • "Caddy" (from the Chinese word for one pound weight)-the standard tea trade container.
  • "Chow" (from the Indian word for food cargo)-slang for food.

Opium Wars

Not only was language a problem, but so was the currency. During the eighteenth century, the market in Europe and America for tea, a new drink in the West, expanded greatly. Additionally, there was a continuing demand for Chinese silk and porcelain. But China, still in its preindustrial stage, wanted little that the West had to offer, causing the Westerners, mostly British, to incur an unfavorable balance of trade. Vast sums of money were spent on tea. To take such large amounts of money physically out of England would have financially collapsed the country and been impossible to transport safely half way around the world. With plantations in newly occupied India the John Company saw a solution. In India they could grow the inexpensive crop of opium and use it as a means of exchange. Because of its addictive nature, the demand for the drug would be lifelong, insuring an unending market.

By the late eighteenth century, opium had been used in much of Asia for several centuries. The drug had been taken as a medicine in China since Arab traders brought it from the Middle East in the seventh or eighth century A.D. Spaniards introduced the habit of smoking tobacco to the Philippines, and it spread from there to China about 1620. The Dutch in Formosa smoked a mixture of opium and tobacco to combat the effects of malaria, and a small number of Chinese acquired this habit as Well. Gradually, some of those who smoked omitted the tobacco from this narcotic blend and changed to opium, most of which was imported from India by Portuguese traders. The reasons for opium smoking varied considerably: for the rich it was primarily a luxury, a social grace, while the poor sought in it a temporary escape from their condition.

Chinese emperors tried to maintain the forced distance between the Chinese people and the "devils". In 1685 the Manchu Emperor opened all his ports to foreign trade, but later closed them, permitting the 'foreign devils' merely to trade at Canton. Here the European merchants established their houses or factories, and under the intolerable 'Eight Regulations' were allowed to do business through the medium of the Co-Hong or group of Chinese merchants. The authorities wished to subject foreign merchants to every indignity, but not to discourage them altogether, as enormous benefit was derived from the vast customs duties that were levied. Although the East India Company yearly grew more powerful, the Chinese always considered its members as mere barbarians who naturally wished to bring tribute to the Celestial Empire.

In 1839 the Ching government, after a decade of unsuccessful anti-opium campaigns, adopted drastic prohibitory laws against the opium trade. The emperor dispatched a commissioner, Lin Zexu (1785-1850), to Guangzhou to suppress illicit opium traffic. Lin seized illegal stocks of opium owned by Chinese dealers and then detained the entire foreign community and confiscated and destroyed some 20,000 chests of illicit British opium. The British retaliated with a punitive expedition, thus initiating the first Anglo-Chinese war, better known as the Opium War (1839-42). Unprepared for war and grossly underestimating the capabilities of the enemy, the Chinese were disastrously defeated, and their image of their own imperial power was tarnished beyond repair. The Treaty of Nanjing (1842), signed on board a British warship by two Manchu imperial commissioners and the British plenipotentiary, was the first of a series of agreements with the Western trading nations later called by the Chinese the "unequal treaties." Under the Treaty of Nanjing, China ceded the island of Hong Kong (or Xianggang in pinyin) to the British; abolished the licensed monopoly system of trade; opened 5 ports to British residence and foreign trade; limited the tariff on trade to 5 percent ad valorem; granted British nationals extraterritoriality (exemption from Chinese laws); and paid a large indemnity. The ports of Canton, Amoy, Foochow(Fuzhou), Ningpo and Shanghai were opened to free trade, with Consuls at each, where the merchants could buy and sell without the offices of the Co-Hong. In addition, Britain was to have most-favored-nation treatment, that is, it would receive whatever trading concessions the Chinese granted other powers then or later. The Treaty of Nanjing set the scope and character of an unequal relationship for the ensuing century of what the Chinese would call "national humiliations." The treaty was followed by other incursions, wars, and treaties that granted new concessions and added new privileges for the foreigners.

The British and French again defeated China in a second opium war in 1856. By the terms of the Treaty of Tientsin (1858) the Chinese opened new ports to trading and allowed foreigners with passports to travel in the interior. Christians gained the right to spread their faith and hold property, thus opening up another means of western penetration. The United States and Russia gained the same privileges in separate treaties.

The war disorder forced the British East India Company to develop tea plantations in India from natural tea bushes that had been discovered in Assam.

Indian Tea

Two brothers Robert and Charles Bruce started in 1817 cultivation of tea in India. In 1835 they open the first tea company, Assam Tea Company. In 1839 the first Indian tea from Assam came to England. And it was followed quickly by teas from Darjeeling, Cachar and Sylhet. As a product of a British colony, there was no duty on Indian tea, and it became more affordable than the Chinese variety. British Colonists quickly planted tea in Ceylon, which by the end of the century, would become the principal supplier of tea for the British Empire. As tea became affordable, British teapots became larger.


