Francis Leggett & Co.
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By Francis Leggett & Co.
The casual reader in many a nook and corner of this extended land
will perhaps ask--"Who are the publishers of this book, and what
is their purpose?" We anticipate any such enquiry, and reply
that Francis H. Leggett & Co. are Importing and Manufacturing
Grocers; that our object in publishing this and other books is to
bring ourselves and our goods into closer relations with
consumers at a distance from New York; and incidentally, to
provide readers with interesting information respecting the food
which they eat and drink.
In our search for material to aid in the preparation of this
book, we were greatly indebted to Mr. F. N. Barrett, editor of
THE AMERICAN GROCER, who generously gave us access to what is
probably the most complete and valuable collection of books upon
Foods to be found on this continent.
We wish to also to acknowledge the kind response of Messrs. Gow,
Wilson and Stanton, of London, to our requests for statistics of
the World's Tea Trade, and particularly for information
respecting the Teas of Ceylon and India. If our limitations of
space had permitted, we should have materially increased the
interest of our little book by additional matter derived from the
last named firm.
(Omitted) Our colored Frontispiece is a faithful representation
of a Chinese tea plant, showing the flower and the seeds.
"Pray thee, let it serve for table-talk."--Merchant of Venice.
"A cup of tea!" Is there a phrase in our language more
eloquently significant of physical and mental refreshment, more
expressive of remission of toil and restful relaxation, or so
rich in associations with the comforts and serenity of home life,
and also with unpretentious, informal, social intercourse?
If rank in the scale of importance of any material thing is to be
determined by its extensive and continued influence for good, to
tea must be conceded a very elevated position among those
agencies which have contributed to man's happiness and well-
Most remarkable changes have occurred in the production of tea
during the past century. About sixty years ago all the tea
consumed on the globe was grown in China and Japan. Our knowledge
of the growth and manufacture of tea was then of an uncertain and
confused character, and no European had ever taken an active part
in the production of a pound of tea. To-day, about one-half of
the tea consumed in the world is grown and manufactured upon
English territory, on plantations owned and superintended by
Englishmen, who have thoroughly mastered every detail of the art,
while nearly all the tea drank in Great Britain is English grown.
Twenty years ago, the suggestion that tea might yet be grown upon
a commercial scale in the United States was received with
derision by the Press and its readers; but one tea estate in
South Carolina has during the past year grown, manufactured, and
sold at a profit, several thousand of the tea of good quality,
which brought a price equal to that of foreign fine teas.
A natural taste for hot liquid foods and drinks is common to all
races of men, and they may be traced in the soups of meat and
fish, and in their decoctions or infusions of vegetable leaves,
seeds, barks, etc.
Hot "teas" were in habitual use as beverages among civilized
nations long before they ever heard of Chinese tea, of coffee, or
of cocoa. The English people, for instance, freely indulged in
infusions of Sage leaves, of leaves of the Wild Marjoram, the
Sloe, or blackthorn, the currant, the Speedwell, and of Sassafras
bark. In America, Sassafras leaves and bark were used for teas by
the early colonists, as were the leaves of Gaultheria
(Wintergreen), the Ledums (Labrador tea), Monarda (Horsemint,
Bee-balm, or Oswego tea), Ceanothus (New Jersey tea or red-root),
etc. Charles Lamb, in his essay upon Chimney Sweeps, mentions the
public house of Mr. Reed, on Fleet street in London, as a place
where Sassafras tea (and Salop) were still served daily to
customers in his time, about 1823. Mate, Yerba, or Paraguay tea
has been a national beverage for millions of people in the
central portions of South America for several centuries.
With the exception of Mate, not one of the above named
substitutes for Chinese tea contains the peculiar nerve
stimulating and nerve refreshing constituent upon which depends
the physiological value of Black or Green tea, the Theine: nor do
they possess the characteristic flavoring principle or essential
oil which distinguishes commercial teas from all other known
plant products. The Ledums are indeed accredited by Professor
James F. Johnson (Chemistry of Common Life) with stimulating and
narcotic properties, but the same may be said of tobacco.
A comforting, stimulating and healthful beverage, which has been
in habitual use by the most extensive nation of the globe for
more than a thousand years, and which has at length become a
necessity as well as a luxury for seven hundred millions of
people, or of a majority of the inhabitants of the earth, is
certainly worthy of more than the passing thought which
accompanies its daily use in the form of "cup of tea."
Douglass Jerriold, writing of tea, some 50 years ago, said:--
"Of the social influence of Tea upon the masses of the people in
this country, it is not very easy to say too much. It has
civilized brutish and turbulent homes, saved the drunkard from
his doom, and to many a mother, who else have indeed been most
wretched and forlorn, it has given cheerful, peaceful thoughts
that have sustained her. Its work among us in England and
elsewhere, aye, throughout the civilized world, has been
humanizing and good. Its effect upon us all has been socially
healthful; peaceful, gentle and hearty."
There is no article of common use about which so little is
popularly known, or of which "we know so many things which are
not so." The very names of the various kinds of tea which we use
are mysteries of meaning to those who have not made special
researches into the subject. And the cause of the distinctions in
the qualities of different teas, as of black and green, are still
matters of uncertainty and controversy among many dealers of
teas, as well as among unscientific travelers and some untraveled
scientists. The enthusiastic collector of writings upon tea by
self qualified experts, will find himself involved in a maze of
contradictory assertions and opinions from which there is no
escape save by the exercise of judicial powers, by an independent
exercise of his own judgment, in separating truth from error. And
unless he is a proficient in physiology and chemistry, he will
find himself baffled at last, because several important
scientific questions concerning Tea are still unsolved by
Then there are otherwise sane persons who profess to discover in
the habitual use of tea by whole nations a cause of national
deterioration. We record the fact as one of the curiosities of
mental perversity in an age of general intelligence.
How the inestimable qualities which lie latent in the green leaf
of the Tea tree or bush were discovered and developed by the
Chinese is one of those mysteries which we shall never solve. For
it is a remarkable fact that neither the green leaf of the tea
plant, nor the tea leaf dried without mans agency, conveys to
human senses any hint of the agreeable or valuable qualities for
which tea is esteemed, and which have been developed by the art
of man. A leaf of any one of the mints, or of the sassafras tree,
or of the wintergreen vine, after being bruised in the hand and
applied to the nose or the mouth, makes instant impression upon
the senses of taste and small, and at once informs us of its
distinctive qualities. Not so with the tea leaf; a hundred
valueless plants impress those senses more vividly than the leaf
which is worth them all. Infuse the green leaf of the Tea plant
and the prized properties of "Tea" are still wanting, but in
their stead, positively deleterious qualities are said to appear
in the infusion. Commercial Tea must be regarded as an artificial
production. A certain degree of artificial heat, of manipulation,
and induced chemical changes, are the agents which develop the
flavor and aroma of the tea leaf. And the nature of man's
treatment and manipulation determines in large measure not only
the desired flavor, but the distinguishing character of the tea,
its rank as a green, a black, or an "English Breakfast Tea,"
all three of which may be evolved by skilful manipulation from
the same tea bush, at the same time.
