Tea is the most popular drink on the planet, and I think it is fair to say that no one loves it better than the Brits (except me, I'm contrary). In this country alone we get through more than sixty billion cups a year. Aside from the our traditional breakfast tea, there are hundreds of other herbal varieties, fruit infusions, and even iced teas. We all have our favourite blend (except me, I'm contrary); my parents like a builder's brew, Grandpa's a two sugars man, and my cousin likes it so white, she might as well just drink milk. As a nation we may love the stuff, but how much do we actually know about it? Here is a list of ten interesting facts you (probably) didn't know about tea.
1. All tea comes from the same plant, a Camellia tree. So whether you drink white tea, green tea, black tea or oolong, it's all from the Camellia sinensis.
2. The reason teas taste different is not because of the plant, but by the method of preparation. Black tea is oxidised, green tea is toasted, and white tea has nothing done to it.
3. The English first discovered tea in the 17th century when they sailed to China.
4. Because tea came from Wuyi Mountain in China, it had to travel over a thousand miles before it even set sail. The difficulty with transportation made it terribly expensive and only affordable to the upper classes. It was so precious that they even locked their tea caddies so that the servants couldn't steal it. Later on, however, it was introduced to the middle and lower classes as a 'moral drink' as an alternative to people getting drunk on beer.
5. Legend has it that tea was invented by a Chinese Emperor in 2737 BCE, when some leaves fell into his cup of hot water, turning the liquid brown.
6. Another legend says that Buddha had vowed to stay awake for nine years, but after seven fell asleep. He was so angry that he tore off his eyelids and threw them away. His eyelids rooted in the ground and grew into tea trees. Buddha then chewed on a tea leaf, which kept him awake for the remaining two years.
7. The word 'oolong' means black dragon because they roll the leaves into the shape of a black dragon to bring out the flavours.
8. Tea made the British the largest drug dealers. The only thing the Chinese would accept in trade was opium, meaning the British began smuggling it into the country.
9. When Britain started looking for somewhere else to get their tea, they looked to India because it was part of the British Empire. At first they tried to find out how to start growing it in Assam because it was so wet there. Later they discovered that India already had tea plants growing in the country. They did not realise this at first because the plant looked so different from that which was found in China. It was still a camellia plant, but just a different sub-species.
10. During World Ward Two, Naffi vans were used to take tea to the soldiers. Because of rationing Naffi girls would put tea leaves in stockings and use them as tea bags.