Blending teas began around 1870 when tea merchants such as Twinings began to blend different varieties of tea from differing regions to achieve a stable taste. Twining's English Breakfast Blend, for example, has tasted essentially the same for decades. Now the consumer was sure of exactly what flavor she or he was buying, and would be more likely to buy more once a favorite blend was discovered. A reduction of import duties lowered the price of tea, so buying more of the favored blend was economically easier than ever before.

It has been suggested that tea gained popularity in England because of economical reasons. Both tea and coffee were increasing in popularity during the beginning of the eighteenth century, but coffee became more difficult to import as demand for these two commodities grew. Coffee supply and prices were unstable, and rising demand pushed prices higher. Tea supply and prices stabilized earlier than coffee, so merchants preferred to deal in this commodity, and consequently advertised it more vigorously. In 1720, English Parliament prohibited the import of finished Asian textiles, with the goal of encouraging local textile manufacture. Until this time tea had been viewed as a secondary commodity, but now it was regarded with increasing interest, and it replaced silk as the primary Chinese export.

Paper Packets

John Horniman started a tea merchants business in 1826 and the warehouse was just north of the City in Shepherdess Walk. The story is that he was one of the first merchants to have the idea of selling tea in packets. This was done to protect the trade mark from counterfeits. Whether for that reason or some other, the firm prospered and advertised widely so that Horniman's tea became a household name.


Ships from Holland and Scandinavia brought tea to the British coast, then stood offshore while smugglers met them and unloaded the precious cargo in small vessels. The smugglers, often local fishermen, snuck the tea inland through underground passages and hidden paths to special hiding places. One of the best hiding places was in the local parish church!

Even smuggled tea was expensive, however, and therefore extremely profitable, so many smugglers began to adulterate the tea with other substances, such as willow, licorice, and sloe leaves. Used tea leaves were also redried and added to fresh leaves. Finally, in 1784 William Pitt the Younger introduced the Commutation Act, which dropped the tax on tea from 119% to 12.5%, effectively ending smuggling. Adulteration remained a problem, though, until the Food and Drug Act of 1875 brought in stiff penalties for the practice.


Imperial Russia was attempting to engage China and Japan in trade at the same time as the East Indian Company. The Russian interest in tea began as early as 1618 when the Chinese embassy in Moscow presented several chests of tea to Czar Alexis. By 1689 the Trade Treaty of Newchinsk established a common border between Russia and China, allowing caravans to then cross back and forth freely. The cost of tea was initially prohibitive and available only to the wealthy. By the time Catherine the Great died (1796), the price had dropped some, and tea was spreading throughout Russian society. Tea was ideally suited to Russian life: hearty, warm, and sustaining.

Russia had also begun to cultivate tea in its colonies. In 1814, N.A. Garvis attempted growing it in the Crimea, but failed. In 1847, in Ozurgeti, now in southwestern Georgia, teas was successfully grown. Soon after, its cultivation began in other Russian regions of the Caucasus.

Great Tea Road

Tea was brought from China to Russia by the caravan trade road, which entered history under the name of "Great Tea Road". This was a part of the famous Silk Road. The journey was not easy. The trip was 11,000 miles long and took over sixteen months to complete. The average caravan consisted of 200 to 300 camels. The Tea Road started in Kashgar, a city located just behind the Great Wall, which separated China from Gobi. Tea arriving from South China was concentrated and processed here. In Kashgar, representatives from the Russian trading companies purchased the tea and sent the caravans northward. These slow-moving camel caravans went in winter and spring from Kalgan through the Gobi desert to Urga, Mongolia. After a superficial inspection in Urga, caravans continued their journey to Kyakhta, on the Russian Mongolian border. In Kyakhta, boxes of tea were inspected, sewed into raw bull hides called tsybics and marked. Bales containing the expensive black tea were more carefully packed using paper and foil wrappings to retard mold. Bundles of the paper and foil packed tea were then placed in bamboo boxes. The tsybics were loaded on carts or sledges and sent on to Irkutsk. From there tea was sent to European part of Russia to tea trade fairs.

The completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1903 sounded the death knell for the colourful Russian Caravans. As transportation times became dramatically reduced, tea costs were lowered, and its popularity continued to rice.


The samovar, adopted from the Tibetan "hot pot", is a combination bubbling hot water heater and tea pot. Placed in the center of the Russian home, it could run all day and serve up to forty cups of tea at a time. Again showing the Asian influence in the Russian culture, guests sipped their tea from glasses in silver holders, very similar to Turkish coffee cups. The Russian have always favored strong tea highly sweetened with sugar, honey, or jam. The use of lemon slices by the Russians points to the survival of the ancient method of boiling the tea with rice, ginger, salt, orange peel, spices, milk, and sometimes with onions! The custom obtains at the present day among the Thibetans and various Mongolian tribes, who make a curious syrup of these ingredients.


