Interesting facts about tea

Tea might be known as England's national drink, but it has a long and eventful history across the world. Did you know these top ten tea facts?


1. Tea reached Europe in the 16th Century but people were using ceramic teapots in Asia and the Middle East 11,000 years ago.

2. According to legend, in 2732 BC Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. 

3. Tea in England was originally an expensive product that only the elite could afford. Merchants and customers used little tea pots to test that the tea they had ordered was up to the quality they were expecting.

4. The tea clipper Cutty Sark’s hold could carry 10,000 tea chests at a time – that’s enough to make 200 million cups of tea in one cargo!

Cutty Sark

5. The art of reading tea leaves is called tasseography.

6. Queen Anne drank tea so regularly that she substituted a large bell-shaped silver teapot for the tiny Chinese tea pots. The earliest tea service dates from her reign.

7. During the 18th century tea gardens became popular. Ladies and gentlemen would take their tea together outdoors surrounded by entertainers. These tea gardens made tea all the more fashionable to drink, and they were important places for men and women to meet freely without scandal or criticism.

8. In 1840, afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon, and so the trend started.

9. Tea cups didn’t always have handles. At first, the English made cups without handles, influenced by the traditional Chinese tea bowls.

10. Drinking tea is less likely to produce a ‘caffeine crash’ than drinking coffee. This is because the high levels of antioxidants in tea slow the absorption of caffeine, which results in a gentler increase of caffeine in your system and a longer period of alertness with no crash at the end.

Queen Anne, 1665-1714
Queen Anne loved tea. See her portrait in the Queen's House, Greenwich

Afternoon tea on Cutty Sark

Enjoy the delicious tradition of afternoon tea under the gleaming hull of the only surviving tea clipper!

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