Tea first arrived in Paris in 1636 and a famous gossip and letter writer, Madame de Sevigne wrote about a friend of hers who was tired of breaking her precious tea ware due to the heat of the water, and one day added cold milk prior to the tea. The dishes did not break and the addition of milk to tea was born.
Interestingly, Great Britain, known as a tea-loving nation, was not familiar with tea until about 1652. As in Holland, the royal family had to provide the stamp of approval for tea to gain nationwide acceptance. In 1662, King Charles 11 married the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza. Princess Catherine was said to be a tea addict and she brought a large tea chest as part of her dowry. Her influence made tea the beverage of choice in English high society. Tea became very popular, but it was extremely expensive so tea leaves were kept in a locked caddy. Tea was locked in a caddy throughout Victorian times as well, so the servants couldn’t steal it. (By the way, in Victorian times, once the masters of the house drank the first brew, the servants would make tea for themselves from the used leaves and then sell the twice used leaves at the back door to vendors.) The vendors would press the used leaves into tea cakes. They would sell these cakes to people who could only afford to spend a penny or two for the tea, and that’s where the phrase “Tea for two” came from…the cost was “tea for two pence”.
Tea Gardens became popular with the English in the 1600′s. They took the idea from the Dutch tavern garden teas and embellished it. Ladies and Gentlemen would take their tea outdoors and were entertained by orchestras, flowered walkways, concerts, games, fireworks, etc. The Tea Gardens were the first time that women could mix freely with men and with all social classes. Tipping for good service started in the English Tea Gardens. Locked wooden boxes were placed on the Garden Tables. Inscribed on the boxes were the letters T.I.P.S – TO INSURE PROMPT SERVICE. Customers would drop a coin into the box to insure that the waiters hurried to bring the tea hot from the distant kitchen.
Since tea was so popular in Britain, the government decided to profit by putting heavy taxes on tea, up to 119% Unfortunately, this backfired because it created a huge organized smuggling industry in the 18th century. Millions of pounds of tea were smuggled into Britain and obviously there was no quality control so a lot of the tea was adulterated. Leaves from other plants or used tea leaves were added to fresh tea leaves. Sometimes the colour was not convincing enough so anything from sheep’s dung to poisonous copper carbonate was added to make it look more like tea.
In 1784, the government dramatically lowered tea taxes which ended the smuggling.
Several wars were started because of tea. By the mid-1700′s tea was so expensive and so popular in Britain that importing tea from China was creating a burden on the currency reserves in England. Since India was a British Colony, opium from India was smuggled into China by British Merchants to help pay for the tea exports to Britain. When the Chinese destroyed the opium, it started the opium wars between Britain and China. Britain won these wars and this lead to the Chinese opening more ports to trade tea with the world.
Tea didn’t come to America until 1690. Tea Gardens opened in New York City, and by 1720, the tea trade was based in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In the U.S., tea made history when there was a fight over the high taxes levied on British tea after England’s French and Indian war. In 1773, a group of radicals disguised as Indians dumped hundreds of pounds of British tea into the Boston Harbour to protest high taxes. This was known as the Boston Tea Party, and eventually led to the American Revolution and American Independence.
In the 1800′s, Tea Plantations sprung up in the American south and America became the biggest importer of tea due to the faster clipper ships and the ability to pay its debts in gold.
to be continued….
Join us for our traditional high tea and enjoy a cup of your favourite tea!