Week of October 2, 2022

Facts That Are Your Cup of Tea


The origin story and Chinese name for tea are related. According to legend, 5,000 years ago Emperor Shen Nung was boiling water when a nearby wild tree leaf blew into it. Intrigued by the scent, he drank, and reported that it warmed every part of his body, as if the tea were investigating his insides. Hence he gave tea the name “ch’a”, which meant to check or investigate.


“Not for all the tea in China,” meaning not for any price, was a term first seen in the early 20th century term which recognized that China produced enormous quantities of tea, a fact still true today with the country leading global production by a large margin.


While China, with its billion-plus population, also consumes the most total tea, the biggest average per-person tea drinking nation is easily Turkey, consuming nearly 7 lbs. / person / year, far more than even tea-loving England.


A wonderful tea-related term largely unknown to Americans (at least this one), is “More tea, Vicar?” This is used in the UK as a humorous distraction after passing gas or belching.


“Herbal tea” is not made from tea leaves, but instead fruit, flowers, nuts and/or seeds, so is really a different beverage properly called tisane. Like tea, this drink has ancient origins.


Tea leaf reading, also known as “tasseography.” among other names, was the popular art of reading fortunes from the pattern of loose tea leaves remaining in one’s cup after drinking. The decline of the art began in 1903 with the rise of the teabag, since this contained the leaves that were otherwise left on the bottom for reading.


Despite coffee’s popularity in the Americas, three cups of tea are consumed for every one cup of coffee worldwide.