Environmentální vzdûlávací program Nadaãního fondu Prague Post
An Environmental Education Program of the Prague Post Endowment Fund
Vol. 4, Issue no.13 , April 16, 2003 / Roã. 4, âíslo 13, 16.dubna 2003
Tea is a staple item for people all over the world. It is a beverage consumed by all levels of society,
enjoyed at casual moments or at the most formal of events. Tea is a significant player in the economies of
many nations. Wars have been fought over it, and peace has been celebrated sharing cups of it.
Given its popularity and history, it makes sense to take a moment and consider how tea has shaped the
world, as we know it and how it effects the global environment. In this issue of Stone Circle we will have
a look at the amazing world of tea.
TYPES OF TEA
Tea breaks down into three basic types; black, green and oolong. Black tea, which has been fully oxidized
or fermented, yields a hearty-flavoured, amber brew. Some of the popular black teas include English
Breakfast, Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe. Green Tea skips the oxidizing step. It has a more delicate taste
and it light green/golden in colour. Green tea, a staple in the Orient, is becoming more and more popular
in Western countries due in part to scientific studies linking green tea drinking with a reduced risk of get-
Oolong tea, popular in China, is partly oxidized and is a cross between
black and green tea in colour and taste. It is known as the champagne as
Keemun is the most famous of China’s black teas. Because of its subtle
and complex nature, it is subtle and complex nature it is considered
almost wine like.
While flavoured teas evolved from these three basic teas, herbals teas
contain no true tealeaves. Herbal and “medicinal” teas are created from
the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different
White teas are the rarest in the world, produced on a very limited scale in China and Sri Lanka.
Iced tea was created at the world’s fair in St. Louis “Cash” (from the Portuguese “caxia” meaning case
Misouri in 1904 of money box) became known as the currency of
Thomas Sullivan of New York developed the tea
bag in 1908. “Caddy” (from the
Chinese word for one
Tea culture is so dominant within the English- pound of weight) was
speaking world that many of the following words the standard tea trade
have come to hold a permanent place in the lan- container.
“Chow” (from the Indian
“Mandarin” (from the Portuguese “mandar” mean- word for food cargo) is
ing to order) - the official given the power to trade now a slang word for
tea by the Emperor. food.
THE HISTORY OF TEA
Tea is nearly 5,000 years old and was discovered, as legend has it, in 2737 BCE by a Chinese emperor
when some tealeaves accidentally blew in a pot of boiling water. In the 1600s tea became popular
throughout Europe and the American colonies.
According to legend, the Shen Nong, an early emperor was a skilled ruler, creative scientist and a patron
of the arts. His wise edicts required, among other things, that all drinking water be boiled for hygienic rea-
sons. One summer day while visiting a distant region of his realm, he and the court stopped to rest. In
accordance with his ruling, the servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from a
near by bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid was created. As a scientist, the Emperor was
interested in the new liquid, drank some and found it very refreshing. And so, according to legend, tea was
Tea consumption spread throughout Chinese culture into every
aspect of the society. In 800 A.D. Lu Yu wrote the first definitive
book on tea, the “Ch’a Ching.” Drawing from his memory of
observed events and places, he codified the various methods of
tea cultivation and preparation in ancient China. The vast defini-
tive nature of his work projected him into near sainthood within
his own lifetime.
The first tea seeds were brought to Japan by the returning Buddhist priest Yeisei, who had seen the value
of tea in China in enhancing religious mediation. Tea was elevated to an art form resulting in the creation
of the Japanese Tea Ceremony (“Cha-no-yo” or “The hot water or tea”). The best description of the com-
plex art from was probably written by the Irish-Greek journalist-historian Lafcadio Hearn, one of the few
foreigners ever to be granted Japanese citizenship during this era. He wrote “The Tea ceremony requires
years of training and practice to graduate in art...yet the hollow of this art, as it its detail, signified no
more than the making and serving of a cup of tea. The supremely important matter is that the act be per-
formed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful, most charming matter possible.”
