Blog

History of Tea

 

Part 4 of 4

Afternoon teas could be very simple events or more elaborate ones used to introduce debutants to society or to honour special guests. The more elaborate teas were often called “at homes” and could take place in the evenings.  There would be maids and footmen to help guests out of their carriages, and tons of food and drinks, including champagne as well as tea, bullion and hot chocolate. Musicians would also complete the event.

Now the only problem left to deal with was “how could a Victorian lady truly relax with her tea when she couldn’t breathe?” Victorian women often had difficulty breathing and fainted often because their waists were squeezed into a tiny 18 inches by a whalebone, wire, sometimes steel ribbed corset. Also Victorian Women could wear up to 37 pounds of clothing – up to 19 lbs suspended from the waist alone. On top of the corset problem, there was the problem of sitting down with a bustle. Bustles were made of wire mesh and springs, and they wouldn’t allow a women to sit back in their chair so they had to balance themselves on the edge. In fact in the late 1870′s bustles became so large that they were called tea tray bustles (because they were large enough to hold a tea setting).

In the 1880′s, the Dress Reform Society in England came to the rescue by introducing “tea gowns”. These very loose, flowing gowns, almost like negligees were made of chiffon, lace, velvet, satin or silk, and were very ornate – trimmed with beads, jewels, feathers, furs or ribbons. Many “tea gowns” had matching jackets. They were usually worn in the home, or if you were visiting friends in their country house. The comfortable tea gowns, however were not worn to public functions or formal teas.

When Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward the seventh, took the throne (1901 – 1910), tea gowns became even more lavish and high society went all out with teas. Evening tea parties had footmen, hot dishes, professional musicians, and ornate silver tea pots on swivel stands. The Edwardian era was a very lavish and joyful time. People emulated the extravagant ways of the king.

LOW TEA – also called afternoon tea is the most elegant of teas, served between 4 and 5 o’clock. This was the tea of wealthy aristocrats and features dainty finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire or clotted cream and jam, and also a variety of tarts and pastries. Sometimes fresh fruit is also served. Low teas are called “low” because it was taken in the sitting or “withdrawing” room where low tables (like a coffee table) were placed near sofas. In a traditional low tea, all food must be dry to the touch as Victorians wore hats (some with veils) and gloves to these events. The gloves would be left on while eating, especially at outdoor garden teas, so food was prepared neatly so as not to get the gloves dirty.

HIGH TEA – also called a “Meat Tea” was traditionally the tea of the middle and lower classes. During the second half of the Victorian Period, known as the industrial revolution, working families would come home tired and hungry. High tea was served at 6 o’clock at the end of the workday, and is basically a large, heavy supper with several courses – meats, eggs, cheese, fish, vegetables, sandwiches and tea. Despite its name there is nothing elegant about high tea. It was the main meal of the day and is still a tradition in English, Welsh and Scottish farming regions.

 So there you have the basic history of tea… After almost 5,000 years of tea drinking, we’re still discovering new varieties, new flavours, and the wonderful health benefits of this drink.

Join us for our Musical Twilight Tea with musical guest Rosalee Peppard. Her music is steeped in the sea, as she brings the rich maritime past to life in song.



History of Tea

 

Part 3

In the 1820′s, the British East India Company began large scale production of tea in India, and by the 1850′s the British learned how to commercially cultivate tea plants. It took the British several decades to learn how to grow and produce various types of Indian tea like Assam and Darjeeling. By 1875, the British had the knowledge to produce tea on their own island colony of Ceylon, Sri Lanka. In 1878, tea was cultivated in Indonesia by the Dutch and by the turn of the Century…early 1900′s, tea was also being cultivated in parts of Africa, like Kenya. The English and the Dutch managed to crumble China’s world tea dominance.

In 1904 St. Louis World’s fair, ice tea became all the rage. One plantation owner decided to dump a load of ice into his hot tea because the weather was so warm, no one was buying the hot tea.  Ice tea was consumed in the 1800′s in tea and liquour punch cocktails but iced tea alone took off in popularity in the early 1900′s.

In 1908, the first teabags were invented.

Starting in the late 1880′s, fine hotels in America and England began to offer tea service in Tea Rooms and Tea Courts. Victorian ladies and gentlemen would meet in the late afternoon for tea and conversation.  By 1910 fashionable hotels began to host afternoon Tea Dances. Tea Dances were very popular with singles and they were considered a very respectable way for singles to meet. The Tango became all the rage in 1910, and tea and tango became connected.

The London Ritz was the first hotel where young women were allowed to go alone to tea without a chaperone. Romance writer Barbara Cartland said that in the years following World War One, tea at the London Ritz was a great way to meet single men. “You’d have a long lunch with men you liked, a short tea with the rest,” she said. The editor of Vogue Magazine once fired a large number of female secretaries for “wasting too much time at the tea dances.” in the 1920′s.

 

 to be continued….

Join us for our traditional high tea and enjoy a cup of your favourite tea!



History of Tea

 

Part 2

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!



History of Tea

 

Part 1 

Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world after water.
The history of tea is long and convoluted, starting in China and working its way around the world causing revolutions in taste, lifestyle and politics.The discovery of tea actually influenced world history.