Much has been said and written in contention upon this latter
assertion, and books may be quoted upon either side of the
question, but we make the statement without qualification and
upon unquestionable authority.
As Chinese teas became known to the inhabitants of other parts of
Asia, and to Europeans, curiosity and commercial interests
impelled other races to seek information concerning the origin
and treatment of different Chinese teas. The prices obtained by
the Chinese from foreigners for teas two and three centuries ago
were most exorbitant, and paid the Chinese Government and Chinese
merchants an enormous profit. Quite naturally that sagacious
nation saw the danger of letting the truth concerning the origin,
manufacture and cost of their most precious commodity pass into
the possession of other people, and they strove to prevent
foreigners from penetrating to their inland tea gardens, while
they plied inquisitive enquirers with fairy tales which were
eagerly swallowed. They said that every different kind of tea was
the product of a different species of plant, which bore a
different name, and that the manufacture was a most intricate
process depending upon secrets confined to a very few; that the
leaves could safely be plucked only at certain phases of the
moon, and at certain hours of the day, and that some delicate
varieties of tea leaves were plucked only by young maidens, etc.
They even allowed Europeans to believe that green tea was colored
by salts of copper, on copper plates, having doubtless learned
that their were European merchants who would not be deterred from
vending poisonous foods provided a good fat profit attended the
transaction. In short, they practiced some of the dissimulation
and tricks of trade to which many merchants were addicted.
To particularize further, and yet generalize at the same time, we
will say here that the Tea plant or tree is greatly modified in
hardiness, in height, in size of leaf, and in the quality of the
leaf for a beverage, by soil, by moisture, tillage, and climate.
Some soils and some climates develop a tea plant decidedly more
suitable for a green tea than for a black tea, and vice-versa.
The Formosa Oolong, with its natural flowery fragrance is a
product of a peculiar soil, said to be a clay topped with rich
humus. Analysis would probably disclose peculiarities in that
soil not yet found in other tea districts. In removal to other
soils and other localities, the Formosa Tea plant loses its most
precious characteristic, its sweet flowery aroma and taste. The
total product of this tea is but 18,000,000 lbs. per annum, an
insignificant quantity compared with the aggregate crops of
Chinese or of Indian tea gardens. If the exceptional
characteristics of Formosa Oolong accompanied the plant when
removed to other localities, its cultivation would quickly become
What is known or believed concerning the remote history of Tea
and of its dissemination among other nations than the Chinese and
Japanese, has been told so often that its recapitulation becomes
tedious to those who are familiar with the story. But this book
is intended for the general reader, and for the purpose of
collecting and welding together disconnected and floating facts
and scraps of tea literature gathered from many sources.
Until a quite recent period botanists believed that the tea plant
was a native of China, and that its growth was confined to China
and Japan. But it is now definitely known that the tea plant is a
native of India, where the wild plant attains a size and
perfection which concealed its true character from botanical
experts, as well as from ordinary observers, for many years after
it had become familiar to them as a native of Indian forests.
How early in the history of the Chinese that people discovered
and developed the inestimable qualities of the tea plant is not
known. That Chinese scholar, S. Wells Williams, in his Middle
Kingdom places the date about 350 A.D. But somewhere between 500
A.D. and 700 A.D. Tea had become a favorite beverage in Chinese
families. Some of the written records of that ancient people push
the epoch of tea-drinking back as far as 2700 B.C., appealing to
ambiguous utterances of Confucius for corroboration. Tea in China
had obtained sufficient importance in political economy in 783 or
793 A.D. to become an object of taxation by the Chinese
Gibbon, in his great work, tells us that as early as the sixth
century, caravans conveyed the silks and spices and sandal wood
of China by land from the Chinese Sea westward to Roman markets
on the Mediterranean, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles. But we
hear no mention of the introduction of tea into Europe or western
Asia until a thousand years later.
According to Mr. John McEwan (International Geog. Congress,
Berlin, 1899,) tea soon found its way from China into Japan and
Formosa, but was not cultivated in Japan on a commercial scale
until the 12th century.
John Sumner, in a Treatise on Tea (Birmingham, 1863), states that
the Portuguese claim to have first introduced tea into Europe,
about 1557. Disraeli (Curiosities of Literature) offers evidence
that tea was unknown in Russian Court circles as late as 1639.
But Russia and Persia seem to have naturalized tea as a beverage
about the same time that it became known in England. Little is
said about Persian tea-drinking in modern writing upon tea, but
the testimony of many travelers bears witness to the national
love of tea by Persians.
The Encyclopedia Britannica concedes to the Dutch, the honor of
being the first European tea-drinkers, and states that early
English supplies of tea were obtained from Dutch sources. It is
related by Dr. Thomas Short, (A Dissertation on Tea, London,
1730), that on the second voyage of a ship of the Dutch East
India Co. to China, the Dutch offered to trade Sage, as a very
precious herb, then unknown to the Chinese, at the rate of three
pounds of tea for one pound of Sage. The new demand for sage at
one time exhausted the supply, but after a while the Orientals
had a surfeit of sage-tea, and concluded that Chinese tea was
quite good enough for Chinamen. If the European traders had known
the virtue of sage-tea for stimulating the growth of human hair,
and had given the Orientals the cue, sage leaves might have
retained their high value with the Chinese until now.
In these days, it may be remarked, the Dutch are said to drink as
much tea per capita as the Russians, who are as fond of tea as
While both the English and Dutch East India Companies exhibited
in England small samples of tea as curiosities of barbarian
customs very early in the 17th century, tea did not begin to be
used as a beverage in England even by the Royalty until after
In a number of the weekly Mercurius Politicus (a predecessor of
the present London Gazette), dated September 30, 1658, occurs
"That excellent and by all pysitians approved China drink called
by the Chineans Tcha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee, is sold at
the Sultaness Head, a Cophee-house in Sweetings Rents, by the
Royal Exchange, London."
This appears to be the earliest recorded and authentic evidence
of the use of tea in England.
