I am getting ready for my first tea party. If you count the tea party I threw for my daughter when she turned eight with three of her friends, then this is technically my second tea party. But I don’t count that one, so I’m calling this my first and I’m anticipating it with great expectations. One of the fun things we will be doing as we ladies gather for tea is to share some trivia and background about this warm beverage that many people enjoy. As is often the case, I like to share with you my readers what is happening in my life, so let’s explore the wonderful world of tea!
Tea has a long and storied past. It is a most ancient drink, the origin of which can be traced all the way back to the tenth century before Christ. Tea was a common beverage in China at this time, although its main purpose during these early years was of a medicinal nature. It wasn’t until the third century A.D. that we find the first credible reference to tea being consumed as a non-medical drink. Many curious myths of the origin of the plant of tea itself are popular in the Chinese culture.
One story says that a devout Buddhist priest fell asleep although he had attempted to meditate for more than a week. Upon waking up, he was so disgusted with his own weakness that he cut off his eyelids so that he could never fall asleep again. When he threw his severed eyelids on the ground, they incredibly grew into tea plants, hence illustrating the stimulant property of the drink. Another popular legend relating to tea involves the claim that in some remote regions, the native people use monkeys to harvest the tea for them. Reportedly, monkeys are taunted and teased until they become infuriated and climbing high in a tea tree they begin tearing off tea leaves and tossing them in aggravation at the harvesters standing below. This has never been substantiated by any eye witness accounts but it illustrates the popularity of tea.
At one point in ancient China, bricks of tea were actually used in place of coinage when the currency had become devalued while tea remained extremely valuable. A common phrase that some of us have used I am certain declares that we will never do such and such, “for all the tea in china!” This curious cliché emphasizes how plentiful tea is in China and how determined you may be to resist the suggested activity – thus nothing will ever change your mind.
Tea was introduced to the west in the early seventeenth century. A ship from the Dutch East India Company brought tea leaves in its cargo from the orient to Amsterdam and within two hundred years, the hot, energizing liquid had taken Great Britain by storm. By promoting its cultivation in its Indian colonies, Great Britain soon became a formidable force in the tea trade and much of its taxation revenue came from the sale of tea.
Today, tea drinking is more popular than ever and has recently been experiencing a comeback. Last year in the United States, Americans consumed over three point six billion gallons of tea. Americans however prefer their tea iced with only fifteen percent of that volume being hot tea. Every year Las Vegas is home to the World Tea Expo where movers and shakers in the tea industry gather for three days of marketing and industry advances. You can also become a certified tea expert by enrolling in the World Tea Academy and taking classes to sharpen your knowledge of all things tea related.
I don’t know if any of this information matters to you, but I am getting excited up for my first ever official tea party so it’s kind of nice to have a greater appreciation for the history of this ubiquitous drink. I don’t know about you, but nothing says cozy to me like a steaming cup of earl grey with a dash of cream and three cubes of sugar. Ahhh, yes, I do believe that I’d love a spot o’ tea!