What Do The Chinese Think of British Teas?

What Is Tea Made From?

Tea is a beverage made from the Camellia Sinensis plant.

The cultivation of this camellia species in China is believed to have started quite early, during the Shang Dynasty in the 11th century BC. The use of Tea predates recorded history, and it’s interesting to know that it was being used for medicinal purposes even at that time. China also exported the Tea they cultivated to other countries around the region.

It is believed that the first-ever recorded large-scale production took place in Sichuan province during the Eastern Han Dynasty, where it was originally called “Gong Cha” (literally meaning: Gong [work] and Tea).

It has been recorded in a document written around 409 AD, where Buddhist monks were described as drinking this beverage. In the 4th century AD “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” (Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica) also mentioned this beverage as a kind of “medicine”.

What Is The History of Tea In China?

In the beginning, only very few people were allowed to drink this beverage. The first emperor of the Tang Dynasty had to gift a pound of tea leaves to anyone who came looking for it during his reign.

From then on, it started being produced on a large scale for mass consumption. However, no single place could be called “the origin” of drinking Tea. It can be said that it was a common practice in all regions where the plant could be grown.

Tea spread to Japan during the Tang Dynasty and soon became popular there as well. The Japanese emperor started pressing for large-scale production of the same in Japan, and due to the lack of such plants there, the Japanese started cultivating this plant in their own country. They even went on to create a variety of Tea which has come to be known as “Konacha”, and is still popular in Japan today.

The 8th century marked the start of large-scale production in China under Tang Dynasty emperor Xuanzong (Li Longji, reign 712-741). He was said to have had tea plantations in his court.

According to another story, the first Chinese tea bride (Cha Jinshi) reached the Tang Dynasty’s capital of Xi’an via Sichuan province with her family’s gift of tea leaves.

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It was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) that Tea started being exported to other countries on a large scale. It was also this time when it began being cultivated in different regions of China under different climatic conditions, like Fujian province, Zhejiang province, etc.

What Is The History of Tea In Europe?

The 13th century saw Marco Polo visiting China and coming back to Europe with a lot of information about Tea and its cultivation. This spread awareness amongst Europeans about this “exotic” drink, and they started trying to adapt it in their own country.

However, it is interesting to note that even during those times (and for quite sometime after), Tea was not as popular as coffee amongst the Europeans.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to try and adapt Tea in their own country. They tried out different types and eventually came up with a more suitable version for local tastes. This became known as ‘chá’ in Portugal, and it soon spread around to other regions of Europe, like France and the Netherlands.

The Dutch were the ones who initially started producing it on a large scale and trading it to other countries. They established trade links with China and Japan and introduced Tea to Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Soon, this beverage started being widely used in all parts of Europe – so much so that even today we can see lasting effects of its widespread use around the world.

What Is The History of Tea In The United States?

The US became involved in the tea trade around the time of the American Revolution when they fought for their independence. Initially, only very high-quality Tea was imported to America by wealthy individuals who traded this beverage with China.

At one point during the 19th century, though, this beverage had become so popular that it resulted in an “epidemic” – a large number of people started drinking it heavily, which in turn led to a lot of deaths due to overconsumption.

The Great Boston Tea Party – the incident where colonists smashed crates of Tea into the sea – was considered as one of the incidents which finally triggered the American War for Independence. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both staunch opponents of the British East India Company.

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This is just a basic history, lacking in much detail! There are so many facts to consider when we talk about the history of Tea, like how it was once considered an expensive beverage only available for high-class individuals (much like coffee), how it was banned in Tibet in the 20th century, and how it was used for medicinal purposes.

What Is The History of Tea In Great Britain?

Tea was introduced to Britain by the Dutch in the 1660s and by the British in the 1700s. British Tea is often classified in potpourri, black teas, green teas, oolong teas, and flavored teas.

The first-ever English tea clipper was called ‘The Red Rover’, launched in 1833. The tea trade was so lucrative during those times that many of these clippers were built between 1830 and 1860 only to carry Tea across the oceans, leaving very little time for them to carry out any other form of trade.

The British common way to take Tea is with milk and sugar. The milk or cream you add to your Tea comes from cows or sheep.

Common British Teas:

Pekoe: this is the type of tea that has been allowed to roll of leaf for some time before being withered or dried. There are two types that you can find in supermarkets, black pekoe, and blond.

Black pekoe will be darker than its counterpart.

This type of Tea is often found with or without caffeine.

Orange Pekoe: this is the same as above, but it has an orange tint to it because of how it was prepared, unlike the golden pekoe, which is a little darker.

English breakfast: this Tea consists of full-bodied black teas from India and China, rich in flavor, and tastes like malt. It is also consumed with milk or cream and sugar or honey. This one may contain caffeine, depending on the brand.

Darjeeling: This is a type of Tea that was first processed in the 1800s. It is described as having a flowery taste and scent, with hints of citrus.

Earl Grey: This is black tea flavored with bergamot oil, giving it its unique flavor.

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Green Tea: this type has the least amount of caffeine. It is a type of Tea that was first consumed by Buddhist monks because it helped them stay awake during their meditation hours.

Oolong Tea: this one has a light brown color and a strong flavor, which makes it a great choice for those who want to experience the taste of Chinese teas without being too overwhelmed by their smell.

What Do Chinese People Think About British Teas?

British Tea is a drink that comes with a lot of controversies. Tea originated in China, but the British Tea tradition has also come to exist. Chinese people are now starting to embrace the culture of drinking tea the British way with sugar and milk.

As we dive deeper into the opinions of individual Chinese people, there seems to be a recurring theme. British-style teas are a novelty, but not “proper” Tea. Somewhat comparable to Bubble Tea and Hong Kong-style Milk Tea.

This is especially true in older generations. Younger generations seem to treat Tea in the same way we treat instant coffee. Convenient, quick, easy, but not “proper coffee”.

Although these trends can be classified as a sweeping generalization, there is an undeniable trend towards this way of thinking. However, some individuals may love British teas, and they do.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Tea has a long and interesting history. Both in China, the United Kingdom, and the rest of the world. From the Boston Tea Party to the  Golden Temple. From the British Empire to today’s modern world of industrialized tea plantations and micro-processing facilities.

This fascinating beverage has changed throughout time, but one thing which will never change is its fundamental character: calming, beautiful and refreshing at its finest.

Tea may not be as popularized as coffee, but it is no less important in the history of the world and the change it has brought about.

Chinese people may have their opinion grounded in a long-standing tradition, and upholding the purity of what they think is best in terms of Tea may give them a biased when considering British teas. However, this does not mean they are false.

What’s your favorite Tea? Do you prefer British or Chinese teas?

Let us know in the comments below!