Macaulay, in a note in his History of England, says that tea
became a fashionable drink among Parisians, and went out of
fashion, before it was known in London, and refers to the
published correspondence of the French physician, Dr. Guy Patin,
with Dr. Charles Spon, under dates of March 10 and 22, 1648, for
proof of the fact. Macaulay also says that Cardinal Mazarin was a
great tea-drinker, and Chancellor Seguier, likewise.
Frankest and shrewdest among men of brains who have given to the
world their inmost thoughts, old Samuel Pepys, pauses in the
midst of conferences with Kings and Princes to record that "I
did send for a cup of tea (a China Drink) of which I had never
drank before." This in September 1660. Seven years later he
writes in that wonderful Diary--"Home, and there find my wife
drinking of tee, a drink which Mr. Pelling, the Potticary, tells
her is good for her cold and defluxions." Then goes on to rejoice
over the repulse of the Dutch in an attempt upon London.
To coffee and tea are due the establishment of that unique
English institution, the London Coffee House. Inns, where quests
were expected to lodge as well as eat; restaurants, in which men
tarried only for a single meal; and Beer and Spirit shops,
abounded in London; but the Coffee House ushered in a new era,
and actually changed the daily habits of a large majority of
representative London citizens. While it is asserted Mr. Jacobs
established the first Coffee House in England, at Oxford, it was
a native of Smyrna by the name of Pasqua Rosee who first opened a
Coffee House in London, in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, in
1652. Hot coffee only was here dispensed, during the day and
Coffee Houses soon increased in number and extended over the
business districts of London. Business men quickly recognized the
value of a beverage which cleared the mental vision while
refreshing and stimulating both mind and body, and repaired to
the Coffee House at all hours for the joint purpose of drinking
coffee and transacting business with their fellows. Coffee-Houses
became the Commercial Exchanges of London, and they were also the
precursors of modern English Clubs. Men of affairs, Statesmen,
literary celebrities, artists, naval and military officers, all
repaired to the Coffee Houses to meet each other, to hear and
discuss the serious topics and the light gossip of the day.
The introduction of tea gave the coffee-houses another strong
hold upon their customers, and chocolate as a beverage soon
followed. Among the early dispensors of these harmless hot drinks
was Thomas Garway, or as written later, Garraway, whose four-
story brick coffee-house on Exchange Alley, first opened in 1659,
had been a rallying point for Londoners for 216 years, when it
was pulled down to make room for other structures, in 1873.
Garraway left a monument that has outlasted his coffee-house, in
the form of a famous tea circular.
Garway's Famous Circular is so often quoted and mutilated that we
print it here in full; it has no date, but it is supposed to have
been printed in 1660:
AN EXACT DESCRIPTION OF THE GROWTH, QUALITY AND VIRTUES
OF THE TEA LEAF, by Thomas Garway, in Exchange Alley,
near the Royal Exchange, in London, Tobacconist, and
Seller and Retailer of Tea and Coffee.
"Tea is generally brought from China, and groweth there
upon little shrubs and bushes, the branches whereof are
well garnished with white flowers, that are yellow
within, of the bigness and fashion of sweet-brier, but
in smell unlike, bearing thin green leaves, about the
brightness of Scordium, Myrtle or Sumack. This plant has
been reported to grow wild only, but doth not: for they
plant it in their gardens about four foot distance and
it groweth about four foot high, and of the seeds they
maintain and increase their stock. Of all places in
China this plant groweth in greatest plenty in the
province of Xemsi, latitude 36 degrees bordering up on
the west of the province of Namking, near the city of
Lucheu, the Island Ladrones, and Japan, and is called '
ChA.' Of this famous leaf there are divers sorts (though
all one shape), some much better than others, the upper
leaves excelling the others in fineness, a property
almost in all plants; which leaves they gather every
day, and drying them in the shade or in iron pans, over
a gentle fire, till the humidity be exhausted, then put
close up in leaden pots, preserve them for their drink,
TEA, which is used at meals, and upon all visits and
entertainments in private families, and in the palaces
of grandees; and it is averred by a padre of Macao,
native of Japan, that the best tea ought to be gathered
but by virgins who are destined for this work, and such,
'quae non dum manstrua patiuntur; gemmae quae nascuntur
in summitate arbuscula servantur Imperatori,
acpraecipuis e jus dynastus: quae autem infra nasccuntur
adlatera, populo conceduntur.'
The said leaf is of such known virtues, that those very
nations so famous for antiquity, knowledge and wisdom,
do frequently sell it among themselves for twice its
weight in silver; and the high estimation of the drink
made therewith hath occasioned an enquiry into the
nature threrof amongst the most intelligent persons of
all nations that have travelled in those parts, who,
after exact trial and experience by all ways imaginable,
have commended it to the use of their several countries,
and for its virtues and operations, particularly as
The quality is moderately hot, proper for winter and
summer. The drink is declared to be most wholesome,
preserving in perfect health until extreme old age. The
particular virtues are these;
It maketh the body active and lusty.
It helpeth the headache, giddiness and heaviness
It removeth the obstructions of the spleen.
It is very good against the stone and gravel, cleaning
the kidneys and ureters, being drank with virgin's
honey, instead of sugar.
It taketh away the difficulty of breathing, opening
It is good against tipitude, distillations, and cleareth
It removeth lassitude, and cleanseth and purifieth acrid
humours, and a hot liver.
It is good against crudities, strengthening the weakness
of the ventricle, or stomach, causing good appetite and
digestion, and particularly for men of corpulent body,
and such as are great eaters of flesh.
It vanquisheth heavy dreams, easeth the frame, and
strengtheneth the memory.
It overcometh superfluous sleep, and prevents sleepiness
in general; a draught of the infusion being taken, so
that without trouble, whole nights may be spent in
study, without hurt to the body, in that it moderately
healeth and bindeth the mouth of the stomach.
It prevents and cures agues, surfets, and fevers, by
infusing a fit quantity of the leaf, thereby provoking a
most gentle vomit and breathing of the pores, and hath
been given with wonderful success.
It (being prepaired and drank with milk and water)
strengthenth the inward parts, and prevents consumption;
and powerfully assuageth the pains of the bowels, or
griping of the guts, and looseness.
It is good for colds, dropsys, and scurvys, if properly
infused, purging the body by sweat and urine, and
It driveth away all pains of the collick proceeding from
wind, and purgeth safely the gall.
