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Miu Tamura
  1. Introduction
  2. Tea History
  3. Green Tea History
  4. About Tea
  5. Effects and Uses
  6. Tradition
  7. Others
  8. My Recommendation
  9. Postscript
  10. Bibliography

1. Introduction

My father provided a key to my interest in tea. He works for British Airways in Japan. Whenever he had business trip to London, he bought me tea as a souvenir. Therefore, before I came to here, I had thought UK is "Tea Country". If you have a chance to visit to Japan, please try to ask them, "What image do you have of the United Kingdom?" Maybe, almost all them will answer, "Tea". Thus, Japanese formulate "The UK = Tea" in their brain. That is why I chose this topic as British Culture. Moreover, they think that every English people drink a tea according to the "Golden Rule". (I will explain about "Golden Rule" in another chapter.) So I was amazed when I saw that my host-family drunk a tea with tea bag. I asked them why you did not use teapot. They told me, "It is waste of time. We drink tea many times a day!" I was amazed again. Actually, there is little shop to serve tea mainly in public. Also, the price of tea is the cheapest hot drink available. Then, I knew it was not true that English people are lavish in time to drink beautiful tea.

2. Black Tea History

Black tea originated in China. The word of "Tea" came from "Te" in Chinese; it means "Tea". This word was used in the Hukken ministry which is a famous tea home.

The golden age of black tea in the UK was middle of the seventeenth century. It still continues today. There are two routes of black tea, terrestrial and maritime.

The Terrestrial Way

First, Chinese traders exported oolong to other countries. However, it took a long time because of inconvenient traffic. As a result of the delays, the oolong started to ferment, producing what we call "Black Tea".

The Maritime Way

In seventeenth century, black tea was spread to western countries. In 1650, it was passed to the UK. In 1721, the East India Company in the UK had an eye on the trade of black tea and were granted a monopoly. Then they received huge benefits by taxing of the black tea. It was about two hundred percent tax. This money was used to strengthen the navy, and it became the basis of the great British Empire era.

In 1773, the "Boston Tea Party" took place. American colonists were so angry at having to pay tax on their tea that they threw many cases of tea off ships into Boston harbour. In the nineteenth century, the tea clipper was invented to carry tea as fast as possible. Also, in the same period, the "Opium War" occurred. Thus, tea brought the UK not only ease but also misfortunes. The UK and black tea were inseparable.

3. Green Tea History

It started from the legend of the god of agriculture in about 2737 BC. A long time ago there was no medicine, so a lot of people died of cold or food poisoning. The god of agriculture, who had a crystalline body and internal organs of jade, had tried eating all the wild plants to save people and find a medicinal herb. Sometime he ate poisonous plants, and then he drunk green tea as an antidote.

Also, in Tang, the "Cha-kyo" by Rikuha was the first book to be written about the formula of green tea. Japanese knew green tea for the first time in the Kamakura period. One of the Japanese priests, Eisen, brought back its seed from China. In those days, green tea was an expensive drink like tea, but, at the end of Edo period, the growth of green tea spread far and wide so it became cheap, and common people could drink it easily.

4. About Tea

The British tea schedule:

Early Tea/Bed Tea Originally, it was the first tea in a day, taken by wealthy upper class people, who would be served tea in bed by their maids. Now the tradition has changed, so that a husband carries tea for his wife.
Breakfast Tea The tea to drink with breakfast.
Morning Tea/Elevenses The tea to drink during break time. People drink about eleven o’clock, so it is called "Elevenses".
Midday Tea Exactly what it says! Tea drunk at midday
Afternoon Tea People drink at three to four p.m. at weekend in order to be social. It is served with scones and sandwiches. It was start in the middle nineteenth century that the seventh marchioness of Bedford, Anna Mary, ate a light meal because she could not wait for dinner.
High Tea The tea to get you through the long hours until dinner time, and served with meat or fish. This custom continues in the countryside in England and in Scotland.
After Dinner Tea People drank with family after dinner.
Night Tea The tea drunk before bedtime.

Thus, people used to drink tea eight times in a day. I think it was difficult to do it for commoners because they were busy and had no time. So, in those days, their tea was a diversion only for noblemen. Maybe, they used tea-time to communicate with their family or friends. Modern people no longer behave like this, but they drink tea more than Japanese do.

5. Effects and Uses

The constituent parts of black tea and green tea are very good for our health. Maybe, this is part of its popularity.

Effect of Black Tea

Black tea has plenty of tannin and caffeine. These promote the secretion of stomach acid, and work as diuretic, encouraging people to go to the toilet. In addition, black tea includes fluorine which has the effect of sterilization and is good for good teeth.

Use of Black Tea

You can use black tea not only drink but also as a fertilizer or bath cube. It works to protect the plants from pests, or to keep silky skin. However, after you do it, you should clean the bath as soon as possible.

Effect of Green Tea

Green tea has a lot of vitamin C and catechin. These work to keep healthy skin, and to protect us from bad teeth.

