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.