Tea has always garnered attention for its immense qualities and attributes that are rarely found in such a great measure in any other beverage. Be it for reasons of health or taste, interesting facts about tea have kept us engaged. Sharing these fascinating insights about tea will come as a big surprise. To begin with, tea is an environmentally sound product from a renewable source. And it is naturally resistant to most insects. The oxidation of the tea leaf is also a natural process. Tea packers use recycled paper for packaging. An all-natural brew that leaves us craving for more!
Have you ever wondered how the word chai came into existence? In Mandarin, the word was Ch’a. The next time you hold a cup of tea or hear someone around you clamour for chai, you should feel happy that this simple word we utter so many times in a day has roots in a foreign language. The same goes for the word tea, derived from the Chinese. It was a word in Amoy dialect for the plant from which we get tea leaves.
While discussing the origin of tea, let us also focus on how tea came into being. Chinese legend informs us that Emperor Shen Nong first discovered tea in 2737 B.C. Leaves from a bush fell into the water his servants were boiling to purify. Initially, it was considered to be a tonic and used for medicinal purposes. It is fascinating to note its long journey from being a medicine to a beverage the world loves to consume every day.
Do we Indians drink lots and lots of tea? Although it is a much-preferred beverage, Indians or Chinese are not its biggest consumers. China tops in tea production but UAE leads in per capita consumption, placing them ahead of Morocco and Ireland. Britain ranks seventh as a consumer and the US is nowhere in the Top 50 list of consumers of tea. Collectively speaking, we drink more than three billion cups every year throughout the world. Certainly, this fact makes tea the second-most popular beverage in the world.
There are lots of varieties of tea but they are all sourced from a single plant called camellia sinensis. The colour depends on the way the leaves are treated. An experienced tea picker gathers around 70 pounds of tea in a single day, enough to make 14,000 cups. Today, China supplies 29 percent of the world’s total, with India holding the second position. You will be surprised to know that Vietnam, Turkey, Iran, and Argentina also figure in the Top 10 list of tea producing and exporting countries today.
Arrival of Tea in India
History tells us that until the 19th century, tea production was concentrated in China and its major export partner was Great Britain. Guess what happened? How the situation changed? As trade with China became difficult, the British began to look for other areas to cultivate tea. This included Africa and regions of India like Assam and Darjeeling. They managed to smuggle plants out of China and the new regions were brought under tea cultivation. These areas remain some of the leading producers of tea even today.
Arrival of Tea in Europe
As we discussed its arrival in India, let us also explore its journey to the West. Tea is believed to have reached Europe because of a Portuguese Jesuit priest named Jasper de Cruz. He visited China in 1590 when Portugal was granted the privilege of trade and he was allowed to take some of the plants back home. Isn’t it remarkable that an individual brought tea to another part of the world?
Most expensive tea in the world
Where is the most expensive tea grown? In the mountains of Ya’An in the Sichuan province of China. Workers fertilize the tea bushes using the waste from local pandas whose bodies take in just a small amount of nutrients from the food they eat. The tea costs the equivalent of whopping $200 for a small cup.
Birth of Teabag
It is fashionable to dip a tea bag and sip your cuppa every day. But it was, thanks to Thomas Sullivan, an American who accidentally invented the teabag when he despatched samples in small silk pouches to customers in 1904. Not knowing how to empty the contents into the pot, they added everything including the silk container. Sullivan read this as an opportunity and therefore began to make ready-to-use tea bags. Nowadays, it is undoubtedly the most popular way to make tea, with more than 95 percent of tea consumed in this manner in the UK. Some beginnings sound strange and are quite serendipitous.
Tea never ceases to amaze us and from time to time new, interesting facts about the classic beverage keep emerging to hold us in awe. And we react with a pleasant surprise that concludes with heady praise.