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Tea-Direct Recommends – "Story of…Tea"

You may have been watching the Story of… series on Netflix, which now includes a fascinating episode on our favourite drink: Story of…Tea.

The tea-loving episode takes a deep dive into the world of tea and tea drinking, looking at everything from the history of tea, tea trading from China and India into Britain, and some of the most popular teas enjoyed today.


Some Key Tea Facts…
There were some great snippets of tea information that we find especially interesting:

  • Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water.
  • Tea is now grown in more than 40 countries worldwide.
  • Most of the 2.5 million tonnes of tea produced each year is from Asian countries.
  • Five thousand years ago, tea was prescribed to reduce risk of cancers and to help build strong bones and teeth.
  • Today it is perhaps the most popular medicine in the world.

The History of Tea…
Legend has it that tea was first discovered in China by emperor Sennong in around 2,700 BC, when a few tea leaves fell into his boiling water, giving off a rich and alluring aroma. The emperor discovered the drink to be refreshing and energising, and so gave the command that tea bushes be planted in the gardens of his palace.

Europeans are said to have first discovered tea around 4,000 years later, during the Ming Dynasty.

Tea in China...
The East India Company was founded in 1600, with a royal charter from Elizabeth I. This group of London merchants were given the monopoly on British trade with Asia, including Asian tea imports. Because the Chinese trade was strictly regulated by China, the East India Company were required to move gold and silver to China in order to purchase tea.

Popular Chinese Tea

Story of..Tea includes a great section on tasting some of the most well-known Chinese teas, including white teas and green teas that were typically drank in the UK during the 1800s and are still popular today.

  • Chinese white, green and oolong teas all come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis.
  • White tea is made from the young leaves of this plant that have been picked and allowed to dehydrate, either in a warm room or directly in the sun.
  • Green tea is picked from the same plant but the leaves have heat applied to them, thereby losing their potential to oxidise.
  • Oolong tea is allowed to partly oxidise during production, resulting in a slightly fuller and more flavoursome cup when compared to white and green tea.

Tea in India...
Once Chinese tea had become popular in Britain, European plant hunters eventually went into China themselves to discover the secrets of tea. After tea had been identified, plants were taken away to be planted in India, in places such as Assam and Darjeeling that are now infamous for their teas. As a result, Indian tea gradually became even more popular than Chinese tea.

By the end of the 19th century, Indian tea exports had risen to nearly 100 tonnes, and India remains the world’s leading producer and consumer of tea, taking 23 percent of the world’s tea production.

Popular Indian Teas

Story of…Tea also looked at some of the most popular black teas from India: Darjeeling and Assam.

  • Both of these teas are given time to fully oxidise during production, making them stronger than white and green teas.
  • Darjeeling tea is typically delicate and flavoursome, while Assam tea is often malty, bold and thick, making it a great tea to drink with milk.
  • The tradition of adding milk to tea may well have come from the practice of adding cream to the early teas that arrived from Assam in the 1850s, which were especially strong and bold.

Mint Tea…

Along with the more popular black, white and green varieties of tea, Story of… also looked at a much-loved variety – mint tea.

  • Mint tea originated in North Africa and is a staple drink in Morocco.
  • The drink is traditionally made with fresh mint and Chinese green tea, served without milk and with plenty of sugar.
  • Mint tea is usually mild and very sweet, although variations can be stronger, more bitter and prepared with less sugar.