And that the virtues and excellences of this leaf and
drink are many and great is evident and manifest by the
high esteem and use of it (especially of late years)
among the physicians and knowing men of France, Italy,
Holland and in England it hath been sold in the leaf for
six pounds (sterling) and sometimes for ten pounds the
pound weight; and in respect of its former scarceness
and dearness it hath been only used as a regalia in high
treatments and entertainments, and presents made thereof
to princes and grandees till the year 1657. The said
Thomas Gaeway did purchase a quantity thereof, and first
publicly sold the said tea in leaf and drink, made
according to the directions of the most knowing
merchants and travelers in those eastern countries; and
upon knowledge and experience of the said Garway's
continued care and industry in obtaining the best tea,
and making drink thereof, very many noblemen, physicians
and merchants, and gentlemen of quality, have ever since
sent to him for the said leaf, and daily resort to his
house in Exchange Alley aforesaid, to drink the tea
And that ignorance nor envy may have no ground or power
to report or suggest that which is here asserted, of the
virtues and excellencies of this precious leaf and
drink, hath more design than truth, for the
justification of himself, and the satisfaction of
others, he hath here enumerated several authors, who in
their learned works have expressly written and asserted
the same and much more in honour of this noble leaf and
drink, viz.--Bontius, Riccius, Jarricus, Almeyda.
Horstius, Alvarez Semeda, Martinivus in his China Atlas,
and Alexander de Rhodes in his Voyage and Missions, in a
large discourse of the ordering of this leaf, and the
many virtues of the drink, printed in Paris, 1653, part
And to the end that all persons of eminency and quality,
gentlemen and others, who have occasion for tea in leaf,
may be supplied, these are to give notice that the said
Thomas hath tea to sell from sixteen to fifty shillings
in the pound.
And whereas several persons using coffee have been
accustomed to buy the powder thereof by the pound, or in
lesser or greater quantities, which if kept for two days
loseth much of its first goodness, and forasmuch as the
berries after drying, may be kept, if need require, some
months, therefore all persons living remote from London,
and have occasion for the said powder, are advised to
buy the said coffee-berries ready dried, which being in
a mortar beaten, or in a mill ground to powder, as they
use it, will so often be brisk, fresh, and fragrant, and
in its full vigour and strength, as if new prepaired, to
the great satisfaction of the drinkers thereof, as hath
been experienced by many of the best sort, the said
Thomas Garway hath always ready dried, to be sold at
All such as will have coffee in powder, or the berries
undried, or chocolata, may, by the said Thomas Garway,
besupplide to their content; with such further
instructions and perfect directions how to use tea,
coffee, and chocolata, as is or may be needful, and so
as to be efficatious and operative, according to their
Garway's Circular embodies the redundancy of a modern legal
document with the pretentious ignorance and hifaluting language
of the so-called medical treatises of his day. There are many
ear-marks of both lawyer and doctor in this curious composition,
and we can imagine the ostentatious pride with which Garway
circulated the learned sense and nonsense among patrons no wiser
HISTORICAL -- Continued.
The same year that Pepys so intrepidly drank his first cup of tea
in London, a tax was imposed by the English Parliament of 8 pence
(16 cents) upon every gallon of tea made and sold as a beverage
in England. A like tax was levied on liquid chocolate and sherbet
as articles of sale. Officers visited the Coffee Houses daily to
measure the quantities and secure the revenue.
In 1710 the best Bohea tea sold in London for 30 shillings or
$7.00 a pound, inclusive of a government tax of $1.25 on each
pound, and the consumption in England was then estimated at
140,000 lbs. per annum.
There being no authentic record or official computation of the
population of Great Britain or of England previous to 1801, no
comparison can be made of English tea consumption per capta with
those early days.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, when taking tea with David Garrick, the
tragedian, and Peg Woffington, about the year 1735, was amused at
Garrick's audible complaints that the fascinating actress used
too much of his costly tea at a drawing. In 1745 the British
yearly consumption of tea was but 730,000 lbs. The Scotch Judge,
Duncan Forbes, in his published letters of that period, wrote
that the use of tea had become so excessive, that . . .
"the meanest families, even of laboring people, particularly in
boroughs, make their morning's meal of it, and thereby disuse the
ale which heretofore was their accustomed drink; and the same
drug supplies all the laboring women with their afternoon's
entertainment, to the exclusion of the twopenny," (i.e., dram of
beer or spirits).
So that we may trace our ultra-fashionable 5 o'clock tea of 1900
back to its plebian origin among plain working people, to the
working woman, to the washerwoman of 150 years ago. Let the
revived custom not lose caste by this admission, but rather gain
in wholesome popular estimation by evidence of a common tie
between the humblest and the most fortunate of mankind.
A president of an English Court of Sessions also complained that
tea was driving out beer, and indirectly injuring the farmer, in
whose cottage, he omitted to say, the tea canister had begun to
occupy a place of honor, despite the lessened demand for his
In 1745, the British tea tax was reduced to 1 shilling (25 cents)
per pound, together with 25 per cent of the gross price. The
selling price immediately dropped, and British consumption in
1846 rose to 2,358,589 lbs. The use of tea has often been checked
by excessive duties or excise tax. From 1784 to 1787 British
consumption rose from five million pounds to seventeen millions
of pounds, consequent upon a reduction of duties. Twenty years
after, under the imposition of exorbitant duties, British
consumption was only nineteen and one quarter millions of pounds.
It was in those early years of the nineteenth century that tea
firmly and permanently established itself in the humbler
households of England. Its economical prominence elicited from
William Cobbett, the economist and pugnacious editor, a
declaration that from eleven to twelve pounds of tea constituted
the average annual indulgence of a cottager's family, at a cost
of eight shilling for black and 12 shillings for green tea ($2 to
$3) per pound, which was doubtless an over-estimate. And we must
bear in mind that tea in those days was sold by the ounce,
measured into the teapot by the grain, and was steeped until
every vestige of flavor, savory or bitter, had been extracted
from the precious leaves.
Although in 1807 the governing powers of Great Britain forced
excise duties on teas up to ninety per cent. of their cost, tea
had been proved to be so beneficial and essential to happiness by
British workers that Charles Dickens, in reviewing the situation,
presents it as follows:--"And yet the washerwomen looked to her
afternoon 'dish of tea' as something that might make her
comfortable after her twelve hours of labor, and balancing her
saucer on a tripod of three fingers, breathed a joy beyond
utterance as she cooled the draught. The factory workman then
looked forward to the singing of the kettle, as some compensation
for the din of the spindle. Tea had found its way even to the
hearth of the agricultural laborer, and he would have his ounce
of tea as well as the best of his neighbors." But the heavy taxed
worker was often forced to choose between a tea adulterated with
English plants of other kinds, or the contraband but genuine
commodity offered by enterprising smugglers, who were the despair
of the Crown officers of the revenue, and the recognized friends
of the over-taxed poor.
