irst introduced to India, by the silk caravans travelling from
the Orient to Europe, tea has become an intrinsic part of daily life. As it
turned out, Camellia sinensis also grew wild in India, and natives had long
cultivated and consumed it as a nourishing part of their daily diet, both in
pickled form as a vegetable, and as a sort of soup. Eventually they combined the
leaves with buffalo or yak's milk, and added ginger and spices such as cardamom.
In the seventeenth century, the native's use of the plant was
reported by a European traveler who wrote of his refreshments while in India:
"we took only tea which is commonly used all over the Indies, not only
among those of the country, but also among the Dutch and the English who take it
as a drug".
Discovery of the Indian tea bush was regarded by the British as
exciting news. Envious of China's monopoly on tea, and resentful of the money
they had to spend on their habit, the British had long wished to be able to grow
their own tea. The British saw the Indian jat as inferior to the Chinese bush,
but thought that the evidence of local plants indicated good soil for
transplanting Chinese seedlings. They immediately procured some seedlings of the
Chinese variety and undertook to grow them in the Assam valley and the
mountainous Darjeeling region. Fourteen years later, and after many unsuccessful
attempts were made, the British resigned themselves to growing the native jat.
Today, the upper classes drink tea with milk and sugar, in the
British colonial manner, while the most common type of tea consumed is a blend
of black tea, buffalo milk, sugar, and spices such as Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger
and Cloves. The addition of milk and spices was initially intended to enhance
the flavor of poor tea. During colonial times, almost all of the good grade tea
was intended for export, or at least reserved for British subjects, and the
Indians got only what was left-over. India's busy city streets are lined with
tea stalls, where people sit on low benches, drinking chai from small glass
cups, and chatting with their neighbors. At train stations, vendors or chai
wallahas, hawk small clay cups of spiced, milky to weary travelers. When empty,
the clay cups are dashed on the ground, both returning the offering to the
earth, and ensuring that no one from different castes will drink from the same
||CHINA - The Emperor Shen Nung discovers
tea one day while drinking hot water in his garden.
||Tea is served to King Wen (founder of the Zhou dynasty) as
evidenced by early documentation of court life.
||CHINA - Tea plants from the Yunnan
Province are planted along the Yangtze river in the Scechwan Province. The
cultivation of tea begins.
||CHINA - The Erh Ya a dictionary of ancient Chinese
origin annotated by scholar Kuo P'o, defines tea as beverage made of
boiling leaves from a plant "as small as a gardenia, sending forth
its leaves even in winter. What is plucked early is called t'u and what is
plucked later is called ming (bitter tea)."
||A dictionary is published which documents
the addition of onions, cinnamon, and orange to tea.
||Tea joins noodles, vinegar, and cabbage as an item of trade
||Chinese character c'ha, meaning tea,
comes into use
||The Japanese Emperor Shomu receives a gift of China tea
from a visiting T'ang court emissary.
||JAPAN - The Emperor Shomu serves Chinese
tea to visiting monks. The monks are inspired by the tea and decide to
grow it in Japan. The monk Gyoki dedicates his entire life to the
cultivation of tea in Japan, during which time he built 49 temples, each
with a tea garden.
||CHINA - The first tax on tea in China, due to its
popularity. The first book on tea, the Ch'a Ching (The Classic of Tea),
written by the poet Lu Yu is published.
||Tea drinking becomes very popular at court, inspiring the
custom of "Tribute tea", whereby tea growers "donate"
their very best tea to the Emperor and the Imperial court.
||Due to its popularity, tea is taxed for the first tax in
||Japanese monks plant tea bushes in
Kyoto's Imperial gardens.
||Japan is again influenced by Chinese culture, when Japanese
scholars return from a visit to China bearing tea.
||The Emperor Hui Tsung (1082-1135) writes
about the many aspects of tea in his treatise called Ta Kuan Ch'a Lun.
||JAPAN - The Buddhist abbot Yeisei re-introduces tea to
Japan after travels in China. He brings tea seeds and knowledge of
Buddhist rituals involving a bowl of shared tea. He also writes the first
Japanese book about tea.
||JAPAN - Buddhist monks travel across
Japan, spreading the art of tea and the Zen doctrine
||Tea drinking becomes prevalent among the masses in Japan
||The Japanese Shogun Ashikaga-Yoshimasa
builds the first tearoom at his palace in Kyoto. He employs the Buddhist
priest Shuko to develop a ceremony around the service of tea. The practice
and etiquette of "chanoyu" ("hot water tea") is born.
||JAPAN - Sen Rikyu, known as the "father of tea"
in Japan, codifies the tea ceremony.
