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Earliest Mention of Tea

Earliest Mention of Tea

According to a magazinist, the first mention of tea by an Englishman is to be found in a letter from Mr. Wickham, an agent of the East India Company, written from Japan, on the 27th of June, 1615, to Mr. Eaton, another officer of the company, a resident of Macao, asking him to send “a pot of the best chaw.” In Mr. Eaton’s accounts of expenditure occurs this item:

“Three silver porringiys to drink chaw in.”

Australian Tea

In the interior of Australia all the men drink tea. They drink it all day long, and in quantities and at a strength that would seem to be poisonous. On Sunday morning the tea-maker starts with a clean pot and a clean record. The pot is hung over the fire with a sufficiency of water in it for the day’s brew, and when this has boiled he pours into it enough of the fragrant herb to produce a deep, coffee-colored liquid.

On Monday, without removing yesterday’s tea-leaves, he repeats the process; on Tuesday da capo and on Wednesday da capo, and so on through the week. Toward the close of it the great pot is filled with an acrid mash of tea-leaves, out of which the liquor is squeezed by the pressure of a tin cup.

By this time the tea is of the color of rusty iron, incredibly bitter and disagreeable to the uneducated palate. The native calls it “real good old post and rails,” the simile being obviously drawn from a stiff and dangerous jump, and regards it as having been brought to perfection.

Five-O’clock Tea

There is a fallacy among certain tea-fanciers that the origin of five-o’clock tea was due to hygienic demand. These students of the stomach contend that as a tonic and gentle stimulant, when not taken with meat, it is not to be equaled. With meat or any but light food it is considered harmful. Taken between luncheon and dinner it drives away fatigue and acts as a tonic. This is good if true, but it is only a theory, after all. Our theory is
that five o’clock in the afternoon is the ladies’ leisure hour, and that the taking of tea at that time is an escape from ennui.

Tea in Ladies’ Novels

What would women novelists do without tea in their books? The novelists of the rougher sex write of “over the coffee and cigars”; or, “around the gay and festive board”; or, “over a bottle of old port”; or, “another bottle of dry and sparkling champagne was cracked”; or, “and the succulent welsh rarebits were washed down with royal mugs of musty ale”; or, “as the storm grew fiercer, the captain ordered all hands to splice the main brace,”
i. e., to take a drink of rum; or, “as he gulped down the last drink of fiery whiskey, he reeled through the tavern door, and his swaying form drifted into the bleak, black night, as a roar of laughter drowned his repentant sobs.” But the ladies of the novel confine themselves almost exclusively to tea–rarely allowing their heroes and heroines to indulge in even coffee, though they sometimes treat their heroes to wine; but their heroines
rarely get anything from them but Oolong.

Sydney Smith

One evening when Sidney Smith was drinking tea with Mrs. Austin the servant entered the crowded room with a boiling tea-kettle in his hand. It seemed doubtful, nay, impossible, he should make his way among the numerous gossips–but on the first approach of the steaming kettle the crowd receded on all sides, Mr. Smith among the rest, though carefully watching the progress of the lad to the table.

“I declare,” said he, addressing Mrs. Austin, “a man who wishes to make his way in life could do no better than go through the world with a boiling tea-kettle in his hand.”–Life of Rev. Sydney Smith.

Author | readingtealeaves Comments | 0 Date | 07/30/2016

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