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THE TEA STORY

THE TEA STORY

HISTORY

What Set Sir Thomas apart was that, in an age when tea was a rare and expensive luxury, he believed that anyone should be able to enjoy tea at its best.

It’s one of the world’s best-loved drinks, a staple of millions of kitchens around the globe, and billions of cups of it are enjoyed every day. But did you know that tea has been giving people a refreshing lift for thousands of years? Let us take you on a little journey through the history of the world’s favorite beverage.

MYSTICAL BEGINNINGS

The origin of tea is shrouded in myths and stories. From Chinese Emperors to Portuguese princesses, the history of tea is as rich as its taste. The earliest references to drinking tea originate from China where legend has it that a leaf fell into water being boiled for Emperor Shen Nung and he found the taste refreshing. Little did he know, he’d just invented the first cup of tea.   

THE JAPANESE FALL IN LOVE

Later on during the Tang Dynasty, Japanese Buddhist scholars visiting China brought tea seeds back to Japan. The Japanese fell in love with the drink and instantly welcomed it into their culture, eventually creating the now-famous Japanese tea ceremonies.

Cup of tea with teaspoon on wooden table

TEA ARRIVES IN EUROPE

Over in Europe, it was the Portuguese who first discovered the pleasures of tea – after missionaries and merchants who lived in Asia brought tea back home as a gift. Yet it was the Dutch who saw the commercial potential of this remarkable leaf. Even then, it would remain incredibly expensive and, for a good many years, only the highest members of society could afford such a delicacy.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Funnily enough, the British, famed for their tea consumption, didn’t take to drinking tea straight away. It wasn’t until Charles II married the Portuguese princess (and known tea lover) Catherine of Braganza, that tastes changed. Wanting to keep up with the new queen, the Brits soon took to drinking tea and never looked back. 

AFTERNOON TEA, ANYONE?

Afternoon tea was supposedly invented by Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess often fancied a snack in the afternoon and realized that a light meal of Darjeeling, cake or sandwiches was the perfect cup of tea (see what we did there?). Just like that, afternoon tea was born.

TEA SMUGGLING 

In Britain, high tea prices opened the doors for smuggling and illegal tea drinking. In fact, during the 18th century, more tea was smuggled into the country than was imported legally.  It wasn’t until the government reduced taxes and our very own Sir Thomas Lipton brought tea to the masses, that it became the popular drink it remains today.


History of teabags

IT’S IN THE BAG

It was actually a New York merchant, Thomas Sullivan, who invented the tea bag – by accident. Sullivan sent samples of tea to his customers in silk bags and they assumed that both the tea and bag should be put in the pot. It worked surprisingly well, and the tea bag was born.

A GREAT BIG THANK YOU

So next time you join us for a refreshing cup of Lipton® tea, be sure to raise a cup to the rich history of folk who made tea the great thing it is today. Thanks everyone!