Fun facts about Tea
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. It’s also one of the oldest. People were using ceramic teapots 11,000 years ago in Asia and the Middle East, although legend says tea was discovered in 2732 BC. Either way, tea has a long, interesting history, and its popularity continues to grow. Here are ten interesting facts about tea.
- According to legend, Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea in 2732 BC. One day, wind blew leaves from a wild tree into his pot of boiling water. He sipped the intriguing brew and was instantly enchanted by its delicate flavor and refreshing effect. Shen Nung described a warm feeling as he drank the intriguing brew, as if the liquid was investigating every part of his body. He named the brew “ch’a”, the Chinese character meaning to check or investigate.
- The Portuguese and Dutch first imported tea into Europe in 1610. Tea’s rise in England started when King Charles II married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. Britain’s new queen loved tea and began serving tea to her aristocratic friends. Word of the exotic royal beverage spread quickly. The ability to serve and drink tea with elegance and skill marked social status and indicated good breeding and intellect.
- The Buddhist monk Dengyo Daishi is credited for bringing Chinese tea seeds to Japan. Tea became an integral part of Japanese monastery life and the monks used tea to help stay alert during meditation sessions. By the early 1300s, tea was popular throughout Japanese society, but its early religious importance permanently colored the meaning and value the Japanese associate with tea and directly influenced the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
- Americans tasted their first iced tea at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. An exhibiting tea merchant had planned to give away free samples of hot tea to attendees. When a heat wave hit, no one was interested in the hot beverage. To save his investment, he dumped a load of ice into the brewed tea and served the first iced tea. Customers lined up to try the invention. Today, Americans drinks almost 50 billion glasses of iced tea each year, accounting for more than 80% of all tea consumed in the US.
- Drinking tea is less likely to produce a ‘caffeine crash’ than drinking coffee. The high levels of antioxidants in tea slow the absorption of caffeine, which results in a gentler increase in caffeine in your system and a longer period of alertness with no crash at the end. A cup of tea also has less caffeine than a cup of coffee. According to a study published in 2004 comparing 200 cups of coffee and tea prepared by consumers using their usual brewing habits, the average caffeine level in the cups of tea (black English style teas) was 40 mg compared to 105 mg in the cups of drip coffee.
- Tea is good for you. Tea contains polyphenols — antioxidants that repair cells and may help our bodies fend off cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, and other maladies. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just green tea that’s good for you. Black, white, and red tea also have health-giving flavonoids and polyphenols.
- It takes around 2,000 tiny leaves to make just one pound of finished tea. There are more than 1,500 types of teas in the world. Tea plants grow wild in parts of Asia, but over 25 countries cultivate tea as a plantation crop. The very best tea comes from high elevations and is hand-picked.
- Timing is crucial to steeping the perfect cup of tea. Ideal steeping times and temperatures vary depending on what variety of tea you’re making. For black tea, steeping time is 3-5 minutes at 200°F. For white tea, steeping time is 1-2 minutes at 170°F. Green tea steeping temperatures depend on where the tea comes from.
- Until the middle of the 17th century, all Chinese tea was green tea. As foreign trade increased, Chinese growers discovered that they could preserve tea leaves with a special fermentation process. The resulting black tea kept its flavor and aroma longer than the more delicate green teas and was better equipped for export journeys to other countries.
Tea bags were developed in the United States by accident. In 1908, a New York tea merchant sent samples of his product sealed in silk bags to restaurants and cafes throughout the city. After some time, he discovered that the restaurants were brewing his tea directly in the silk bags to save time. This method of brewing immediately caught on.
The next time you are drinking one of the 3.7 billion cups of tea consumed every day, take a moment to reflect on tea’s long and interesting history. Tea is available wherever you travel, can be consumed hot or cold, and has a variety of flavors and health benefits.