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
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
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
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,
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
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
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 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.
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.