It must not be inferred that tea as a beverage became naturalized
in England without meeting with the unreasoning opposition that
usually greets the advent of a stranger. The press and pamphlets
of the day contained frequent attacks upon tea, and the violence
of denunciation usually bore a fair proportion to the ignorance
of the writer; ignorance of physiology, ignorance of medicine,
ignorance of the pamphlets itself. The unfavorable opinions and
portentous predictions of some of the physicians of the period
are among the curiosities of medical records. Tea, like all other
things, may be abused, and a good friend be converted into an
enemy. But cold water has killed many persons, and plain bread
sometimes proves indigestible.
The plant whose leaves yield the tea of commerce is variously
termed Camellia Theifera; Thea Sinensis; or Chinensis; Thea
Assamica; Thea Bohea and Thea Viridis, according to its origin,
variety of the writer's fancy. While the real character of the
East Indian or Assam tea plant has been recognized by botanical
science less than seventy years, and the Chinese tea plant has
probably been utilized for fifteen hundred years, it will be more
convenient to begin our remarks with the later discovery.
Writers at the present time continue to describe the tea plant as
a "shrub" of about six feet in height. The indigenous tea plant
of India, which is believed to be the parent stock of Chinese tea
plants, is a tree, growing to a height of 20 to 35 feet with a
trunk 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and bearing leaves of a lively
green, 8 to 9 inches in length and 4 inches in breadth. The
leaves are much more delicate in texture than those of Chinese
plants, which hardly reach 4 inches in length, and the former
contain a larger percentage of the invaluable alkaloid, Theine.
Dr. Chas. U. Sheppard, in a historical sketch of Tea Culture in
South Carolina, tells us that a tea tree which was planted
planted by Michaux, about 15 miles from Charleston, and about the
year 1800, had attained a height of say 15 feet when he saw it a
few years ago.
The native Indian tree is, however, not now utilized upon a
commercial scale for tea purposes. The reason for neglecting the
native plant we do not find definitely stated, but infer from
several sources of information that it is owing to the extreme
delicacy of constitution of the Assam plant, its demands for
excessive moisture and high temperature, and its preference for
partial shade, evidenced by its growing in the jungle and under
other trees. Possibly a difficulty in restraining its luxuriant
habit of growth is also involved. However this may be, the
commercial tea of Ceylon and India is a product of a cultivated
cross between the tender native Indian and the hardier Chinese
tea plants, in which the Assam strain bears the proportion of one
half to two thirds. A more robust plant under cultivation is the
result, and one which preserves the best qualities of both
varieties. This cross is usually termed a hybrid.
It seems probable that the removal of the tropical Indian plant
to China, more than a thousand years ago, with its much colder
and dryer climate and its poorer soil--for the best soil of
China has been set apart for rice and other indespensable foods--
together with continual removal of its leaves, have in time
evolved a tea plant so different from its parent stock, that
scientists failed for many years to recognize the Indian
original. Several times in the early years of this century
zealous travellers and residents of India sent to England
specimens of the native Indian tea plant for scientific
examination. But conservative government officials had already
established a botanical or technical standard for the tea plant
to which every aspirant for relationship must conform; no one of
them seems to have thought of the simple test of the teapot.
Finally some rash investigator, not having the fear of scientific
anathema before his eyes, crudely cured a few leaves, and
actually put them in hot water. Tea merchants immediately
recognized the plant and the magic circle of the Circumlocution
Office was smashed into bits.
Meanwhile, Chinese tea plants and Chinese experts and laborers
had been imported into India and tea gardens were well under way
before the native tea plant had been recognized. But in the
ultra-tropical climate of India, Chinese tea plants languished,
and success was finally obtained only by abandoning the stunted
Chinese varieties, and getting back nearer to the indigenous Thea
Assimica; and by the introduction of modern agricultural methods
under British management, and even by the use of machinery for
rolling tea and for firing tea by currents of hot air. Indian
laborers now supersede the Chinese workmen, who were not found
sufficiently pliable in adapting themselves to European ideas.
To preserve the historical record of tea so far as possible, we
will state that while the indigenous Indian tea plant had been
recognized somewhere about the year 1820, the first serious and
sustained attempts to grow tea in India were made by Englishmen,
about 1834, using Chinese tea plants and Chinese workmen for the
purpose. English authorities differ upon the exact dates. The
first shipment of English grown tea from India to London was made
in 1838; it amounted to but 60 chests, which brought at auction
in London $2.25 a pound. The second shipment in 1839 of ninety
five chests brought $2.00 a pound. In 1899 the Indian tea crop
amounted to about 175,000,000 lbs., and the size of Indian tea
gardens varied from 100 acres or less up to 4,000 acres. In 1897
the total acreage of tea plantations in India was stated by Mr.
Crole at 509,500 acres, equal to nearly 800 square miles.
Ceylon began to grow tea on a commercial scale as late as 1875,
after her coffee plantations had been ruined by disease. That
year her total acreage was about 1,000 acres, In 1883 Ceylon
exported a million and a half pounds of tea. In 1897 she had
400,000 acres of growing tea, equal to 625 square miles; and the
estimate of Mr. William MacKensie, Tea Commissioner for the
Ceylon Government, of her production for 1900, is 135,000,000
The aggregate exports of tea by India and Ceylon is about
310,000,000 lbs., a complete reversal of conditions of tea trade
within twenty years, and due entirely to British enterprise and
the fine quality of British grown teas.
A liberal estimate for the total exports of Chinese and Japanese
teas for 1899 would be 340,000,000 lbs.; so that it is fair to
say that the world's consumption of tea, outside of China and
Japan, is now equally divided between teas of the latter two
countries and those of English growth.
Characteristics Of The Tea Plant.
Chinese tea plants are usually divided into two classes, and
distinguished a Thea Bohea and Thea Viridis, the former being
most suitable for black teas, and the latter for green teas; and
black and green teas have been indiscriminately made from the
leaves of either.
