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In Britain tea began as a luxury for only the wealthy to enjoy. One of Queen Victoria’s Ladies of the bedchamber Anna Maria Russell nee Stanhope the seventh Duchess of Bedford is credited with the invention of afternoon tea when she was too hungry to wait for dinner and requested biscuits, cakes and Darjeeling tea. This led to Queen Victoria hosting the first, and at the time, the largest afternoon tea party.
The discovery of tea is credited to the mythical chinese ruler Shennong, when the wind blew tea leaves into his hot drinking water around 2737 BCE. The legend of the “discovery” of tea is not the only thing Shennong is credited for, he was also a major influence of the invention of agriculture and chinese medicine. Today you can visit the giant stone statue of Shennong in Shennongjia, Hubei Province, China.
An infamous smuggling gang, the Hawkhursts, saw their demise after raiding a fully stocked customs house in Poole. They were successful in stealing all the tea, leaving the liquor behind, this would be the gang’s last time terrorizing Britain as they eventually paid for it with their lives.
Monk Myoan Eisai was a japanese buddhist priest who brought matcha green tea powder from China to Japan. The zen buddhists used the matcha to keep awake during long sessions of meditation; this eventually led to the creation of the japanese tea ceremony. Poets and artists began attending these tea ceremonies and became embodied by zen, waking their senses and becoming aware of the natural world. They then began to incorporate this interest of nature into traditional japanese art with motifs of mount fuji and cherry blossoms.
The Cederberg Region of South Africa is the only place in the world where rooibos is grown. All information regarding rooibos was founded by the Khoisan people. In 2019 they were given acknowledgment and 1.5% of the value farmers get when they sell to tea processors.
Chai tea was originally created as a way to make watered down tea taste more appealing by adding milk sugar and a blend of spices. At the time Britain had colonized tea farms in India and had the upper hand on all tea being traded which made it very expensive. Now chai tea is the national drink of India and can be found on every street corner or crowded train station.
Britain began by paying for Chinese tea with silver but, eventually they felt it to be too expensive. It was then that opium was introduced to China, this led to a public health crisis. In 1839, a Chinese official ordered the destruction of massive British shipments of opium which triggered the first opium war between the two nations.
The London tea auction was established in March 1679 by the East India Company, and became a grand tradition that lasted for 300 years.