The Short Tea Leaf Story – England- India

Today as before, loose leaf tea in the most favorite drink in England and the second most consumed beverage (after water) in the world.  

Tea’s origin began in China sometimes 2700 BC.

Only in 17th Century tea reached Europe in and  becoming fashionable in the coffeehouses, joining coffee and hot chocolate.

        By 1669, England granted a group of merchant a monopoly on English trade in the Far East. This newly formed company was known as the John Company, which sent regularly shipments of Chinese tea to England from their base in India. But this loose leaf tea was being purchased from Dutch. The English were desperate for cheaper prices and direct purchasing, but it was not until 1684 that the first English East Company ships gained official clearance from the Chinese to purchase tea directly.

        For the next 150 years the English East India Company had exclusive import rights to bring Chinese tea to England and set the prices of tea sold to the Crown. In 1834 the Crown broke the monopoly, and dozens of independent traders sprang up in London. With the trade monopoly ended, the English East Company was desperate to find a place where it could grow tea and control all aspects of production. The English, wishing for a better solution, had to settle for what it had-India.

The English knew they needed to learn the process of loose leaf tea cultivation from the Chinese, the only people who knew these secrets.   In 1848, in a well crafted plan of espionage and pretense, the English hired the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to dress as a Chinese businessman and go undercover in Fujian Province with the intent of collecting tea plants and learning the Chinese processes for manufacturing both green tea and black tea. He return triumphant, with smuggle tea cuttings, technical information and more than twenty thousand plants.

        Fortune’s plants and seeds were sent to the Darjeeling region, where the Chinese plants thrived in the cool, high elevation. But things were moving much more slowly in Assam. It was not until 1847 and the arrival of George Williamson in Assam that English understanding of tea cultivation began. Williamson requested to remove all China bushes from the tea gardens and replace them with cultivated Assam bushes. From this point on the English black loose leaf tea industry in Assam flourished and Assam Black Tea became very popular all over the world as the strongest kind of black tea. Meanwhile the Chinese bush start growing in the Darjeeling region and Darjeeling tea over the years gain it popularity for the mild taste and unique flavor. As of now, Darjeeling tea is considered the champagne of tea, so it is definable worth to try it! 

        In fewer than fifty years the English had accomplished their goal of controlling tea imports to England. By 1900 India was supplying 154 million pounds of loose leaf tea to England. Purchases of Chinese tea, which once constituted 90 percent of all tea purchased, reduced to mere 5 percent a year. The Chinese tea industry would falter under this loss, and would not recover from this blow until the end of the twentieth century.

 For centuries, tea drinkers were encouraged to develop a spiritual appreciation for the everyday moments in life as they performed the rituals of loose leaf tea preparation. Lu Yu emphasized that all moments in life be attended by beauty- a concept that was to become central to the pleasure of drinking.

Enjoy the Power of Now, while drinking your favorite cup of tea.