||EUROPE - Elizabeth I founded the John
Foundation, with the intention of promoting trade with Asia. Chinese
ceramics, silks, and exotic spices are much in demand in Europe.
||The Dutch procure tea and Chinese clay teapots from
Portuguese traders in Macao, and establish a trading relationship with the
Japanese. Tea comes to Europe.
||RUSSIA - Tea is introduced to Russia,
when the Chinese embassy visits Moscow, bringing a chest of tea as a gift
for the Czar Alexis.
||EUROPE - The "tea heretics" (doctors and
university authorities) of Holland argue over the positive and negative
effects of tea, while the Dutch continue to enjoy their newfound beverage.
||NORTH AMERICA - A Dutch trader introduces
tea to the Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (a small settlement in North
America). Later, when the English acquired this colony, they found that
the inhabitants of New Amsterdam (or New York as they chose to re-name it)
consumed more tea than all of England.
||EUROPE - Tea is introduced to England by the Dutch East
||For the first time tea is made publicly
available at Thomas Garaway's Coffee House in London.
||England's first tax on tea, levied at 8 pence for every
gallon of tea sold at the coffeehouses.
||King Charles II married the Portuguese
Princess Catherine of Braganza, who, not only introduced tea at court, but
also brought to England (as part of her dowry), the territories of Bombay
and Tangiers. This added strategic impetus to the already-strong monopoly
of the John Foundation.
||Tea drinking becomes very fashionable among the aristocracy
of England, although the debate continues as to its medicinal value or
||The English begin to make and use silver
||EUROPE - In Holland, tea is widely available for purchase
in common food shops.
||EUROPE - Tea drinking becomes a popular
pastime in Europe, as a result of a craze for anything Oriental. The
Marquise Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, is recorded to have added milk to her
tea. An addition of milk to hot tea was made to prevent the delicate
porcelain cup (Oriental influence) from cracking.
||Tea is introduced to the Scottish aristocracy by the
Duchess of York (future wife of King James II)
||England begins to trade directly with
China. Tea and the Chinese word t'e (Amoy dialect) is brought to England
directly from the Amoy region.
||RUSSIA - The Trade Treaty of Newchinsk establishes a common
border between China and Russia, allowing trade caravans to cross freely.
The trade caravans consisting of over 200 camels take over 16 months to
cross the 11,000 miles between Moscow and Beijing. As a result, the cost
of tea in Russia is high, and is drunk only by those who can afford it.
||Realizing the potential popularity of tea and the money it
could generate, the British Crown levies a 5-shilling per pound tax on
dried tea. This will eventually lead to widespread smuggling.
||Due to popular demand, English potters of
Staffordshire begin a local industry, making earthenware teapots, cups and
||EUROPE - England imports an average of 40,000 pounds of
||Thomas Twinning opens his famous Toms
Coffee House in London
||EUROPE - England imports an annual average 240,000 pounds
of tea. People of all levels of society now drink tea in England.
||Tea is brought to Canada by the Hudson
||Thomas Twinning converts his coffeehouse to the first
teashop "The Golden Lyon", which becomes the first place for
women to meet and socialize in public.
||EUROPE - The popularity of tea wanes in
France, in favor of coffee, wine and chocolate.
||Now viewed as a valuable commodity, the first Chinese teas
are sold at auctions in Europe.
||Black tea exceeds green tea in popularity in Europe.
||Josiah Wedgewood's ceramic ware creates a
splash and sets a new standard for English teaware.
||England imposes high taxes on tea and other items sent to
the American colonists. The colonists, resenting the monopoly that England
has over them, begins to smuggle tea in from Holland.
||EUROPE - The John Company and the East
India Company merge, forming the New East India Company. This new company
had a complete monopoly on all trade and commerce in India and China.
Trade with China is expensive however, and England's solution to its
financial problem is opium. They begin to trade opium, (which they could
grow cheaply in India) with the Chinese for tea. The Chinese would become
addicted to the supply of opium, ensuring a constant supply of cheap tea
to the English.
||The famous Boston Tea Party occurs when American patriots
dressed as Mohawk Indians push 342 chests of tea overboard. This act would
eventually lead to the American Declaration of Independence of 1776.
||Tea smuggling is rampant in England as
people resort to illegal measures to avoid paying the high tax on tea.
||The grandson of Thomas Twinning persuades the Prime
Minister William Pitt to drop the high taxes on tea, not only eliminating
smuggling, but making tea an affordable luxury to Brits of all walks of
||The Comte de la Rochefoucauld writes:
"Throughout the whole of England the drinking of tea is general.