While tea was at this high level of development in both Japan and China, information concerning this then
unknown beverage began to filter back to Europe. Earlier caravan leaders had mentioned it, but were
unclear as to its service format or appearance. The first European to personally encounter tea and write
about it was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz in 1560. Portugal, with her technologically
advanced navy, has been successful in gaining the first right of trade with China. It was as a missionary on
the first commercial mission that Father de Cruz has tasted tea four years before.
The Portuguese developed a trade route by
which they shipped their tea to Lisbon and
then Dutch ships transported it to France,
Holland and the Baltic countries. As the
craze for things oriental swept Europe, tea
became part of the way of life. The social
critic Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the
Marquise de Seven makes the first mention
in 1680 of adding milk to tea.
By 1650 the Dutch were actively involved in trade throughout the Western world. Peter Stuyvesant
brought the first tea to American to the colonists in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (later re-
named New York by the English). Great Britain was the last of the three great seafaring nations to break
into the Chinese and East Indian trade routes. The first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and
1654. Tea quickly proved popular enough to replace ale as the national drink of England.
Tea mania swept across England as it had earlier spread throughout France and Holland. Prior to the intro-
duction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals–breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread
and beef. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of the day. Anna, the duchess of Bedford (1788-
1861) adopted the European tea service format and invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon
mean at 5 p.m. The menu centred around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets and of
THE JOHN COMPANY
As early as 1600 Queen Elizabeth I had founded the John Company for the purpose of promoting Asian
trade. The John Company was granted the unbelievably wide monopoly of all trade east of the Cape of
Good Hope and west of Cape Horn. Its powers were almost without limit and included amount others the
right to: Legally acquire territory and govern it, coin money, raise arms and build forts, form foreign
alliances, declare war, conclude peace, pass laws, try and punish law breakers. It was the single largest,
most powerful monopoly to ever exist in the world. And its power was based on the importation of tea.
The company was later merged with is largest competitor, the East Indian Company and took the name of
its new acquisition.
THE RUSSIAN TEA TRADITION
Imperial Russia was attempting to engage China and Japan in trade at the same time as the East Indian
Company. The Russian interest in tea began as early as 1618 when the Chinese embassy in Moscow pre-
sented several chests of tea to Czar Alexis. By 1689 the Trade Treaty of Newchinks established a common
border between Russia and China, allowing caravans to cross back and forth freely. Tea was ideally suited
to Russian life: hearty, warm and sustaining.
The samovar, adopted form the Tibetan “hot pot”, is a combination bubbling hot water heater and teapot.
Placed in the centre of a Russian home it could run all day and serve up to forty cups of tea at a time.
Again showing the Asian influence in Russian culture, guests sipped their tea from glasses in silver hold-
ers, very similar to Turkish coffee cups. Russians have always favoured strong tea, highly sweetened with
sugar, honey, or jam. Although the revolution intervened in the general flow of Russian society, tea
remained a staple throughout. Tea (along with vodka) is the national drink of Russians today.
By 1720 tea was a generally accepted staple of trade between colonial America and Britain. Tea trade was
centred in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, future centres of American rebellion. As tea was heavily
taxed, even at this date, contraband tea was smuggled into the colonies by the independent minded
American merchants from port far away and adopted herbal teas from the American Indians.
England had recently completed the French and Indian War, fought, from England’s point of view,to free
the American colony from French influence and stabilize trade. It was the feeling of Parliament that as a
result, it was not unreasonable that the colonists shoulder the majority of the cost for the war. They
imposed a higher tax on newspapers, tavern licenses, legal documents, marriage
licenses, and docking papers. The colonists rebelled against taxes imposed on
them without their consent. Among these taxes was the tea tax that was to become
the inspiration for American’s desire for freedom.
