Ferried to new and exotic lands during the 17th century with crates of silk, spice and salt, black tea soon found its home in Europe.
As trade routes connected the east and west, merchants acquainted the public with this strange and exotic commodity. Guarded under lock and key within tea chests, such precious tea leaves were once worth six times the price of coffee.
To this day, a perfectly brewed classic black expels worldly ritual and wonder. In this latest piece, we explore the humble tea leaf’s illustrious origins.
After millennia in Asia, tea became anchored in Europe through the Dutch East India Company. Unsurprisingly, the tea grade ‘Orange Pekoe’ derives its name from the Dutch Royal Family’s House of Orange-Nassau.
Yet, nowhere else is tea as synonymous with culture as in Britain.
England’s flagship teashop was established by Thomas Garway, a 17th century merchant credited as the nation’s original commercial tea importer. Garway published England’s first tea advertisement, outlining the wholesome health benefits of the beverage. Multiple historians have attributed his enthusiastic, medicinal claims to the rise of tea popularity in the United Kingdom.
In 1662, European tea success was further legitimised by Catherine of Braganza, Portugal. Her wedding dowry to King Charles II included valuable chests of tea – a luxury item only afforded by the elite and aristocratic classes of the era.
After discovery of a tea plant variety native to the region of Assam in the 1700s, the British East India Company began to import tea from abroad. Assam leaves imbued tea with a robust, malty flavour that quickly became popular across the nation. Importation costs soon decreased, opening the wonderful possibilities of tea to a broad span of curious middle and working classes.
Ritual in Practice
Afternoon tea practice is said to have originated by the Duchess of Bedford, in the 1800s.
Supper was taken very late in the Victorian period, and as such, the Duchess devised a system to stave off her hunger – serving cake, sandwiches and tea to a select group of guests around four in the afternoon. The custom soon gained momentum as the Duchess’s guests replicated her tradition, eventually spreading it internationally.
Tea houses were polished and popularised by J. Lyons and Co. at the beginning of the early 20th century. Establishing a string of tea houses around London titled ‘Lyons’ Corner Houses’ patrons were offered small meals with their pots of tea. At the height of its success, Lyons’ teashops could be found on nearly every high street in London.
With an average consumption rate of 165 million cups of tea per day, Britain has warmly welcomed tea into its heart. Revered methods of tea brewing vary, but ‘one spoon of tea for each person, and one for the pot’ typically holds true. Though ongoing contention remains as to whether milk should be added before or after tea, pouring milk beforehand prevents fine bone china from cracking from a practical standpoint.
As to how tea should be enjoyed? That remains purely up to the drinker.
The Tea Centre’s Classic Blends
Though the original concept of adding bergamot oil to black tea has been claimed by many, this classic blend is reputed to be coined by Charles Grey – the second Earl Grey. Serving as the British Prime Minister during the 1830s, rumour suggests the tea was gifted to the Earl in a show of Chinese diplomacy.
Boasting a clean, refreshing flavour, The Tea Centre’s classic Earl Grey is best enjoyed with a dash of milk at afternoon tea.
Eastern Friesland is a coastal region situated in the northwest of Lower Saxony. In known fact, the district actually consumes more cups of tea per capita than Britain.
Strong, malty and slightly spicy, this tea is sharper in taste than most other Assam blends.
Originally brewed with Chinese leaves, the majority of English Breakfast blends contain a large, Ceylon component. Flavours vary between companies, but are predominately medium to strong.
Our organic English Breakfast releases a unique, aromatic fragrance when brewed, awakening taste buds for the day ahead.
Irish Breakfast is typically more robust than other classics, due to its Assam composition. Strong in flavour, Irish Breakfast is generally consumed with milk – especially in Ireland, where dairy forms a major cultural diet component.
Dark and malty, we recommend it with something sweet stirred in.
To create Lapsang Souchong, slightly larger, stronger tea leaves are used. These leaves are harvested, rolled, and placed in wooden barrels to oxidise. Finally, the tea is roasted and hung in a bamboo basket to smoulder.
The resulting flavour is smoky and evocative, well suited to spicy food and mature spirits.
Devised for Edward Prince of Wales, the eventual King extended his personal permission to sell the blend under his royal title. Initially composed of a complex blend of Chinese teas, Prince of Wales has since evolved into a number of varieties.
Rich in aroma and colour, but mild in taste, our Prince of Wales will leave a lasting impression on the palate.
Deriving its moniker from the 17th trade route between Russian and China, Russian Caravan was transported in just that – Russian camel caravans. Smoke from the travellers’ campfires pervaded the tea at night, infusing it with a rustic taste.
An exceptional classic, our Russian Caravan is full-bodied and sweet – transporting the drinker to a mystic plain with every sip.
With a world of flavour at your fingertips, there’s a perfect black tea blend for everyone.
Find your ideal classic at The Tea Centre today.