‘Magical elixir’ tea is world's best drink

In-tea-national fame: Paraguay drinks the most tea; the average citizen has 12.22kg per year.

Can anything beat a good cuppa? Tea is the second-most drunk beverage after water. Now historians have found a 17th-century shopping list containing Britain’s first reference to the drink.

Until recently, historians believed that one of the first mentions of Britain’s favourite drink - tea - was made in the country on September 25th 1660. “I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink),” wrote Samuel Pepys in his diary. He did not say what he thought of it.

Now a note has been found in Yorkshire ordering a bottle of tea from an apothecary. It is dated December 8th 1644, more than a decade before tea was thought to have arrived in Britain.

“It’s really intriguing,” said the woman, a museum curator, who found it.

Of course, tea’s full history stretches back much further. In fact, it is the stuff of legend. The mythical Chinese Emperor Shennong discovered tea accidentally when a leaf drifted into a pot of boiling water almost 5,000 years ago.

Now, tea is drunk across the globe. In terms of popularity, it is second only to water. Many cultures have developed their own rituals, traditions, and unique ways of preparing it.

Tea is also good for you. Just last week, a study claimed that a cup of tea instantly boosts creativity. In 2015 an Australian study found that tea drinkers tend to live longer than non-tea drinkers.

Surely we must all agree that it is the best drink ever?

Brew-tea-ful

Of course, say tea fans. Tea has a colourful history; a handful of health benefits; and unlike coffee, it releases its caffeine slowly throughout the day, therefore making you less anxious. As the Japanese author Okakura Kakuzō put it, “Tea ... is a religion of the art of life.” Now put the kettle on.

Not so fast, warn others. Forget boring tea, or bitter coffee. They pale in comparison to one of capitalism’s sweetest success stories: Coca Cola. It may not be very healthy, but it has successfully marketed itself as a symbol of freedom, inclusivity, and progress. And it tastes great.

You Decide

  1. What is the best way to drink tea?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you have been put in charge of a global campaign to promote drinking tea. Design a slogan and advertisement which extols one or some of the virtues mentioned in this article.

Some People Say...

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”

Lin Yutang

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There are four main types of tea, all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea are all harvested from the leaves. Anything else (such as herbal teas) is technically an infusion.
What do we not know?
Exactly when tea arrived in Britain. Before now, the earliest mention of the drink being sold is at a London coffeehouse in 1657.

Word Watch

Apothecary
A historic medical professional.
Shennong
A mythical ruler of China, said to have lived around 4,500 years ago. As well as discovering tea, he is also credited with various agricultural inventions, such as the axe, plough and the digging of wells.
Study
The study was conducted by Peking University, and compared the creative outputs of students who had just drunk tea with students who had drunk water.
Live longer
According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women drnking two cups of tea a day tended to live longer.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.