The History of Tea
How it all started
There are too many legends surrounding the discovery of tea to count. One tells how Chinese emperor Shen Nung (2737 BCE), who was fanatical about cleanliness and who boiled his drinking water for this reason, accidentally discovered the beverage tea. A gust of wind carried a number of tea leaves into the pot in which he was boiling water, these gave the water a golden colour and a pleasant aroma. The emperor tasted the drink and felt refreshed. As a result, tea became the most important beverage in the Middle Kingdom.
The botanical name of the evergreen tea plant, which is a member of the Camellia family, was not always uniform and has been changed several times. The Swedish naturalist Linné first named the plant Thea sinensis (in 1753), but then abandoned the name for two sub-species Thea bohea and Thea viridis. According to international agreement and the entry in the Index Kewensis, the correct botanical name is now Camellia sinensis, and its two subspecies are var. sinensis (China tea) and var. assamica (Assam tea). Today, most tea plants are hybrids of the sinensis and assamica varieties. If left alone, tea (Camellia sinensis var. assamica and var. sinensis) will grow to a height of roughly 15 metres. Even today, such trees can be found in tea’s indigenous home, which runs from the south east of what is now China to the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra in what is now India. However, tea has been cultivated for thousands of years and is kept as a low bush. It grows slowly, and blooms extensively in its second year after planting. The plants are no longer propagated with seeds, but by using shoots. Tea can be harvested from the bush the first time three to five years after the shoot is planted. The tea plant has a strong tap root that anchors it firmly in the ground, and its lateral roots absorb water and nutrients. Because the plant cannot tolerate standing water, its lateral roots are above the groundwater level. It is susceptible to low temperatures and needs plenty of rain and high humidity. The green leaves are picked by hand, whereby the two youngest leaves and the bud yield especially high-quality teas. Whether these leaves will be turned into black or green tea is determined solely by how they are processed.
What can be more quintessentially English than a relaxing afternoon tea? Popularised in the 1840's by the Duchess of Bedford, this light meal offers something for everyone. Traditionally, tea is brewed in a teapot and served with milk and sugar. For labourers, the tea was accompanied by a small sandwich or baked snack (such as scones) that had been packed for them in the morning. For the more privileged, afternoon tea was accompanied by luxury sandwiches, scones (with cream and jam) and usually cakes and pastries. Make your selection, sit back and relax while chatting with friends, or take a quite moment and enjoy your Afternoon Tea at Florridora's.