A tea shrub of Chinese origin now before us, growing among a host
of common American plants, displays no special characteristics
which would attract attention to itself. It resembles an orange
plant. Its developed leaves are smooth on the surface, leathery
in texture, dark green in color, with edges finely serrated from
point almost to stalk. They are without odor, and when chewed in
the mouth, have a mild and not unpleasant astringency, but no
other perceptible flavor. A leaf of any familiar domestic plant,
such as the lilac, the plantain, or the apple, has a stronger
individuality to the sense of taste, than this green leaf of the
How was the hidden mystery of its incalculable value to mankind
revealed? What premonition guided the Chinese discoverer to the
preparatory treatment and delicately graduated firing process
which develops tea's precious flavors? And does not this unsolved
question suggest the possible existence of other plants, growing,
perhaps, at our very doorsteps, possessing rare and unrecognized
In form, tea leaves have been compared by writers to leaves of
the privet, the plum, the ash, the willow, but close observers
know that not only do leaves of the species just mentioned
represent different types, but that important variations in form
occur in leaves of the same species, and in leaves growing on a
single tree or plant. The tea plant is subject to the same
vagaries, and any description by comparison will be misleading.
The reader must be content with the typical forms of tea leaves
shown in our engravings on the following page, for which we are
indebted to the kindness of Mr. Joseph M. Walsh, importer of
teas, at Philadelphia.
All varieties of the tea plant bear a pure white flower,
averaging, say 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and resembling very
closely our single white wild rose blossom.
Its bunch of bright yellow stamens is so bushy and showy in some
varieties that careless travelers have been led to report the
flower as yellow in color, which is never the case.
In some Chinese plants, and in those of India, tea blossoms are
very fragrant, and they have been used for scenting tea leaves in
India, if not in China, as other flowers are used by the Chinese.
In India a perfume has been distilled from tea blossoms; and a
valuable oil is expressed from the very oily seeds. The long tap
root of the tea plant renders it difficult to transplant.
In China, tea is commonly cultivated in small patches or fields,
large tea fields being the exception. The nature of Chinese
inheritance laws and customs which tend to continual subdivision
of land, may be one of the causes of this state of affairs. The
least area of spare ground is frequently utilized by the small
farmer or the cottager for the cultivation of a dozen or more tea
shrubs, from which they procure tea for their own use, or realize
a small sum by sales of the green leaves to tea traders. Many a
rocky hillside or mountain slope, otherwise waste ground, is
terraced so as to detain the rains and meagre soil within its
inwardly inclined banks and trenches, and made to yield a
valuable crop of tea. Indeed, some of the finest flavored Chinese
tea, of fabulous value where they are produced, are grown in
seemingly inaccessible retreats among precipitous mountains.
The plate on the following page is a reproduction of a Chinese
drawing brought from China by Robert Fortune, the Scotch botanist
and traveler, and first published in Mr. Fortune's Two Visits to
the Tea Countries of China, London, 1853, now out of print. The
picture represents with Chinese fidelity a scene on the River of
Nine Windings, in the Bohea Hills, and in the heart of a black
tea district. Mr. Fortune spent several days at the scene of the
illustration, and writes of the country as follows:
"Our road was a very rough one. It was merely a foot path, and
sometimes narrow steps cut out of the rock. When we had gone
about two miles we came to a solitary temple on the banks of a
small river which here winds amongst the hills. This stream is
called by the Chinese, the river of the Nine Windings, from the
circuitous turnings which it takes amongst the hills of Woo-e-
shan. Here the finest Souchongs and Pekoes are produced, but I
believe that they rarely find their way to Europe, or only in
small quantities. The temple we had now reached was small and
insignificent building. It seemed a sort of half way resting
place for people on the road from Tsin-Tsun to the hills, and
when we arrived, several travelers and coolies were sitting in
the porch, drinking tea. The temple belonged to the Taouists, and
was inhabited by an old priest and his wife. . . . The old
priest received us with great politeness, and according to custom
gave me a piece of tobacco and set a cup of tea before me. Sing-
Hoo now asked whether he had a spare room in his house, and
whether he would allow us to remain with him for a day or two. He
seemed very glad of the chance to make a little money, and led us
up stairs to a room. The house and temple, like some which I
already described, were built against a perpendicular rock which
formed an excellent and substantial back wall to the building.
The top of the rock overhung the little building, and the water
from it continually dripping on the roof of the house gave the
impression that it was raining.
"The stream of the Nine Windings flowed past the front of the
temple. Numerous boats were plying up and down, many of which, I
was told, contained parties of pleasure who had come to see the
strange scenery amongst these hills. The river was very rapid,
and these boats seemed to fly when going with the current, and
were soon lost to view. On all sides the strangest rocks and
hills were observed, having generally a temple and a tea
manufactory near their summit. Sometimes they seemed so steep the
the buildings could only be approached by a ladder; but generally
the road was cut of the rock in steps, and by this means the top
was reached. . . .
Some curious marks were observed on the sides of some of these
perpendicular rocks. At a distance they seemed as if they were
the impress of some gigantic hands. I did not get very near these
marks, but I believe that many of them have been formed by the
water oozing out and trickling down the surface; they did not
seem to be artificial; but a strange appearance is given to rocks
by artificial means. Emperors and other great and rich men have
had stones with large letters carved upon them let into or built
in the face of the rocks. At a distance these have a most curious
appearance. . . .
I now bid adieu to the famous Woo-e-shan, certainly the most
wonderful collection of hills I ever behold."
He says further that some geologist who will visit the scene, may
"give us some idea how these strange hills were formed, and at
what period of the world's existence they assumed the strange
shapes which are now presented to the traveller's wondering
Tea Picking And Yield.
Chinese tea grown among the mountains and hillsides was in Mr.
Fortune's time distinguished as "Hill tea," while both large and
diminutive plantations on the lowlands or the plains were all
called "tea gardens," a term which is now applied by the
English to the extensive plantations of Ceylon and India.
Some of the largest tea plantations in China turned out, say, 500
chests, or 30,000 pounds, of tea per annum, at the same period.
In both China and the East Indies a common custom prevails of
planting tea bushes about four feet apart, each way, and they are
pruned down to a height varying from three to six feet, to bring
the topmost leaves within reach of the picker. In both named
countries, a first crop of tea leaves may be gathered from the
plant at three years from the seed, but a full crop is not
expected until the plant is about six years old. "A Chinese
plantation of tea, seen from a distance," says Mr. Fortune,
"looks like a little shrubbery of evergreens." And when
journeying in the Bohea black tea country, he remarks--"As we
threaded our way amongst the hills I observed tea gathers busily
employed on all the hill sides where the plantations were. They
seemed a contended and happy race; the joke and merry laugh were
going around; and some of them were singing as gaily as the birds
in the old trees about the temples." There is an old Chinese
ballad of some 30 stanzas, which pictures the reflections of a
Chinese maiden who is employed in picking tea in early spring,
from we select a few verses, literally translated.
"Our household dwells amidst ten thousand hills,
Where the tea, north and south of the village, abundantly grows;
From Chinshe to Kuhyu, unceasingly hurried,
Every morning I must early rise to do my task of tea.
