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Tea History 1

Until a quite recent period botanists believed that the tea plant was a native of China, and that its growth was confined to China and Japan. But it is now definitely known that the tea plant is a native of India, where the wild plant attains a size and perfection which concealed its true character from botanical experts, as well as from ordinary observers, for many years after it had become familiar to them as a native of Indian forests.

How early in the history of the Chinese that people discovered and developed the inestimable qualities of the tea plant is not known. That Chinese scholar, S. Wells Williams, in his Middle Kingdom places the date about 350 A.D. But somewhere between 500 A.D. and 700 A.D. Tea had become a favorite beverage in Chinese families. Some of the written records of that ancient people push the epoch of tea-drinking back as far as 2700 B.C., appealing to ambiguous utterances of Confucius for corroboration. Tea in China had obtained sufficient importance in political economy in 783 or 793 A.D. to become an object of taxation by the Chinese Government.
Gibbon, in his great work, tells us that as early as the sixth century, caravans conveyed the silks and spices and sandal wood of China by land from the Chinese Sea westward to Roman markets on the Mediterranean, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles. But we hear no mention of the introduction of tea into Europe or western Asia until a thousand years later.

According to Mr. John McEwan (International Geog. Congress, Berlin, 1899,) tea soon found its way from China into Japan and Formosa, but was not cultivated in Japan on a commercial scale until the 12th century.

John Sumner, in a Treatise on Tea (Birmingham, 1863), states that the Portuguese claim to have first introduced tea into Europe, about 1557. Disraeli (Curiosities of Literature) offers evidence that tea was unknown in Russian Court circles as late as 1639.

But Russia and Persia seem to have naturalized tea as a beverage about the same time that it became known in England. Little is said about Persian tea-drinking in modern writing upon tea, but the testimony of many travelers bears witness to the national love of tea by Persians.

The Encyclopedia Britannica concedes to the Dutch, the honor of being the first European tea-drinkers, and states that early English supplies of tea were obtained from Dutch sources. 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.

In these days, it may be remarked, the Dutch are said to drink as much tea per capita as the Russians, who are as fond of tea as the Chinese.

While both the English and Dutch East India Companies exhibited in England small samples of tea as curiosities of barbarian customs very early in the 17th century, tea did not begin to be used as a beverage in England even by the Royalty until after 1650.

In a number of the weekly Mercurius Politicus (a predecessor of the 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."

This appears to be the earliest recorded and authentic evidence of the use of tea in England.

Macaulay, in a note in his History of England, says that tea became a fashionable drink among Parisians, and went out of fashion, before it was known in London, and refers to the published correspondence of the French physician, Dr. Guy Patin, with Dr. Charles Spon, under dates of March 10 and 22, 1648, for proof of the fact. Macaulay also says that Cardinal Mazarin was a great tea-drinker, and Chancellor Seguier, likewise.

Frankest and shrewdest among men of brains who have given to the world their inmost thoughts, old Samuel Pepys, pauses in the midst of conferences with Kings and Princes to record that "I did send for a cup of tea (a China Drink) of which I had never drank before." This in September 1660. Seven years later he writes in that wonderful Diary--"Home, and there find my wife drinking of tee, a drink which Mr. Pelling, the Potticary, tells her is good for her cold and defluxions." Then goes on to rejoice over the repulse of the Dutch in an attempt upon London.

To coffee and tea are due the establishment of that unique English institution, the London Coffee House. Inns, where quests were expected to lodge as well as eat; restaurants, in which men tarried only for a single meal; and Beer and Spirit shops, abounded in London; but the Coffee House ushered in a new era, and actually changed the daily habits of a large majority of representative London citizens. While it is asserted Mr. Jacobs established the first Coffee House in England, at Oxford, it was a native of Smyrna by the name of Pasqua Rosee who first opened a Coffee House in London, in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, in 1652. Hot coffee only was here dispensed, during the day and evening.

Coffee Houses soon increased in number and extended over the business districts of London. Business men quickly recognized the value of a beverage which cleared the mental vision while refreshing and stimulating both mind and body, and repaired to the Coffee House at all hours for the joint purpose of drinking coffee and transacting business with their fellows. Coffee-Houses became the Commercial Exchanges of London, and they were also the precursors of modern English Clubs. Men of affairs, Statesmen, literary celebrities, artists, naval and military officers, all repaired to the Coffee Houses to meet each other, to hear and discuss the serious topics and the light gossip of the day.

The introduction of tea gave the coffee-houses another strong hold upon their customers, and chocolate as a beverage soon followed. Among the early dispensors of these harmless hot drinks was Thomas Garway, or as written later, Garraway, whose four-story brick coffee-house on Exchange Alley, first opened in 1659, had been a rallying point for Londoners for 216 years, when it was pulled down to make room for other structures, in 1873. Garraway left a monument that has outlasted his coffee-house, in the form of a famous tea circular.

Garway's Famous Tea Circular - Garway's Famous Circular was so often quoted and mutilated that we print it here in full; it has no date, but it is supposed to have been printed in 1660.
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