TEA TRIVIA: talking about the “Earl” in Grey and the “High in Tea

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. Half of the world’s population drinks it either hot or cold.

  • Tea was accidentally discovered in 2737 BC when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung found  tea leaves that had blown into a pot of boiling water that produced a pleasing aroma.
  • Tea was introduced to England in 1669. At that time, the drink was enjoyed only by the aristocracy because a pound of tea cost an average British laborer the equivalent of nine months in wages.
English high tea.
  • Afternoon Tea was invented by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. She drank tea as a picker-upper to tide over what she  described as a “sinking feeling” in the afternoon.
  • The “High” in High Tea does not imply fancy, high class or expensive. The word actually refers to the time of day in which tea is served (evening) and that it is served at  a dining room table (high table). High Tea is an evening tea generally served at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm and features sandwiches, scones, heavy cakes, biscuits and, of course, plenty of tea.

(Please check out Lorna’a Tearoom Delights: an excellent blog about Scottish Tea Houses to whet your appetite about tea traditions still going strong in Scotland today.) 

  • The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, by Nathaniel Currier: In 1773, colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into Boston harbor. They were protesting a tax on tea and a perceived British monopoly. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

    The Boston Tea Party ended America’s liking for both the British and their tea, marked the beginning of the War of Independence, and started America’s coffee-drinking tradition.

  •  It wasn’t until 1905 that the tea plant received its official Latin name, Camellia sinensis.This single plant can be harvested and processed to produce green, white and  black teas.
The 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister of 1830 (read more about him on Wikipedia HERE)
  • Bergemont Orange (Citrus Bergamia) grown in Southern Italy.

    Earl Grey Tea is flavored with the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit. It was named after the second Earl Grey, British Prime Minister 1830-34. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim Lord Grey handed them his recipe, based on an old Chinese version.

Iced Tea was discovered in 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, by a British tea merchant named Richard Blechynden. To boost tea sales in the hot weather he placed iced cubes into his tea and found the beginning of iced tea!  Today 80% of the tea served in the United States is some form of iced tea.

  • New York City tea importer named Thomas Sullivan invented the Tea Bag. He became annoyed at the high cost of the tin boxes he used to send tea samples to customers. So in 1904 (or by some accounts, 1908) he switched to small cloth bags. One of the New York City restaurants that received his “bagged tea” began brewing pots of tea by simply pouring hot water over the bag, and the rest is history.
  •  The UK consumes 165 million cups of tea daily. The average person in the UK will consume around 80,000 cups of tea during their life. The Irish drink more tea per head than any nation in the world. 5 out of 6 North Americans drink tea. Americans prefer black tea over green and oolong and drink over 50 billion cups of tea each year (mostly iced tea-80%).

    More interesting tea facts: courtesy Holland & Barrett
  •  The two most hummed tea songs are “Tea for Two,” from the 1924 Broadway musical No, No, Nanette and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea,” written in 1931 by Sammy Fain  Irving Kahal, and Pierre Norman. (If you want to waste more time than you are doing so already, click on the links to listen to them on YouTube).
  • In Tibet tea is served mixed with salt and rancid yak butter. In Burma (now Myanmar) pickled tea known as Lahpet is eaten.
Vanity license plates on our cars!

You can tell how much I love tea by the vanity license plates on both our cars. The ERL GREY on hubby’s car (left) is a joke. Hubby grew up in England and when he gets hoity-toity I tell him, “Just, who do you do you think you are – Earl Grey?”. He is a coffee drinker! 

Teatime for the Firefly is Shona Patel’s debut novel. It is a love story set in a remote tea plantation in Assam, India. You can read the SYNOPSIS and the FIRST CHAPTER by clicking on the red links. She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.



  1. Maybe that’s why i don’t drink tea…I need to get some of that rancid yak butter. I’ll have a tea license plate in no time. Oh…Oh dear; no car.

    Enjoy the rest of your week, Shona 🙂


    1. teabuddy says:

      Never mind the tea, your coffee drinking seems to be working for you: you write wonderfully! Happy writing!


  2. Namrata says:

    I wonder if Lady Anna’s ” sinking feeling” has got to do with drowsiness after lunch or the sick feeling after a late nap till evening,when the sleeper ( after awakening) is not sure if the time of the day is night or another day. I was often affected by the latter symptom and perhaps that’s the reason my mother forbade naps, saying that the consequence of it was feeling sick.I don’t seem to get affected by that now. Is it because after crossing half a century of age, one has sunk enough ? Joking !
    The words ” Tibetan Tea” reminded me of an evening in Delhi, when I was offered the same by a Tibetan friend from Darjeeling. I couldn’t proceed beyond a sip or two. Since the last 20 years or more, I take tea as it should be taken ( that is without milk).It was during my stay in Kolkata ( Calcutta then) when the brackish water made tea tasteless. I also took to Darjeeling Tea from then onwards, as I couldn’t take Assam Tea with that sort of water there.
    Thanks for your ” insider” reply to my comment on March 5th. I forgot to mention Shillong in addition to the 4 places mentioned on my comment of the 5th. That was an inexcusable absent-mindedness, considering that i spent 16-17 years there from School to Univ., and more so, because that’s the only place where I met or heard of a wide range of Sylhetis. As a school-girl ,I remember being in awe of senior girls of the School & College of the Convent where I studied, some of whom were Sylhetis or partly so. Some were good in studies or extra-curricular activities, some were good in looks or dressing.In fact a particularly Saree wearing, sophisticated one in the College was so hip, that at least once if not more, the nuns ( during the early ’70’s) covered her waistline with paper and gave her the option of either removing the paper beyond the College gate or continuing with the wrapper on her, if she were to be inside the campus. That rare sophisticate is no longer a permanent resident in Shillong and like her so many Sylheti & other ladies have moved out from the early ’70’s onwards, ever since the capital of Assam shifted away from Shillong.

    12.54 pm IST


    1. teabuddy says:

      You are the only person I know who has drunk Tibetan tea: most definitely an acquired taste, I would imagine. As for the ultra hip sylheti with the paper covered waist…I laughed like hell! I am familiar with nuns and their censoring. Seems so quaint in this day and age!Thanks for your comments!


  3. Gary stellpflug says:

    It is my understanding that it’s pretty unproven a single person “discovered” tea when leaves blew into their water. Makes a great story though.


    1. Shona Patel says:

      Where truth ends and stories begin is sometimes best left unexplored. After all, who doesn’t like a good story? Highly improbable though, I agree!


  4. Reet Petite says:

    I love tea, have had many different varieties, but my favourite is Peach tea. I first had it in Italy, of all places. Whenever one of the family travels overseas, I always ask for peach tea, I can’t get it in Australia. We have blends that contain peach but not on its own. Possibly the only tea I don’t like is the Russian Caravan, to me it tastes like tar, but to each their own.

    When I was in San Francisco a few years ago, I was in a little boutique store that sold tea & coffee and while I was browsing one of the shop assistants asked if I needed assistance, I said yes and he recognised my accent and then proceeded to tell me that tea was exempt from taxes, I then had to ask if it was because of the Boston Tea Party” and the American revolution, well he started laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes, there were a few customers in the shop that were smiling as well, when he finally calmed down he explained it was because tea is classified as a food so wasn’t subject to taxes. Boy did I feel silly. That’ll teach me for trying to be smart. And yes, I bought peach tea.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s