"By earliest dawn, I at my toilet, only half dress my hair,
And seizing my basket, pass the door, while yet the mist is thick;
The little maids and graver dames hand in hand winding along,
Ask me, 'which steep of Sunglo do you climb to-day?'
"My splint-basket slung on my arm, my hair adorned with flowers,
I go to the side of the Sunglo hills, and pick the mountain tea.
Amid the pathway going, we sisters one another rally, And
laughing, I point to younder village--'there's our house!'
"This pool has limpid water, and there deep the lotus grows;
Its little leaves are round as coins, and only yet half blown;
Going to the jutting verge, near a clear and shallow spot,
I try my present looks, mark how of late my face appears.
"The rain is passed, the utmost leaflets show their greenish veins;
Pull down a branch, and the fragrant scent is diffused around.
Both high and low, the yellow golden threads are now quite culled;
And my clothes and frock are dyed with odors through and through.
"The sweet and fragrant perfumes like that from the Aglaia;
In goodness and appearance my tea'll be the best in Wuyen,
When all are picked, the new buds by next term will again burst forth,
And this morning, the last third gathered is quite done.
"Each picking is with toilsome labor, but yet I shun it not,
My maiden curls are all askew, my pearly fingers all be numbed;
But I only wish our tea to be of a superfine kind,
To have it equal their 'dragon's pellet,' and his 'sparrow's tongue.'
"For a whole month, where can I catch a single leisure day?
For at earliest dawn I go to pick, and not till dusk return;
Then the deep midnight sees me still before the firing pan--
Will not labor like this my pearly complexion deface?
"But if my face is thin, my mind is firmly fixed
So to fire my golden buds that they shall excel all beside,
But how know I, who'll put them in jewelled cup?
Whose taper fingers will leisurely give them to the maid to draw?"
Men, women and children are in China employed for picking tea,
and three crops are gathered in favorable seasons, with
occasionally a fourth picking. Under the stimulus of East Indian
heat and moisture, the "flushes," or new growth of shoots, buds
and leaves, are renewed as often as once in a week or ten days;
so that during a season of nine months, from a dozen, to a
maximum of thirty pickings are made. The same conditions apply to
the tea plantations of Java. After ten or twelve years the bushes
decline in vigor from the strain of constant loss of young
growth, and are replaced by new plants. Thirty pounds of green
leaves are an average day's work for women and children.
The yield of green leaves or of cured dry tea from a single bush
is necessarily variable with its age, size and condition. In
China, the proportion of manufactured tea to the green leaves is
one to three, or one to three and one-third, while in the East
Indies and Java the allowance is one to four.
Statistics gathered from India tea planters give us the following
figures, for different districts and years:
YIELD OF DRY TEA PER ACRE, PER ANNUM.
Pounds.............. 370 333 330 246 562
YIELD OF DRY TEA PER BUSH, PER ANNUM.
Ounces.............. 1.18 1.46 1.44 1.08 2.50
Mr. Owen A. Gill, of Messrs, Martin Gillett & Co., Baltimore, in
1891, estimated the yield of Indian tea plantations at 400 pounds
per acre per annum, costing at that time in India, ready for
shipment, say, ten cents a pound; to which must be added,
freight, selling charges, etc., of at least four cents a pound.
Half century ago, Mr. Fortune estimated that in China the small
grower realized for a common Congo tea, about four cents a pound,
but that boxing, transportation to the coast, export duty, etc.,
brought the cost in Canton to about ten cents a pound. Fine teas
then paid the grower, say, eight cents a pound, but the English
merchants in Shanghai paid thirty cents for the same teas.
Dr. Charles U. Shepard of the Pinehurst tea plantation at
Summerville, S.C., recently stated that Chinese bushes are said
to produce 2 ounces of dried tea per bush; those of Japan, 1
ounce per bush or less; those of India and Ceylon averaging 3 to
4 ounces, and on high ground, 2 to 3 ounces; while Dr. Shepard
has gathered from his own plantation, from acclimatized Assam
crosses, 3 ounces per bush, and from Chinese plants, 4 to 5
ounces. His Japan plants yielded but 1/2 ounce of tea.
Picking tea on the level lands of India and Ceylon is very light
work, and women and children are almost exclusively employed. Mr.
David Crole, writing in the serious and practical vein of a
scientific expert, is moved to a poetic sense of the scene when
he speaks of the return of Indian tea pickers from their work at
"A long line of women with their gay clothes of various hues,
lit up by the expiring gleams of the setting sum, winding their
way along the garden paths, like some monster snake, with scales
of many colors; their gait perfect, undulating, and undisturbed
by the baskets poised gracefully on their heads; singing some
quaint refrain in the usual minor key, or making the air gay with
their chatter and laughter; which, if far distant, strikes the
ear pleasantly as a faint and indistinct hum."
The tea plant undoubtedly reaches its highest perfection as a
member of the vegetable kingdom, in India and Ceylon, in a
climate of extreme heat and extreme rainfall and moisture, and in
a very rich soil; and the remark is often heard from Indian
planters that "tea and malarious fevers flourish together."
Experience has shown however that the tea plant possesses a
wonderful power of accomodation to adverse conditions. In China
and in the United states, it has been taught to put up with a
comparatively sterile soil, dry mountain air, at heights in China
reaching 6,000 feet above sea level, and occasional temperatures
as low as 12 to 10 degrees Fahr., in the midst of recurrent ice
The story of tea in Japan alone calls for more space than this
entire book could furnish, and there is an ample field for a
treatise upon the cultivation, preparation, and social importance
of tea in that strikingly interesting land. Nearly one half of
the tea consumed in the United states comes from Japan, our
imports of Japan tea being about 44,000 pounds during last year.
Although tea has been grown in that country for more than siz
centuries only about forty years.
Tea in Japan is largely grown upon hill-slopes and in small
plantations or gardens, the latter term being peculiarly
appropriate to their neat, symmetrical and picturesque
appearance. The character of the soil is noticeably connected
with the quality of the tea. From the putting forth of new leaves
in the Spring-time until the advent of its white fragrant
blossoms in the Autumn, the tea plant is an object of admiration
and affection with the susceptible, nature-loving Japanese.
We are indebted to an English gentleman and tea merchant who has
resided in Japan for 30 years, for many interesting facts
connected with our subject.
