Posted in Kafevend Blog
1- According to Chinese legend which of the following was the first person to ever taste tea?
a- an emperor: Legend has it that some four and a half thousand years ago the Chinese Emperor Shennong sat under a tree sipping a bowl of boiled water. The tree he sat beneath was a tea tree (camellia sinensis) and by chance some of its leaves fell into the bowl where they created the very first infusion of tea. The Emperor loved the taste and so tea drinking was born. Regardless of the level of truth in the legend, it's certainly the case that the area of land now occupied by north east India, north Burma, south west China and Tibet is where the camellia sinensis plant originated.
2- Which European explorers were the first to experience a cup of tea?
d- Portuguese: The Portuguese were first off the starting blocks in what has become known as the Age of Discovery. Beginning with Africa's west coast in the early 1400s, Portuguese explorers kept pushing south and then east, reaching China in 1513 where they got to experience tea. Nevertheless, it was the Dutch who first recognised tea's potential as a trading commodity and began shipping it back to Holland.
3- What did early British tea drinkers sip their tea from?
b- porcelain tea bowls: It wasn't until the latter half of the eighteenth century that bone china was developed by manufacturers such as Spode. Until then British tea drinkers would have sipped their drink from Chinese porcelain tea bowls, imported along with the shipments of tea.
4- Who is credited with inventing the concept of afternoon tea?
c- The Duchess of Bedford: Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford is widely credited with having introduced afternoon tea during the 1840s. Dinner was served as late as nine o'clock in the evening in upper class households and the Duchess found it difficult to wait that long without becoming incredibly peckish. Rather than eating a snack alone, she was wont to invite friends along to this light mid afternoon meal consisting of tea, bread and butter and cake. The idea soon caught on amongst society's wealthy women and it became an occasion for dressing up and visiting friends at around four o'clock. It's become an increasingly rare treat in today's busy society, but restaurants, tearooms and hotels still honour the tradition and there are plenty of visitors to the UK who see it as a rite of passage to the British cultural experience.
5- When did tea become an affordable drink in Britain?
c- during the Georgian era: Ironically, it was during the Georgian era of the 1700s that tea was both at its most expensive and that it became accessible to the wider public. Tea had gained popularity since its introduction the previous century, but both high government taxation and the monopoly that the British East India Company held over its trade made it a highly expensive commodity. Smugglers saw their opportunity and ordinary folk were able to acquire tea through the black market. When the East India Company eventually realised that their dwindling profits were due to the roaring trade in smuggled tea they lobbied parliament to reduce the tax. Once tea tax had been brought down from an eye watering 119% to a far more reasonable 12.5% by William Pitt the Younger, tea became affordable through legitimate channels!
6- As a result of World War 2, how long was tea rationed for in the UK?
a- 12 years: Tea rationing had begun in July 1940 when a restriction of a weekly 2oz per person was imposed. Rationing of many goods continued until long after the end of the war and tea was no exception. Nevertheless, each individual's tea allowance had been increased to 3oz by this stage, which was in line with average pre-war tea consumption, thereby avoiding a sudden increase in demand for the nation's favourite hot drink.
7- Which was the first UK tea company to offer teabags to the public?
c- Tetley: Tetley was the first of Britain's big names in tea to try and entice the public with the convenience of the teabag. That was in 1953, with PG Tips joining the push with their version in the '60s. Despite our preference for them now, it took until the '80s before even half the nation's tea was being brewed via a bag.
8- And finally, which company brought us the first fully automatic electric kettle?
b- Russell Hobbs: The prototype of the electric kettle harks all the way back to the closing years of the 1800s. Then, in 1922 Swan produced a kettle with a built in heating element. Nevertheless, it took until 1955, not so long after the British debut of the teabag, for Russell Hobbs to launch the first fully automatic electric kettle. Brewing a cup of tea had just got even easier!