A collection of tea trivia
to be shared over your next
'cuppa'

~~*~~ In the 18th century, only those of high social standing were able to afford porcelain teacups. They often employed painters to capture their likeness with these highly coveted 'tea-treasures' on canvas

~~*~~ 18th century teacups were often transported to social events in padded cases which were designed specifically for them

~~*~~ Tea was not originally intended to be a social beverage, it was considered a medicinal treatment

~~*~~ Tea was originally served in a bowl which sat upon a saucer. The saucer doubled as a lid to help keep the beverage warm. When the tea was too hot, it was poured into the saucer to cool before drinking. This is how the term "dish of tea" originated

~~*~~ The original tea cup did not have a handle. The first cups with handles were designed approximately 100 years ago

~~*~~ It was common practice for Scots to read the leaves from their morning cup of tea, to predict the tone of the day to come

~~*~~ There are varieties of green tea which are produced in such limited quantities that they are never exported from China

~~*~~ Tea was first brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 8th century. They found it's stimulant properties to be a useful tool for coping with the demands of practicing extensive meditation

~~*~~ In Egypt, tea made for guests is customarily prepared by men

~~*~~ An Englishman, serving hot tea at a fair in 1893, found his business was being adversely affected by a prevalent heat wave. He remedied this by pouring the steamy beverage over ice. Not only did he salvage his investment, but this ingenious move resulted in the birth of iced tea

~~*~~ The exact birth date of tea is unknown. There is written Chinese history which dates it to approximately 3000 B.C. However, archaeological evidence shows that the Homo Erectus pekinensis, of Southeast Asia, had the ability to boil water and were eating tea leaves as long as 500,000 years ago. Were they drinking tea? I like to think so

~~*~~ Before the Boston Tea Party, tea was the preferred beverage of Americans. The occurrence of this event resulted in the American love affair with coffee

~~*~~ A tea enthusiast of the 1200's proclaimed tea to have 10 virtues. He dubbed them the "Ten Virtues of Tea", and had them inscribed on a teapot. It stuck. They are, as follows:

  1. Has the blessing of all the Deities
  2. Promotes filial piety
  3. Drives away the Devil
  4. Banishes drowsiness
  5. Keeps the Five Viscera in harmony
  6. Wards off disease
  7. Strengthens friendships
  8. Disciplines body and mind
  9. Destroys the passions
  10. Gives a peaceful death

~~*~~ Teatime is popular once again. The variety of flavors and settings are far from traditional, but the event is back and going strong

~~*~~ John Sullivan, an early 1900's tea merchant, began distributing his tea samples in hand sewn sacks. These sacks contained whole tea leaves and were meant to brew tea by the pot. This innovative idea led to the invention of the single-serve tea bag.

Single-serve bags were developed for use in restaurants. They were filled with the dust of tea leaves, which made them 'brewable' using the 190 degree temp (below boiling point)water typically served by restaurants. Keep in mind that brewing tea this way seriously compromises the true taste of the leaf.

Still, the convenience of this invention caught on, and tea growers began to produce larger quantities of inferior product which was suitable for cutting and filling single-serve bags.

Many true tea connoisseurs consider this to be one of the most damaging inventions in the history of tea.

~~*~~ Green tea is more popular than black tea

~~*~~ Originating in China, tea is very much an intricate part of this magnificent culture. The Chinese use this beverage medicinally and consume it for pleasure as well. It is a pertinent part of their social rituals

~~*~~ While the very peaceful Japanese tea ceremony is designed as a tribute to the simplicity and harmony of life, and a testimony to the communion between host and guests, it's roots originated in wartime.

Japanese military leaders of the 16th century would deposit their weapons outside the doors of the tea room before entering. This was meant to be indicative of their intent to leave their differences behind and find a way to resolve their conflicts.

This custom helped contribute to the elaborate set of social guidelines which are now an intricate part of the Japanese tea ceremony. It is an event laden with civility and restraint of negative emotions.

Today this ceremony is an art which is primarily performed by experienced practitioners

~~*~~ The 'tea break' is still a common practice in most Japanese offices. Work ceases as the tea cart is rolled through the offices. Employees break to enjoy a cup of tea together. This ritual is generally practiced twice daily

~~*~~ The tea drinking style most common in the streets and villages of India does not measure up to the standards of tea connoisseurs. Here, it is boiled with condensed milk and sugar, then spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

The concoction is thick and sweet, much like the primitive drink we know as grog. It is called chai, but is very different from what we know as chai in America

~~*~~ The middle and upper class populations of India often consume their tea British-style; that is, served with milk and sugar.

~~*~~ There is a legend which says the Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, cut off his eyelids after falling asleep while meditating. He tossed them aside, and a tea bush began to grow where they landed. For this reason it is thought that tea is the beverage which forever banishes fatigue.

~~*~~ Green tea was introduced to Morocco by British tea merchants in the mid-nineteenth century. Until that time Moroccans traditionally drank infused mint leaves.

Today, the original mint leaf infusion and green tea are blended and served in small glasses. The beverage is poured from high above the table, in a thin stream, and is generally accompanied by sweets