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Tea History Throughout the World

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Tea Comes to Europe

Some 5000 years ago tea was dicovered by the emperor Shen Nung. Much later China introduced tea to Japan by a Buddhist priest named Saicho in 805.

In 1516 the Portuguese landed in China, having discovered the sea route to the East. In 1557 they were allowed to establish a trading station at Macao in return for ridding the region of pirates, but the British and other nations had to wait until 1685 for permission to trade with China. So began the direct discovery of Chinese tea in the west, although the name had already been introduced through contact with the Turks, who enjoyed drinking brick tea brought along the Silk Road. The first known reference to tea by an Englishman dates from 1615, when a certain Richard Wickham wrote to Macao asking for 'a pot of the best sort of chaw' The oldest name for tea recorded in China seems to have been Kia and the prounciation Ch'a is only found after 725 A.D.. In certain regions a 't' took the place of the initial 'ch' and we find the variant pronunciations ta or tai. In Korea today we find both pronunciations, Ch'a and Ta, just as in England from the beginning people spoke of both cha and tay.


The Dutch brought tea to Europe from China, trading dried sage in exchange.
Chinese ambassadors presented Czar Alexis with a gift of several chests of tea.
Tea was first sold in England at Garway's Coffee House in London. The East India Company operated out of several sites in the City of London, the first in Philpot Lane, Fenchurch, then it took a lease on Lord Northampton's mansion, Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate and then in 1658 another move before it finally leased Lord Craven's House in Leadenhall Street.

Under the terms of a charter granted by Elizabeth I, The East India Company owned all trading rights and controlled the sale of those imported goods back to Britain.

The Taiwanese began to drink wild tea.
Charles II took Catherine Braganza of Portugal as his wife. They both drank tea, creating a fashion for it. Its popularity among the aristocracy causes alcohol beverages to fall from favor.
Close to 150 pounds of tea were shipped to England. Until 1669, most of the tea drunk in Britain was bought from the Dutch.
Traders with three hundred camels traveled 11,000 miles to China and back in order to supply Russia's demand. The trip took sixteen months.
In Taiwan, settlers of Formosa's Nantou County cultivated the first domestic bushes. Dutch ships carried the tea to Persia, the first known export of Taiwanese tea.
The yearly importation of tea to England grew to approximately 800,000 pounds
The first auction dedicated to tea took place in Craven House, which became known as East India House. These East India Company auctions were held quarterly. Such early auctions were "Sold by the Candle," a system whereby a candle was marked off in inches, it was lit when the bidding began, the hammer was brought down as the first inch line was reached and so on down the candle for each lot.
Wealthy American Colonists developed a taste for tea.
The Tea Act of 1773 giving the East India Company control of trading in the Americas imposed the same taxes and levies on the colonists as paid by the British. Objection led to an act of rebellion known as the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, which is commonly viewed as a first step towards the American War of Independence. Under cover of night, colonists dressed as Native Americans boarded the East India Company ships in Boston Harbor. They opened chests of tea and dumped their contents into the water. This was repeated in other less known instances up and down the coast.
China was the main tea source of eighteenth century. Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), Central and Eastern African countries were sending teas to the London Auction.
The East India Company enjoyed its monopoly for two and a half centuries. Independent merchants campaigned for change and modernization, which was achieved in 1833.
An imperial edict from the Chinese Emperor closed all Chinese ports to foreign vessels until the end of the First Opium War in 1842.

Royal Assent was given to the Bill who rescinded the charter given to the East India Company; this came into force on 22nd, April 1834. The brokers began to look for new premises and found a dancing studio in Exchange Alley, City of London. In November 1834 the tea auctions were moved again to the newly built London Commercial Salesrooms, Mincing Lane and remained there until 30th January 1937 when they moved down the lane to Plantation House.

Clipper ships, built in America, sped-up the transportation of tea to America and Europe, livening the pace of trade. Some ships could make the trip from Hong Kong to London in ninety-five days. Races to London became commonplace; smugglers and blockade runners also benefited from the advances in sailing speeds.
Twinings of England began to blend tea for consistency.

Tea companies began to blossom in Britain by the late nineteenth century blending, branding and packaging were giving the public a wide variety of choice.

Trans-Siberian railroad made transport to Russia cheaper and faster. Java became an important producer as well.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the London Tea Auction had grown in importance. Most working days of the week were allotted to a particular country's sale with minor suppliers being herded together on convenient days.

Richard Blechynden created iced tea for the St. Louis World Fair.
Thomas Sullivan invented tea bags in New York, sending tea to clients in silk bags, which they began to mistakenly steep without opening.
Sumatra, Indonesia grows and exports tea. Soon thereafter, tea is grown in Kenya and other parts of Africa.
A National Tea Control was brought in, tea was split into three grades and sold at a fixed retail price of two shillings and eight pence, the equivalent of three and a half modern pence.
The London Tea Auction resumed on 5th May 1919.
1920 - 1930
The tea trade suffered a slump like most other industry in Britain. However the tea trade found export markets to fill the gap.
As Britain recovered, so did the UK tea trade, but again the economy collapsed with World War II. In 1940 tea was rationed, this remained until October 1952.
The London Tea Auction resumed and took place in Plantation House until it moved to Sir John Lyon House on 8th, February 1971. Since then the tea trade has seen the introduction of the off shore auction, tea sold by the container whilst on route for the UK and the growth of the producer countries' own auctions due to increased volumes.
The Taiwanese government encouraged its population to drink tea, revitalizing tea culture on the island.
In the last twenty years the frequency of and volumes sold at the London Tea Auction have declined. In 1990 the auction moved to The London Chamber of Commerce where it closed in 1998.

*Information provided by www.lamyx.com

India is the country with the most tea consumption in the world - an average of 651,000 metric tons per year. China is second, and consumes about 463,000 metric tons per year. USA is number one consumer of iced tea, with between 80% and 85% of our total tea consumed that way.

Water is the most consumed beverage in the world, but tea is number two.

With the explosion of the Internet, almost any type of tea is easily available to anyone with a computer throughout the world.

Take a look at the tea producing regions of the world with our tea map.

Chinese & Japanese Tea History