Peter Stuyvesant brought the first tea to America to the colonists in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (later re-named New York by the English) in 1650. Settlers here were confirmed tea drinkers. And indeed, on acquiring the colony, the English found that the small settlement consumed more tea at that time then all of England put together.

It was not until 1670 that English colonists in Boston became aware of tea, and it was not publicly available for sale until twenty years later. Tea Gardens were first opened in New York City. The new Gardens were centered around the natural springs, which the city fathers now equipped with pumps to facilitate the "tea craze". The most famous of these "tea springs" was at Roosevelt and Chatham (later Park Row Street).

By 1720 tea was a generally accepted staple of trade between the Colony and the Mother country. It was especially a favorite of colonial women, a factor England was to base a major political decision on later. Tea trade was centered in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, future centers of American rebellion. As tea was heavily taxed, even at this early date, contraband tea was smuggled into the colonies by the independent minded American merchants from ports far away and adopted herbal teas from the Indians. The directors of the then the East India Company fumed as they saw their profits diminish and they pressured Parliament to take action. It was not long in coming.

Tea and American Revolution

England had recently completed the French and Indian War, fought, from England's point of view, to free the colony from French influence and stabilize trade. It was the feeling of Parliament that as a result, it was not unreasonable that the colonists shoulder the majority of the cost. After all. the war had been fought for their benefit. Charles Townshend presented the first tax measures which today are known by his name. They imposed a higher tax on newspapers (which they considered far too outspoken in America), tavern licenses (too much free speech there), legal documents, marriage licenses, and docking papers. The colonists rebelled against taxes imposed upon them without their consent and which were so repressive. New, heavier taxes were leveled by Parliament for such rebellion. Among these was, in June 1767, the tea tax that was to become the watershed of America's desire for freedom. (Townshend died three months later of a fever never to know his tax measures helped create a free nation.)

The colonists rebelled and openly purchased imported tea, largely Dutch in origin. The East India Company, already in deep financial trouble saw its profits fall even further. By 1773 the John Company merged with the East India Company for structural stability and pleaded with the Crown for assistance. The new Lord of the Treasury, Lord North, as a response to this pressure, by the Tea Act of 1773, granted to the new Company permission to sell directly to the colonists, by-passing the colonial merchants and pocketing the difference. In plotting this strategy, England was counting on the well known passion among American women for tea to force consumption. It was a major miscalculation. Throughout the colonies, women pledged publicly at meeting and in newspapers not drink English sold tea until their free rights (and those of their merchant husbands) were restored.

The Boston Tea Party

On December 16th 1773, about 50 members of the political organization, The Sons of Liberty, boarded 3 ships in Boston Harbor. Some were dressed, not very convincingly, as Mohawk Indians. In a very orderly and quiet fashion, they plunked [sterling] 9,659 worth of Darjeeling into the sea. The original justification for had been the expense of the French and Indian War. The event is called The Boston Tea Party. 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 occupied by royal troops. The colonial leaders met and revolution declared.

Establishing Tea Business

The first three American millionaires, Thomas Handasyd Perkins(1764-1854) of Boston, Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor of New York, all made their fortunes in the China trade. America began direct trade with China soon after the Revolution was over in 1789. America's newer, faster clipper ships outsailed the slower, heavier English "tea wagons" that had until then dominated the trade. This forced the English navy to update their fleet, a fact America would have to address in the War of 1812.

The new American ships established sailing records that still stand for speed and distance. John Jacob Astor began his tea trading in 1800. He required a minimum profit on each venture of 50% and often made 100%. Stephen Girard of Philadelphia was known as the "gentle tea merchant". His critical loans to the young (and still weak) American government enabled the nation to re-arm for the War of 1812. The orphanage founded by him still perpetuates his good name. Thomas Perkins was from one of Boston's oldest sailing families. The Chinese trust in him as a gentleman of his word enabled him to conduct enormous transactions half way around the world without a single written contract. His word and his handshake was enough so great was his honor in the eyes of the Chinese. It is to their everlasting credit that none of these men ever paid for tea with opium. America was able to break the English tea monopoly because its ships were faster and it paid in gold.

Perkins Clan

The syndicate began during the war of 1776-1783, when three members of T. H. Perkins's family fled the United States as British loyalists. The continuation of the political and business connections to the rulers of the British Empire, enlarged by this emigration, gave the young merchant, T. H. Perkins, a great advantage in his efforts to amass a personal fortune in the West Indies trade. The principal commodity sold into the West Indies by Perkins, until 1792 was black slaves from Africa.