Use of Green Tea

After you drink green tea, tea leaves will be left in the pot. You just dry and sprinkle them on the floor. They remove bad smells.

6. Traditions

Black Tea

According to one source of information, in olden days, people did not have the custom of straining tea, so they poured black tea with tea leaves from teapot to teacup, then they, chiefly women, told fortunes from the pattern of the leaves which gathered on the bottom of the cup.

How to cast a fortune

  1. Prepare the teacup and saucer with white color.
  2. Pour the tea into the teacup without straining, and drink it.
  3. Shake the cup up and down and from side to side to spread the tea leaves at the bottom of the cup.
  4. Put the cup upside down on the saucer to drain the residual water.
  5. After a few minutes, raise the cup, and read the pattern of the tealeaves.


Polka dots: Extra income or presents

Horse’s head: A prediction of love

Bouquet: Dream come true

These are some of the interpretations. One cage owner told me how to tell fortune with milk. Anyway, women generally enjoy fortune telling.

Green Tea

Japan has a lot of superstitions about green tea. Especially, it is widely believed that a cup of green tea in the early morning makes the day goes smoothly. Also, if you find the floating "Chabashira", in your cup, you could receive good fortune in a few days. "Chabashira" is Japanese; it means a piece of stem. High-grade green tea is picked by hand. However, cheap tea is harvested with secateurs, so many things and stems are included. Only a well-balanced one can float. It is very rare. My grandmother says if you find the floating "Chabashira" do not tell anybody and take out it under a rose.

7. Others

What is the "Golden Rule"?

The "Golden Rule" is the basic way of making British Tea.

([Tea Encyclopedia] By Kenkyu-sha, 1997, P78)

They note four points in this book.

  1. Use a teapot.
  2. Measure tealeaves exactly.
  3. Use fresh water. (It means after you finish boiling the water, use it soon.)
  4. steam tea well.

These are simple points, but very important. In my opinion, tea made in a pot is superior to tea made with a teabag. As a result, the "Golden Rule" is not perfect way, but one of ideas.

Who invented the tea bag?

In 1904, Tomas Salivan, a distributor of tea, was putting a sample of tealeaves into a silken bag in New York. He put it into the teapot with boiling water. The manager of the restaurant looked at it, and thought it easy and simple, then developed the idea of the tea bag. Therefore, the tea bag was the accidental invention. Typically American!

What a strange way of drinking!

A long ago, when English people drank tea, they poured the tea out of the teacup into the saucer, then they drank it noisily. It was etiquette to show their thanks to their host in polite society. This story came from the manager in a teashop in Oomiya. If true, it is surprising. They hate to make a noise while drinking soup.

The Model Teacup

The model teacup is part of oolong tea set. In the old days, tea was used as medicine; it was natural to drink it from a small receptacle. The cup with a handle was informal. However, it was inconvenient to hold a hot cup, so the cup with a handle, which was used for alcohol, became common.

8. My Recommendation

I like black tea, so I have some knowledge of it. I visited dozens of teashops in Japan. At first, I did not know which tea leaves to choose because there are hundreds of varieties. So, whenever I went to a teashop, I asked the staff how to choose. I got various answers, but the following three points are common:

  1. Choose fresh ones
  2. Choose even-sized tealeaves
  3. Choose strong scented ones

The third point is especially important. Generally, the sample loses its odour, so if you can, smell from the canister.

Are you 'MIA’ or ‘MIB’?

MIA: Milk in After……It is easy to adjust the amount of milk.

MIB: Milk in Before ……You do not have to stir and the tea leaves no stain.

Normally, English people prefer ‘MIB’ to ‘MIA’. I like both. The reason that the tradition of putting the milk in first came about was because of the type of tea cup used. In the upper classes, where people could afford the highest quality bone-china cups, you could safely pour hot tea straight into the cup without it breaking, and then add the milk afterwards. However, in poorer families, the china was not good quality, and pouring hot tea into it would make it break. For this reason, these people preferred to pour the cool milk in first, and then add the hot tea afterwards. This is why the upper classes in Britain generally pour the tea in first, and the lower classes generally pour the milk in first.

9. Postscript

Even now that I have finished this study, I cannot understand why black tea spread to the UK. Because a Chinese trader brought to Western countries at the first time was green tea. Before that, coffee, which was owned by France, had been exported there. The British government, who had big force of customs, were competing with France, and started exporting black tea. Green tea started spreading to the UK instead of black tea and was one of the causes of the Opium War.

However, it is clear that the British love tea. For them, history changed the moment that tea reached their shores. Nobody can stop it now. Please remember the book "Alice of Wonderland" by Lewis Caroll. In chapter seven, the March Hare (a sort of mad rabbit) was singing a song in at a tea party that he was attending with the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, "What a wonderful usual day!". I think it means that it is really happy we can drink tea in useful day. Also, the Dormouse kept falling asleep in the teapot!

10. Bibliography

Other sources of information