Posted in Kafevend Blog

Whilst picking through the ideas box here at the Kafevend blog, we thought it would be interesting to see why certain countries favour a particular kind of tea- was it a choice, or did circumstance pick it for them?

Choice or circumstance...

On our list are China, Mongolia and Britain; without further ado, let's start from the top.

As a producer of tea, it won't come as much of a surprise to learn that China has had the ability to pick and choose its favourite teas over the years. Tea became the national drink of China by the middle of the first millenium C.E., and at this point the main type of tea used was the tea brick. Highly processed and broken up leaves were squeezed together into moulds to form the bricks. When you wanted to make a cup of tea, a chunk was broken off, ground up and steeped in water.

Green tea

By the early second millenium C.E., China became a fan of green tea, though it was still formed into tea bricks. After tea's disappearance under Mongol rule and subsequent reappearance in the Ming Dynasty, China changed its mind yet again and loose leaf tea came into vogue. Surely, this is a country that had plenty of choice when it came to tea!

Bordering China to the north lays Mongolia, high above in the mountain steppes. Although the invading armies of Mongolia had done away with tea in China for a time, these days they are quite fond of it themselves when made up as a cup of Suutei tsai.

Like early on in China, the tea brick is the predominant tea in Mongolia, and has been since its introduction. The reason for this comes down to economics rather than choice. Back centuries ago, tea had to be transported by cart, horse or donkey, or even on people's backs.

The tea brick made this easier.

By condensing the tea down into a smaller volume and into a handy shape, it made carrying it that much easier. The processed nature of tea bricks also meant it was more resistant to the knocks and bumps it sustained, as well as the vagaries of time.

Finally we come to Britain. The first tea that made its way here was loose green tea. It probably didn't leave many with a good impression however, as this lightly processed tea would not have taken kindly to the rough conditions on board a ship, or the damp, salt air.

Soon after its introduction, black tea became the more popular choice. It was better suited to making the voyages as its heavier processing arrests oxidation which leads to degradation over time. Another important factor was one of Britain's other big trading resources- sugar.

We very quickly hit upon the idea of adding sugar to tea, and along with milk were able to convince ourselves that we enjoyed the musty, salty tea that arrived on our shores!

Trade Products Tea
Tea of China and Japan

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