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by John Bowerman-Davies

Tea cup All teas originate from a green-leafed plant, however, black tea is produced when the green leaf goes through a fermentation and oxidation process. Only the first two leaves and a flower bud are harvested from the bush. (Note, if a tea bush is left to grow without pruning, it would grow into a tree thirty or more feet tall).

Year Event

2737 BC Shen nung, one of China's first emperors happened upon the tea drink when a leaf from a nearby tree fell into some water he was boiling for purification. The tempting aroma prompted him to taste the brew, and so the world's first cup of tea was consumed.

900 AD Tea is brought to Japan by Buddhist monks.

1400 Tea finally becomes popular in Japan (marketing classes were difficult to find those days).

1610 Green tea begins its migration from East to West via Dutch traders.

1658 Tea is about to become popular in England, and it's first served and sold publicly at Thomas Garway's Coffee House in London.

1660 Tea is introduced to the Dutch colonists in America at a settlement called New Amsterdam (later to be called New York).

1690 The English and Russians are becoming definite tea drinkers, while the French (just to be different) start drinking more coffee.

1707 Thomas Twining opens Tom's Coffee Shop in London, and becomes an overnight success. Starbuck's sends envoys to check the location.

1717 Thomas Twining sees a new niche in the market, and convertsTom's Coffee House into the first tea shop and names it "The Golden Lyon" and invites women to patronize his establishment thereby starting the first dating service. Unfortunately, this fails since people could not exchange phone numbers because as of yet there were no phones.

1740 First recorded tea break in a factory in England (this is true!)

1743 Some incident involving tea in the Boston Harbour. Starbucks executives held for questioning.

1784 Richard Twining, grandson of Thomas, persuades the Prime Minister (William Pitt) to drop taxes on tea.

1823 The English are constantly searching for new sources of tea, and British Army Major Robert Bruce discovers scores of wild trees in Assam, Northern India.

1826 John Horniman (an Englishman) introduces teas sold in sealed packages, and also develops a machine to produce packages that will hold larger quantities.

1830 The first flavored tea is invented and named after the British Prime Minister who loved it - Earl Grey. This tea is flavored with the oil of Bergamont. (I wonder what a Bergamont is?)

1834 Charles Bruce (brother of Robert) starts seeding the hillsides of Darjeeling (Assam, India) with wild tea plants.

1838 The British Government annexes Assam.

1839 Charles Bruce finally sends eight tea chests to England for auction.

1880 Thomas Lipton purchases tea plantations in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).

1894 Joseph Lyons opens his first tea shop, Lyon's Tea Shop in Piccadilly, London. This shop is still in existence today, however the prices have gone up lately.

1900 J. Lyon's Tea Shop now has 250 outlets. Eat your heart out McDonalds.

1904 American "iced tea" is invented when a tea promoter named Richard Blechynden had difficulty selling his hot tea at the St. Louis World's Fair as the temperature climbed to 104 degrees. He put ice into the tea and served a new beverage. (No, raspberry/kiwi was not available that week)

1908 American tea importer Thomas Sullivan decides to cut costs, and send tea samples to clients in small quantities contained in small silk bags. Not knowing what to do, they placed the whole bag into boiling water, and the tea bag was invented. Actually the tea-ball was invented, and the Gertrude H. Ford Tea Company still put whole tea leaves into tied tea-balls.

1953 The English Tetley Tea Company revolutionizes tea drinking around the world by introducing the paper tea bag.

1956 Nestle introduces instant tea mixes.

1970s American hippies wandering in Nepal discover a wonderful, soothing milky tea drink called chai. Of course, everyone in that neck of the woods has been drinking chai since the last millenium.

Mid-1990s Tea companies such as TAZO reinvent the marketing of tea, and "discover" chai.

1997 Tea shops start springing up instead of coffee shops.

Some Interesting Facts About Tea…

Tea Cup You must consume two to three cups of tea for every one cup of coffee to receive the same amount of caffeine. The reason for this is that for a cup of tea fewer leaves are needed as compared to the amount of beans needed for a cup of coffee. And the amount caffeine in tea will depend on the plant type and where it's grown.

Boiling water is required to properly infuse and steep tea; therefore, when using a tea pot it's important to heat the pot first. But don't over-boil the water since this will de-aerate the water. The air is an essential and necessary part for distributing the tea leaves in the pot, and thereby maximizing the infusion. DO NOT use the water from an espresso machine or from a coffee machine when making tea since the water will be de-aerated.

Store tea in a clean, dry, seal-tight container, free from foreign (that is not English) materials and odors. If properly stored, black teas may remain fresh for up to two years, whereas green teas are best used within six months. Tea bags will tend to deteriorate faster because they usually contain lower grades of tea.

The best decaf tea will have been processed with high pressure carbon dioxide. And traditionally it has been suggested that the steeping of tea leaves is equal to the time it takes for a reading of the Penitent's Psalm (Psalm 51 for those of you without a bible). How many readers do not need to read that Psalm? Amen.

John Bowerman-Davies can be contacted at

Still curious about Coffee, check out our Coffee Alphabet.

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