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Tea Time

History of Tea

2737 B.C. Legend has it that tea was first discovered by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, when a tea leaf accidentally fell into the bowl of hot water he was drinking.

1644 The East India Company, an importer chartered by Britain's Elizabeth I, has its first tea dealings with Chinese merchants. Sailors brought back the packets of tea as presents, leading to its introduction into London's coffee houses

1657 Thomas Garway becomes the first to trade tea in Britain, offering it in dry and liquid form at his coffee house in London

1675 Britain's Charles II forbids by proclamation the sale of tea, coffee, chocolate and sherbert from private houses. The act, designed to suppress sedition and intrigue, was so unpopular it never became law.

1676 Charles II imposes a tax on tea

1716 The first tea shipment arrives in Canada, imported by the Hudson Bay Company. It took more than a year to arrive.

1773 The Boston Tea Party. On December, 16, between thirty and sixty men disguised as Indians boarded ships owned by the British East India Company, and smashed open tea cargoes from wooden chests and threw them overboard. The cargo washed up on shore the next morning, and was worthless. The event, prompted a new tea tax on the colonies, is an early example of American rebellion against British Rule.

Early 19th Century Afternoon tea becomes a social custom, originated by Anna, the 7th Ducchess of Bedford. The Duchess began inviting guests to join her for a cup of sweets and savouries in the afternoon in order to fill the gap between breakfast and late dinner.

1904 Richard Blechynden, an Englishman, added ice cubes to the tea he was selling at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. While the hot brew wasn't moving in the sweltering heat, crowds loved the new brew - from this ice tea was born.

1914-1918 - During the first World War, the German U-boat blockade of Britain drastically reduced tea imports into the country, creating a black market. Tea was rationed for civilians and prices were fixed by the government.

1939-1945 - Tea rationing in Britain is less drastic, although most other foods are severely rationed. Tea stocks were dispersed in more than 500 locations around the country to minimize the chances of destruction by air-raid. Tea was enjoyed in vast quantities…by D-Day, the Royal Navy alone was drinking nearly 4,000 tonnes a year.

Sources: Tea Council of Canada and the British Tea Council

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