Monday, 30 November -0001

The History of Tea & some hints for the perfect cuppa

Tea is an integral part of British people’s lives, but more than that, tea has travelled to every continent and has widespread appeal. But where did it all start?

Written by Malcolm Ferris Lay
tea-manMalcolm Ferris LayAccording to one legend, tea began its rich history with the Emperor Sheng Nung (a divine farmer) who, it is claimed, was also responsible for the development of agriculture and medicine in China. He was sitting in the fields, watching the world go by, around 2737 BC. To quench his thirst, he boiled up some water and sat beneath the shade of a tree. A light breeze caused leaves to fall into his boiling water, which provided a delicate colour and smell. It was also quite delicious. This tree was part of the Camellia family, or what we now call Camellia Sinensis, the tea bush.

Not to be outdone, the Indians too have a legend. Prince Dharma went to China to preach the teachings of Buddha. To make himself worthy of such teachings he vowed not to sleep for 9 years of his journey! When he became drowsy during his travels he chewed on some wild leaves and realized that they stimulated him and he felt alert. He continued to chew on these leaves for the next 6 years finishing his apostolic mission.

Finally we have the Japanese version, which is similar in some way to the Indian. Bodhi Dharma, after travelling for three years, became exhausted and fell asleep whilst praying. On waking he was so furious with himself that he cut of his eyelids and threw them to the ground. Many years passed when he found himself walking past the same area. On stopping he noticed that a bush had grown where his "eyelids" once were. On chewing the leaves he found they had the properties of keeping him awake.

He told his people of this great discovery and tea was then cultivated in all those places he had travelled.

Whatever you wish to believe the history of tea has many more intriguing stories to tell.

Here's Malcolm's expert guide to making the perfect cup of tea:

• Make sure you make a cup of tea you / your guest likes. If you like Green Tea, make that, if you like black tea with milk and a sugar, make that. We all have our own taste for tea and there's no amount of advice that will change this.

• If you are making Green tea make sure the water is not boiling as it makes the tea bitter. Make it with water off the boil.
tea-logo-176• Whichever type of tea you make, don't buy the cheap stuff. You definitely get what you pay for and tea is about treating yourself to a break.

• The joy is in lovingly making the tea and serving it. Enjoy the process.

• If you want to go the extra mile with loose tea leaves but you haven't got a tea pot, use a cafetiere.

• Always use fresh water for every brew.

• Always use your favourite mug or china cup. Tea really does taste best from your favourite.


Dreams Come True's Dream Dream Tea ambassador, Malcolm Ferris Lay, is a prolific tea consultant who advises the likes of the Director General of the Indian Tea Board and Afternoon Tea venues such as The Ritz, the Corinthia and the Dorchester on how to make and deliver the best tea experience.


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