You have it twice a day and though the expense is considerable, the
humblest peasant has his tea just like the rich man."
||NORTH AMERICA - The American Revolution is over, and
America begins to trade directly with China. They would eventually break
England's tea monopoly with their faster sailing ships, and honest way of
doing business (they paid gold, not Opium for tea).
||Tea gardens become popular haunts for
||The Temperance Movement is founded as a result of rampant
alcoholism brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Members seek salvation
for the drunken men with "tea and god on their side". This
movement eventually inspired the word "teetotaling".
||The first Indian tea bushes are
"discovered" growing wild in the Assam region of India by
British Army Major Robert Bruce.
||The first packaged tea is made available for purchase in
England by the Horniman Tea Company.
||The first Chinese tea seeds are planted
in Java by an entrepreneurial Dutchman (J.I.L.L. Jacobsen), who smuggled
both the seeds and teamen out of China. The Chinese plant did not thrive
however, and was later supplanted by the hardier Assam variety.
||The "Tea Committee", appointed by the
Governor-General Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, reports that tea can be
successfully grown in India.
||Experiments with tea planting are conducted in the
Darjeeling region of India.
||The British seriously set about planting
and cultivating tea in the Assam region of India.
||The first chests of Assam tea arrive at the London Tea
auctions. The British are ecstatic as this means that they are now able to
successfully grow their own tea.
||EUROPE - Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford
invents "Afternoon Tea" to abolish the "sinking
feeling" she experienced during the long gap between breakfast and
||CHINA - The Opium Wars end with England winning "the
right" to trade opium for tea.
||Tea and ale vie for the place at the
breakfast table in England. Brewers lobby the government to increase taxes
on tea and spread rumors of its addictive quality, out of fear that tea
will become more popular than ale
||EUROPE - The world's nations competed with one another in
global clipper races to lay claim to the fastest ships. The fast sailing
ships would race all the way from China to England, and up the Thames
river to the Tea Exchange in London, where they would present the year's
first crop of tea to be auctioned. Steamships would replace these tall
ships by 1871.
||Full of "tea pride" the British
exhibit their own Assam-grown tea at the Great Exhibition.
||The British introduce tea to Morocco.
||The Great Tea Race begins in Foochow on
May 28th, and ends in Gravesend on September 7th. The Taeping wins over
the Ariel by 20 minutes.
||Scotsman James Taylor, manager of a coffee plantation in
Ceylon, experiments with growing tea, planting both the China and India
seed. The Assam seed flourishes and becomes the first commercial tea from
||Ceylon's coffee industry is devastated by
a coffee blight.
||Clipper ships are outdated by the development of faster
||The Assam tea seed is planted in Java. It
thrives over the earlier planted China variety.
||Tea is planted in Malawi, and becomes the
first to be cultivated in Africa
||Scottish grocer Thomas Lipton buys numerous tea plantations
in Ceylon, and goes on to revolutionize tea production in Ceylon.
||The first Lyons Tea Shop opens in London.
Lyons became famous for the saying "tea for two", meaning a pot
of tea for a two-pence.
||Tea is introduced to Iran.
||RUSSIA - The Trans-Siberian Railroad is
completed, ending camel caravan trade between Russia and China. In Russia,
tea has become the national beverage (besides Vodka).
||Tea is planted in the Botanical gardens
at Entebbe, Uganda.
||In England, teashops become the popular
place for the working class to take their afternoon tea. By this time
Lyon's has over 250 teashops, and taking tea, as meal away from home
becomes a pert of daily life.
||The proprietor of the Aerated Bread
Company begins to serve tea in the back of her shop to her favorite
customers. Her back room becomes such a popular place to take afternoon
tea, that the company decides to open an actual teashop, the first of a
chain of shops that would come to be known as the ABC teashop.
||Tea is planted in Kenya at Limuru.
||NORTH AMERICA - The first "iced
tea" was served at the St. Louis World's Fair. A certain tea merchant
had planned to give away samples of his tea to the fair-goers, and when
unable to think of anything else to do when a heat wave threatened his
plans, he dumped ice into his hot tea.
||The Book of Tea is written by Okakura Kakuzo, thus
introducing the west to the Japanese Tea Ceremony and its history.
||NORTH AMERICA - A New York tea merchant
named Thomas Sullivan packages his samples of tea in silk sachets, as a
way to cut down on his costs. His customers, mistaking his intentions,
like the convenience of simply dunking the sachet into hot water, and
begin to order their tea in this fashion. The teabag is born.
||British workers are given tea breaks throughout the day as
this is thought to improve their productivity.
||British soldiers are given tea as part of their rations.
||The Japanese Grand Tea Master (Urasenke
School), Sositsu Sen devotes his life to spreading the Way of Tea around
||The paper teabag is developed by the Tetley tea Company,
thus transforming tea-drinking habits around the world.