The colonists rebelled and openly purchased imported Dutch tea. By December
16, 1773 events had deteriorated enough that the men of Boston, dressed as
American Indians threw hundreds of pounds of tea in the Boston harbour: The
Boston Tea Party. In retaliation, the port of Boston was closed and the city occu-
pied by royal troops. The colonial leaders met and a revolution was declared.
England also had problems in China. Not only was language a problem for trade,
but also so was the currency. Huge sums of money were spent on tea. To take
such large amount of money physically out of England would have financially
collapsed the country and been impossible to transport safely around the world.
With plantation in newly occupied India, the John Company saw a solution. In
India they would grow the inexpensive crop of opium and use it as a means of
exchange. Because of its addictive nature, the demand for the drug would be life-
long, insuring an unending market.
Chinese emperors tried to maintain the forced distance between the Chinese people and the “outsiders”.
But disorder in Chinese culture and foreign military might prevented it. The Opium Wars broke put with
the English ready to go to war for the right to sell opium. By 1842 England had gained enough military
advantages to enable her to sell opium to China without opposition until the “Boxer Revolution” of 1908.
GLOBAL TEA PLANTATIONS
The Scottish botanist/adventurer Robert Fortune, who spoke
fluent Chinese, was able to sneak into Mainland China the
first year after the Opium War. He obtained some of the
closely guarded tea seeds and made notes on tea cultivation.
After years of trial and error, English tea plantations in India
and other parts of Asia flourished. The great English tea mar-
keting companies were founded and productions mechanized
as the world industrialized in the late 1880s.
FROM ESTATE TO CUP
First the ingredients for the tea are harvested, and then the ingredients are mixed. 90% of the tea con-
sumed in Europe is made from a tea blend. These teas contain up to 35 different teas. Each popular blend
has its own recipe and that recipe is the company’s trade secret
Tea is sold in a variety of ways. Tea may be sold at auction in coun-
tries of origin. There are International action centres in Mombassa
in Kenya, Colombo in Sri Lanka and Limbe in Malawi. India has
auction centres in the north and south. Indonesia sells tea in Jakarta.
Chine sells her tea by numbered standards at commodity fairs at
Tea prices are governed by quality, supply and demand. Tea brokers
act as intermediaries and taste, value and bid on their client’s
behalf. Tea may also be sold from the tea garden by private sale or
at offshore auction whilst on route to its destination.
India has the distinction of producing both the highest and lowest quality teas. The famed Darjeeling and
was as the generic “ctc”, a nondescript blend used in teas. The best of India’s prize Darjeeling in consid-
ered the world’s finest tea, and almost all of it is exported. However, India, the world’s largest tea produc-
er is facing rising competition in the world tea market. Sri Lanka another major tea producer and strong
competitor of the Indian tea market faces similar problems. Tea in these countries is currently on a down-
ward trend with reduced demand followed by an overabundance of tea. Tea prices have been falling
worldwide because of an oversupply in production. While world market prices in real terms have decline,
the cost of production has increased steadily. Moreover, big buyers like Russia, Iran and Iraq have become
inactive due to political problems.
Should tea prices continue to fall and it if the costs of production outweigh the demand for tea, it could
possibly affect those directly and indirectly employed in the tea industry. Also, decisions made between
these countries regarding standards and regulations could also affect those individuals who depend on the
tea industry as their livelihood.
What is your favourite kind of tea? Do a research project on your favourite kind of tea. When was it creat-
ed? Who created it? How popular is it? And how much is it traded for on the global market?
What is the most popular beverage in your household? Do a similar research project on that beverage.
Where did it come from? Who created it? Why is it so popular in your home? Is it expensive? Is it inex-
Create a presentation about the history and popularity of your family’s favourite beverage. What happened
when it came onto the global market? Were any wars fought over it like with tea? How popular is it now?
Where is it made and is there a lot of competition for it.
Are there any environmental issues connected with you beverage? How are its ingredients harvested?
What kinds of bottles can you find it in? Does it company producing it have a good or bad environmental
Make your presentations as thorough and colourful as possible.
Learn more about goods and trade and how they affect the world at
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