A history of tea


My regular readers will know that I am organising a Dream Tea charity afternoon tea event, but what I didn’t realise is how quickly it would come around – this week – eek!

As I busily prepare my baking plan for the week (my trip to the Waldorf at the weekend for afternoon tea and inspired me with its lavender custard tarts and made me realise I need to step up my baking ideas), I thought you might be interested to see some more of the insights that Dreams Come True, the charity that grants wishes to terminally ill children – who has organised this fundraising event, shared with me. This time round, it’s a history of tea.

The Chinese have been drinking tea for thousands of years. One popular story says that Emperor Shen Nung was boiling his water when leaves from a nearby bush were blown into the cauldron. He obviously enjoyed the result as tea went on to become the national drink of China.

Tea was originally seen as a medicinal drink. It was much later that it was drunk for pleasure amongst Chinese court circles. Tea was an expensive luxury and had literary, artistic and even religious associations.

By the third century the Chinese developed a new character just to describe tea. It’s pronounced Chá which is why you’ll occasionally hear people refer to a ‘cup of char’.

We’re a nation of tea drinkers now but it took us a while to catch on. When Portuguese Princess, Catherine of Braganza married Charles II in 1661, she brought her taste for tea with her. So the story goes, upon her arrival in Portsmouth she asked for a cup of tea but was offered ale instead – they’d never heard of tea! With the Royal seal of approval, tea soon became the fashionable drink for high society. But it would be another 200 years before tea would become the everyday drink that we enjoy today as the British Empire in India brought cheap tea back to Britain for all to enjoy.

We have Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, to thank for introducing the tradition of afternoon tea in the early 1800s. Not only did it fill the gap between lunch and dinner but it was also a chance for wealthier households to socialise and show off their best bone china and silverware. Today, afternoon tea is having a resurgence of popularity and is often taken as a treat or to mark special occasions.

One of the key ingredients of a good afternoon tea is the sandwich, which was invented by John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. He came up with the idea so that when he was playing cards, he wouldn’t get them greasy by eating meat with his bare hands. This caught on with his friends around the card table who would order ‘the same as Sandwich’, and so the sandwich was born.

Dream Tea events are taking place across the country on 21 June, I’m holding mine a few days early at the weekend, but there is still time for you to get involved. For more information visit http://dreamscometrue.uk.com/dreamtea

Image source: goodtoknow.co.uk

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