The core of the Perkins syndicate was assembled as follows. One among the Perkins family who fled the United States during 1776-1783 was George Perkins, who set himself up as a British Empire merchant in Smyrna, Turkey. It was through George that James and Thomas Perkins were able to make the connection to supplies of Turkish opium, bypassing the monopoly over Indian opium controlled by the British East India Company. The first Perkins cargo of Turkish opium, on board the brigantine Monkey, arrived in China in 1816.

By the 1820s John Perkins Cushing was known as the most influential of all the foreigners in Canton. Cushing had struck up a close business and personal relationship with the hong merchant Houqua, who at his death in 1843 was said to be the richest man in the world. During the War of 1812, they loaned their money out--at 18 percent interest--to other merchants in Canton. But the fur trade paled and when hard cash grew harder to come by, a search began for a substitute for the furs and specie that had been foundations of Boston's China trade. Opium seemed the ideal commodity to fill the gap. By 1818, John Bennet Forbes had been stationed in China to assist his cousin John Perkins Cushing.

Ralph Bennett Forbes married T. H. Perkins's sister, Margaret. Their son, Robert Bennett Forbes, joined the Perkins firm at an early age(13). In China, this son became the foreign affairs manager for a merchant named Houqua, who had himself been made responsible for all of China's foreign relations with the West by the Chinese Emperor. Robert B. Forbes's brother, John Murray Forbes, took over managing Houqua and China's foreign relations, after Robert's death, and amassed a great fortune. Perkins's money bought out the work of Alexander Graham Bell, and John Murray Forbes's son, William, became president of the American Bell Telephone Company and married the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Russell Sturgis married T. H. Perkins's sister, Elizabeth, and joined the firm. His grandson, by the same name, moved to England and became chairman of the Baring Bank, the bank of the same Lord Shelburne who had organized the massive subversion of the United States, the bank which was the bank of the British East India Company.

The China trade was financed almost entirely by the Baring Brothers Bank in England. From the earliest days of our republic, the question of who would provide credit to American merchants was of strategic importance. Even after Hamilton established the Bank of the United States, which made us potentially independent of foreign sources for domestic production and commerce, our nation's foreign trade required a significant margin of sources of foreign credit, especially for the net-import-values of capital goods. When the "free trade" movement, led by spokesmen who were themselves employed by the opium-traffickers, succeeded in closing that bank, the Barings and allied foreign oligarchists gained a great power over America's foreign trade. The Perkins syndicate did business in China entirely in the company of British Empire merchants and military officials, among the operations centered in the tiny Canton river-area reserved for foreigners. The Perkins syndicate lived with the British, smuggled and bribed with them, and poisoned and murdered a generation of Chinese for a fabulous profit. This fabulous profit was the payment they gained for attaching themselves to the rump of the British Indian Empire.

Thomas Handasyd Perkins welcomed Chinese moves to halt the opium traffic, figuring that if China made things hot enough for drug dealers, the less venturesome traders would be scared out of the business, leaving a bigger share for the Perkins firm. It was a shrewd guess: rival merchants John Jacob Astor and Stephen Girard dropped the opium trade.


America stabilized her government, strengthened her economy, and expanded her borders and interests. By 1904 the United States was ready for the world to see her development at the St. Louis World's Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition). Trade exhibitors from around the world brought their products to America's first World's Fair. One such merchant was Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner. Originally, he had planned to give away free samples of hot tea to fair visitors. But when a heat wave hit, no one was interested. To save his investment of time and travel, he dumped a load of ice into the brewed tea and served the first "iced tea". It was (along with the Egyptian fan dancer) the hit of the Fair. This is how iced tea was popularized and commercialized. But it was drunk a long time before the exhibition. Over the years, the 1904 World's Fair has been credited with a bushel of food firsts. According to Pamela J. Vaccaro, in her book "Beyond the Ice Cream Cone: The Whole Scoop on Food at the World's Fair", a handful of the 130 fully staffed restaurants and food stands had iced tea listed on the menus they had to submit for approval before the fair opened. Plus, there are written accounts dating back to the 1890s of iced tea being served elsewhere around the country.

Four years later, Thomas Sullivan of New York developed the concept of "bagged tea". As a tea merchant, he carefully wrapped each sample delivered to restaurants for their consideration. He recognized a natural marketing opportunity when he realized the restaurants were brewing the samples "in the bags" to avoid the mess of tea leaves in the kitchens.

Changes in drinking

Sixty years ago and more, the amount of black and green tea Americans drank was split fairly evenly--each accounting for about 40 percent of the market--with oolong constituting the rest. During World War II, however, the major sources of green tea--China and Japan--were cut off from the United States, leaving us with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India, which produces black tea. Americans came out of the war drinking nearly 99 percent black tea.