So where did tea originate? Who discovered tea? The honest answer is no one knows for sure. The most popular legend, however, takes us back to the year 2737 B.C. Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was a gifted herbalist and scientist. He was smart enough to insist that all drinking water be boiled for the sake of hygiene. One day, the Emperor and his servants stopped to rest and boil some water when they were out for a walk. Some dried leaves from a nearby tea bush blew into the water and the water turned brown. The emperor tasted the water, for scientific purposes, and exclaimed, “This is delicious”. According to legend, this is how tea was born.

Tea consumption spread throughout China and by the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD), tea was the national drink in China. In 780 AD, a famous Chinese scholar by the name of Lu Yu wrote the first definitive book on tea called the Cha Ching. He wrote about tea cultivation and preparation in ancient China.

Interestingly, even at that early time, additives were added to tea to create different flavours.  The ancient Chinese added, ginger, orange peel or peppermint as flavourings. It was also a custom to boil tea with onions. Lu Yu recommended that people always add salt to their tea, which we would consider strange today. Lu Yu also said that tea should always be consumed in an atmosphere of tranquility, so you shouldn’t make tea when you’re fighting with someone.

With the advent of Lu Yu’s book, tea became extremely popular in China and in 800 AD; tea began to be commercially cultivated.

In 1191, a Zen Buddhist missionary – Priest Yeisei, bought tea seeds from China to Japan, and he thought that the preparation of tea would enhance religious meditation. So tea in Japan instantly got approval from the royal family and monasteries, and spread throughout Japanese society. In Japan, the preparation of tea was elevated to an art form. The “Japanese Tea Ceremony” actually originated in China, but it died out there and was continued in Japan. It actually takes years to master the Tea Ceremony which is very complicated. Later, tea houses in which Japanese Hostesses, “the geisha” practiced the tea ceremony became very popular.

Another missionary, a Portuguese Jesuit Priest was the first European to try tea and he brought it back to Lisbon in 1560. It was the Portuguese and Dutch traders who first imported tea to Europe. In 1602 the Dutch East India Trading Company was formed and by 1610, regular shipments were going to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries.

Tea first came to Russia in 1618 when the Chinese embassy presented tea to the Czar. The Czar refused it as being a useless beverage, nevertheless tea eventually grew popular in Russia. In the late 1600′s, caravan trading began between China & Russia. Russians would trade their furs for Chinese tea. The horse and camel caravan journey took about a year and it was here that tea would be infused at night with smoke from the camp fires – so smoky teas like Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan were born. They are very strong teas with a strong smoke fragrance and flavours.

Tea became very fashionable in Holland, but because it was terribly expensive – over $100 per pound in the early 1600′s – it was only available to the wealthy. By 1675, the prices came down a bit, but it was still a luxury item. In Holland, tavern owners had to have a license to sell tea and got into the habit of serving teas outdoors in their gardens on portable tea sets with a heating unit, so people could enjoy tea outside in the tavern’s garden.

to be continued….

Join us for our traditional high tea and enjoy a cup of your favourite tea!



Spiced BBQ Chicken with Grilled Peaches

This is a great summer time recipe that’s light, healthy, and delicious!

4 skin on chicken supremes
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon clove
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon honey
2 sprigs of thyme Chopped

Marinate Chicken in above ingredients for 4 hours. Take 2 peaches, cut in half and remove pits, marinate in 3 oz. of Birch Syrup or Maple Syrup. Remove Chicken and drizzle with Olive Oil. Grill Chicken on a Medium heat grill until160 degrees in the center of the chicken. Grill peaches till soft Serve Chicken with peaches on top and your favorite salad.

ENJOY!



A Salute to Big Bands

 

big band is a type of musical ensemble that originated in the United States and is associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totalling approximately 12 to 25 musicians. Whew, glad we got that sorted out of the way.

Jazz began in New Orleans in the early 1900′s. Steamboats using the Mississippi helped spread the sound of jazz as many of the New Orleans jazz bands performed as entertainment on the boats. In the 1920′s, the music of jazz began developing into a big band format combining elements of ragtime, black spirituals, blues, and European music. Some of the more popular early big bands included band members that would become future jazz stars and future big bandleaders such as Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, and John Kirby.

When the depression hit the U.S. in 1929 the entire music business suddenly failed. The decline in record sales, coupled with the closure of speakeasies and jazz clubs after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, forced many jazz musicians to move to New York or other highly populated cities and seek work at dancing venues in large ballrooms. Swing bands played a large part in people’s lives in the late 30′s as people tried to shake off the depression by dancing and while records and radio made swing music widely available, this mediated music soon inspired fans’ the desire to experience their favorite swing live.  

Big Bands still hold a special place in the hearts of many as it is a positive and optimistic music and an inspiration during one of the more difficult periods of American History. No person living at the time was not touched in some deep way by it as it helped guide them through the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war recession.  Swing music fulfilled the yearning for a sentimental, romantic escape from the mundane and at the same time was appreciated for its excitement and even as fine art. 

Today more than fifty years later the sounds of swing band music can be heard and one of the most exciting big bands is The Toronto All-Star Big Band. They revive the spirit, style and sound of 1930s and ’40s and are performing at the Old Mill Toronto Dance Hall with tributes to  Glen Miller on September 7th, Benny Goodman on October 5th, and Tommy Dorsey on November 23rd.

Remember, It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing”!