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AFTERNOON TEA

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is often credited with the invention of afternoon tea in the early 1840’s. Traditionally, dinner was not served until 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening and the Duchess often became hungry, especially in the summer when dinner was served even later. She began asking servants to sneak her a pot of tea along with small cakes or light sandwiches, eventually inviting friends to join her. The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

Afternoon tea is also called “low tea” because it was usually taken in a sitting room where low tables (like modern coffee tables) were placed near sofas or chairs. Many people mistakenly refer to afternoon tea as high tea, because they think it sounds more regal and lofty. In actuality, high tea is a full meal served at a regular kitchen table around 6 in the evening, consisting of heavy meats, cheeses, bread and butter and cake. Tea is still served, but it is more of a traditional dinner for the working class rather than a ladies’ social diversion.

afternoon-tea-queenQueen Victoria and Society Ladies

Many people mistakenly refer to afternoon tea as high tea, because they think it sounds more regal and lofty. In actuality, high tea is a full meal served at a regular kitchen table around 6 in the evening, consisting of heavy meats, cheeses, bread and butter and cake.

boston-tea-partyThe Boston Tea Party
Protesting Britain’s tax on tea, American ports refused to allow any dutiable goods ashore.
This resulted in the infamous Boston Tea Party, the British government's closure of Boston harbor and the arrival of British troops on American soil. This was the beginning of the War of Independence. . . and America's preference for coffee.

THE UNITED STATES

By the second half of the 18th century, tea constituted the single largest and most valuable commodity exported by Britain into the United States. The British government ordered a specific tax on tea in order to capitalize off its popularity. In defiance, the American ports refused to allow any dutiable goods ashore. This resulted in the infamous Boston Tea Party, the British government's closure of Boston harbor and the arrival of British troops on American soil. This was the beginning of the War of Independence. . . and America's preference for coffee.

Abstaining from tea became synonymous with patriotism. En route to sign the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife about how he had asked for tea at a tavern: "Is it lawful for a weary traveler to refresh himself with a dish of tea, provided it has been honestly smuggled and has paid no duty?" The employee replied: "No sir! We have renounced tea under this roof. But, if you desire it, I will make you some coffee."

Fortunately, tea is experiencing a new-found popularity in the United States due, in part, to media reports on tea's potent health benefits.

INVENTION OF ICED TEA

The United States is responsible for several major changes in the tea industry. At the St. Louis World Trade Fair in 1904, a group of tea producers organized a special tea pavilion and offered cups of hot tea to all attendees. The sweltering summer temperatures left the booth empty as people went on in search of cold drinks. In an effort to sell their product, the man supervising the booth poured tea into glasses packed with ice cubes. Before long, customers were lining up to try the new beverage. Currently, America consumes almost fifty billion glasses of iced tea in a single year. More than 80% of all tea consumed in the U.S. is served over ice.

INVENTION OF THE TEA BAG

The tea bag is also an American invention. As with many inventions, the discovery of tea bags was accidental.

In 1908, a thrifty New York tea merchant sent samples of his product sealed in silk bags (instead of more expensive tin containers) to restaurants and cafés throughout the city. After some time, he discovered that restaurants were brewing his tea directly in the silk bags to save time. This method of brewing immediately caught on. Paper soon replaced silk, lowering production costs even more.

SACRIFICE: FRESHNESS AND FLAVOR

Unfortunately, however, the convenience provided by tea bags came at a high price: freshness and flavor.

At first, using paper proved difficult; tealeaves didn't have enough room to expand or infuse their full flavor. What was the solution? Smaller leaves. Because the size and shape of the leaf (which was hidden behind a paper bag anyway) no longer mattered, merchants could purvey much cheaper grades of tea known as "fannings" or dust. These are the lowest rankings tea can achieve, found at the bottom of the barrels or (as rumor has it) swept from tea-factory floors.

Also, because tea-dust has a higher surface-to-air ratio, low-grade teabags go stale very quickly-well before they reach grocery-store shelves. Stale tea quickly looses both complexity-of-flavor and antioxidant content.

This state of tea mediocrity has now plagued the West for several decades. When people think of tea, they typically imagine a flat bleached-paper bag filled with a nondescript black powder. Most supermarkets still offer only a bottom-of-the-barrel tea product, leaving most consumers to believe that there is nothing better available. Most people haven't had the opportunity to experience the amazing varieties of teas that exist and are popular in other parts of the world. This is unfortunate! Especially considering the tremendous variety, complexity of flavor, intoxicating aroma and health benefits found in a cup of whole-leaf gourmet tea.

Fortunately, the popularity of high-quality, whole-leaf tea is on the rise as consumers learn more about the amazing health benefits and stress-relieving properties found in a daily cup.

The invention of the tea bag came at a price: because the size and shape of the leaf (which was hidden behind a paper bag anyway) no longer mattered, merchants could purvey much cheaper grades of tea known as "fannings" or "dust". These are the lowest rankings tea can achieve, found at the bottom of the barrels or (as rumor has it) swept from tea-factory floors.
tea-bag-cupThe Modern, Mass-Produced Tea Bag

Due to the prevalence of mass-produced tea bags, when we think of tea, we often imagine a non-descript black powder in a bleached-paper bag.
This is unfortunate! Especially considering the tremendous variety, complexity of flavor and health benefits provided by a cup of gourmet tea.

At Octavia Tea, we introduce tea-drinkers to some of the highest quality teas available—redefining how people think about tea.

Below are just a few of the teas we offer:

variety-gourmet-tea

© 2018 Octavia Tea.