Learn the history about tea

History of tea can be traced back thousands of years. According to legend, tea was discovered in China over 5,000 years ago by accident. As the story goes, an early emperor required that all drinking water be boiled for health reasons. It seems that while visiting a distant part of his realm, his court stopped to drink and as the water was boiling away, leaves from a nearby bush fell into it and turned the water brown. The emperor was curious about this brown liquid and drank some, finding it refreshing. If the legend is true, tea was born.

By 1650, tea had been introduced to America by the Dutch.. Tea did not arrive in England until at least 1652. It was probably Queen Catherine, the wife of Charles II, who brought the social aspect of tea drinking to England. She insisted that at three in the afternoon, tea with small cakes be served and she would invite a few friends in who would be expected to dress as if going to an important dinner. The Duchess of Bedford, however, moved the tea forward to five in the afternoon and served small sandwiches, cakes and of course the tea.

By the late 1880′s, both in England and America, many of the fine hotels began to offer tea rooms and tea courts. Many of the most prestigious hotels became known for the tea service where ladies and gentlemen could meet in the late afternoon for tea drinking and stimulating conversation.

Afternoon teas are becoming popular again in America. Hotels across the country offer an afternoon tea, and many small businesses have started that feature an afternoon tea with friends. I attended such an occasion with a couple of friends and found it absolutely relaxing and very enjoyable. Various teas were served with fruit, scones, sandwiches and petits fours.

My daughter-in-law has hosted a baby shower afternoon tea. Two or three teas were served with scones, creme’ fraiche, tiny sandwiches, and fruit. The guests certainly enjoyed this change of pace and the opportunity to visit with friends and family.

Learn the history about tea

Having an afternoon tea or a tea party anytime, gives the hostess a chance to use her favorite teapots and china cups. The cups do not have to match and can be a part of her collection she has been building over the years. Teacups are a perfect collectable. They are easy to find, and can add charm to the china cabinet when not being used. Tea sets are desirable if you want matching pieces.

Check out the Fiestaware teapot and Fiestaware mugs to see that a casual, charming retro theme is suggested with this tea set and could be followed by serving sandwiches and the other items from lined country baskets or tins. The type of table linen and centerpiece could be simple, perhaps just fresh flowers in a fruit jar placed on a plain or simple country print or retro print table cloth. The easiest way to serve your afternoon tea or your tea party is to do so buffet style. A nice touch would be to have a special friend be the designated “pourer.”

Make that tea party special.

If you host and afternoon tea with just a few friends, it would be perfectly proper to serve from a tea service in the living room, patio, family room or any room that has comfortable seating. A pretty tea service would add a special touch to an intimate gathering or each guest could bring her own favorite teacup to show off.

A thoughtful hostess will always have coffee available for those who who prefer it.

The popular types of tea for the afternoon tea service

  • English Breakfast-serve with milk or lemon (not both!)
  • Earl Grey-served plain-second most popular tea in the world
  • Darjeeling-ideally served plain
  • Oolong-serve plain
  • Keemun-serve plain or with milk and sugar

It’s your party, so you can serve your favorite teas. My daughter-in-law says she likes to serve three teas, a tradional tea an herbal tea and a fruit or berry tea. The guests can choose their favorites. Have plenty of milk, sugar and/or lemon slices available too.

Make sure that your tea is brewed properly. Use either loose leaf or tea bags.

  • Start with very cold water-let run until it is as cold as possible. Do not use hot tap water.
  • Bring to boil and pour over tea bags or loose tea in pre-heated tea pot.
  • Let steep 3 to 5 minutes (green teas should have cooler water and steep 1-3 minutes.)
  • If using loose tea, strain tea and pour into clean pre-heated teapot after brewing, or use an infuser and avoid straining.