Tea Longjing green tea being infused in a gaiwan Type

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Worldwide spread[edit]

Tea-weighing station north of BatumiRussian Empire before 1915

Tea was first introduced to Western priests and merchants in China during the 16th century, at which time it was termed chá.[14] The earliest European reference to tea, written as chiai, came from Delle navigationi e viaggi written by Venetian Giambattista Ramusio in 1545.[36] The first recorded shipment of tea by a European nation was in 1607 when the Dutch East India Company moved a cargo of tea from Macao to Java, then two years later, the Dutch bought the first assignment of tea which was from Hirado in Japan to be shipped to Europe.[37] Tea became a fashionable drink in The Hague in the Netherlands, and the Dutch introduced the drink to Germany, France, and across the Atlantic to New Amsterdam (New York).[38]

In 1567, Russian people came in contact with tea when the Cossack Atamans Petrov and Yalyshev visited China.[39] The Mongolian Khan donated to Tsar Michael I four poods (65–70 kg) of tea in 1638.[40] According to Jeremiah Curtin,[41] it was possibly in 1636[42] that Vassili Starkov was sent as envoy to the Altyn Khan. He was given 250 pounds of tea as a gift to the tsar. Starkov at first refused, seeing no use for a load of dead leaves, but the Khan insisted. Thus was tea introduced to Russia. In 1679, Russia concluded a treaty on regular tea supplies from China via camel caravan in exchange for furs. It is today considered the de facto national beverage.

The Raymond, Hugh Mckay Commander. The first vessel direct from China to Hull on her arrival on 14 October 1843 with a cargo of tea

The first record of tea in English came from a letter written by Richard Wickham, who ran an East India Company office in Japan, writing to a merchant in Macao requesting "the best sort of chaw" in 1615. Peter Mundy, a traveller and merchant who came across tea in Fujian in 1637, wrote, "chaa – only water with a kind of herb boyled in it".[43][44] Tea was sold in a coffee house in London in 1657, Samuel Pepys tasted tea in 1660, and Catherine of Braganza took the tea-drinking habit to the English court when she married Charles II in 1662. Tea, however, was not widely consumed in the British Isles until the 18th century and remained expensive until the latter part of that period. English drinkers preferred to add sugar and milk to black tea, and black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s.[45] Tea smuggling during the 18th century led to the general public being able to afford and consume tea. The British government removed the tax on tea, thereby eliminating the smuggling trade, by 1785.[46] In Britain and Ireland, tea was initially consumed as a luxury item on special occasions, such as religious festivals, wakes, and domestic work gatherings. The price of tea in Europe fell steadily during the 19th century, especially after Indian tea began to arrive in large quantities; by the late 19th century tea had become an everyday beverage for all levels of society.[47] The popularity of tea played a role in historical events – the Tea Act of 1773 provoked the Boston Tea Party that escalated into the American Revolution. The need to address the issue of British trade deficit because of the trade in tea resulted in the Opium Wars. The Qing Kangxi Emperor had banned foreign products from being sold in China, decreeing in 1685 that all goods bought from China must be paid for in silver coin or bullion.[48] Traders from other nations then sought to find another product, in this case opium, to sell to China to earn back the silver they were required to pay for tea and other commodities. The subsequent attempts by the Chinese Government to curtail the trade in opium led to war.[49]

Chinese small-leaf-type tea was introduced into India in 1836 by the British in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea.[50] In 1841, Archibald Campbell brought seeds of Chinese tea from the Kumaun region and experimented with planting tea in Darjeeling. The Alubari tea garden was opened in 1856, and Darjeeling tea began to be produced.[51] In 1848, Robert Fortune was sent by the Honourable East India Company on a mission to China to bring the tea plant back to Great Britain. He began his journey in high secrecy as his mission occurred in the lull between the First Opium War and the Second Opium War.[52] The Chinese tea plants he brought back were introduced to the Himalayas, though most did not survive. The British had discovered that a different variety of tea was endemic to Assam and the northeast region of India, which was then hybridized with Chinese small-leaf-type tea. Using Chinese planting and cultivation techniques, the British colonial government established a tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate it for export.[50] Tea was originally consumed only by Anglo-Indians; however, it became widely popular in India in the 1950s because of a successful advertising campaign by the India Tea Board.[50] The British introduced tea industry to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1867.[53]

Cultivation and harvesting[edit]

Tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka

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