He tells us that while the principal crop of teas for export is
produced on plantations of comparatively recent establishment,
there are tea gardens in the interior of Japan which have been
cultivated for 500 years; and that tea is still gathered from
bushes which spring from roots which were planted 100 to 300
years ago. These ancient plants yield a tea in limited quantities
which is elaborately and expensively prepared for the nobility
and wealthy Japanese, and commands prices running up as high as
ten dollars a pound. Some of the choice tea which comes to this
country is picked from plantations which have been in existence
for 300 years, and is sold under the names of "challenge,"
"Violet," and "Japonica" teas.
These facts are in striking contrast with the limited life of
Chinese tea plants, as stated by Mr. Fortune.
Japan teas do not fall into either of the three classes into
which Chinese and Indian teas have been divided. They have been
styled green teas by the trade, but that appelation grew out of
their customary color, and their mild odor and taste; while Japan
Black teas are now produced from the same leaf. Japan teas are
favorites with many persons who do not relish the herby taste of
other Black teas, and with whom Chinese Green teas disagree.
The tedious, long-drawn-out details of tea manufacture, of the
repeated, meaningless, tossing back and forth and Chinese
juggling with the abused tea leaves, are but too familiar to
students of the subject: and too disappointing also, when we are
moved to ask--Why all this manipulation? What is the nature of
the chemical changes which take place?
So far as we can ascertain by diligent inquiry and reading, no
competent authority has answered these questions satisfactorily.
We have been deluged with generalities and opinions which
contradict themselves, but when we search for a categorical
answer to a simple question, experts hide under a shower of
meaningless phrases. We, alas, are not an expert, nor a chemist,
but just a simple enquirer in search of knowledge expressed in
plain English. Therefore be patient dear reader with our
endeavors to represent or interpret existing conditions of expert
knowledge of tea manufacture at this time. Peradventure a feeble
ray of light may illuminate the darkness of the subject.
Corrections and additions will be welcomed in our future editions
and credit given to their authors.
Teas may conveniently be divided into the three classes which
have so long been recognized by the American tea trade, namely:
Green teas, the first remove from the green leaf.
Oolongs, delicate Black teas, having properties further developed
than those of Green teas.
Souchongs, and Congous, both of which have been called "English
Breakfast" teas by Americans, because the former teas were the
customary breakfast beverages of the English people before the
advent of Indian teas.
In these latter teas, fermentation and firing are prolonged beyond
the treatment of Oolongs. The smoky flavor sometimes apparent is
owing to careless and extreme firing.
In making Green tea, the object seems to be to expel the watery
juices of the leaf and to cure or dry it with the least delay.
Hence, the leaves are not exposed to the sun, but are first dried
in the air for a short time. They are next exposed to artificial
heat, which renders them flaccid and pliable, and prepares them
for the third operation of rolling, which twists the yielding
leaf as seen in manufactured tea, rolls it up into balls, and
squeezes out a considerable portion of its watery juices. It is a
singular fact that in the Chinese methods, they endeavor to get
rid of the exuding juices, while in the Indian treatment,
according to Mr. crole, the manufacturing expert, effort is made
to preserve the sappy juice, and it is continually taken up again
by the balls of leaves. The balls are now broken apart, and the
scattered leaves are submitted to the final drying process by
fire, which finishes Green tea. In this case, it is plainly the
heating treatment which develops the faint flavor and odor of
Green tea, for no fermentation is allowed to begin, unless indeed
brief and unobserved action takes place within the compressed
In making an Oolong Black tea, which occupies an intermediate
position between Green tea and Black Souchongs and Congous, the
leaves are first exposed to the action of the air for a
considerable time, and in many cases, to the sun also. An
incipient fermentation may take place, although this is denied by
some. There is certainly a chemical change beyond the brief
preliminary drying of Green tea. During this period the leaves
(in China) are stirred and tossed by the hands. The effect, if
not the object, is to expose greater surfaces to the air, and to
increase oxidation. It is during this operation that the leaves
first begin to manifest characteristics of manufactured tea, in
the way of a fragrant tea odor which the green leaf did not
possess. The development of sweet odors in new hay, quite
different from those of green grass, and also the artificial
development of flavor in tobacco leaves, may be recalled in this
connection. This prolonged exposure to the air is termed
"withering," and the leaves become soft and flaccid, as they do
in the first artificial heating for Green tea. In withering, the
leaves lose about one quarter of their weight in moisture. The
leaves must not be bruised before the termination of this
treatment, or injurious chemical changes will begin.
The second operation with Black tea is the same rolling into
balls, twisting and squeezing, as in Green tea. Mr. Crole says
that the sap of the leaf thus liberated from its cells "is
spread all over the surface of the rolled leaf, where it is in a
very favorable position for the oxygen of the atmosphere to act
upon it during the next stage of manufacture, namely,
fermentation." Fermentation, he regards as an oxidation process
For the "fermentation" stage, if that controverted term correctly
designates the process, the rolls are either left undisturbed to
heat, or, as in Indian methods, the rolls are broken up, and the
leaves distributed in drawers, with free access of air. In either
case, a spontaneous heating follows, and chemical action is
indicated by a change of color which reddens and darkens the
leaf, and by the evolution of further pleasant "tea" odors. Some
of the tannin is said to be converted into glucose.
Care must be taken, Mr. Crole says, to arrest fermentation at the
proper stage by the first "firing," and this firing expels about
half of the remaining moisture of the withered leaves, and
probably develops an additional portion of those volatile oils
which give fragrance and taste to manufactured tea; and which Mr.
Crole designates by the name of "theol." Too high or too long
continued firing drives off these oils with the watery juices.
They are also wasted by exposure of manufactured tea to the
atmosphere. Firing is sometimes divided into two or three stages.
In the above summary we have described all essential treatment of
tea leaves necessary to produce manufactured tea.
To procure the extreme type of Black teas, a Souchong or Congou,
the fermentation or oxidation, and the "cooking" process, is
simply carried further, and with higher roasting, some of the
volatile oils and delicate flavors are expelled, or are changed
into other flavors. Judging by diminished effects upon tea
drinkers, some of the volatile theine is also lost.
Both in China and Japan it is the custom to give large portions
of the tea crop which are intended for export to foreign
countries, only a preliminary drying or curing sufficient to
preserve them temporarily. When they arrive at the shipping ports
they are subjected to additional firing and thorough drying.
Chemistry and Physiological Aspects of Tea.
If the reader desires an example of imperfect and arrested
knowledge in some of the common affairs of life, let him collate
the statements of scientific experts concerning the physiological
effects upon mankind, of tea. He will then admit that "in a
multitude of counsellors there is confusion."
Without pretending to more than the rudiments of chemical or
physiological science, we shall attempt to examine the nature of
tea, and its effects upon the human system; taking as a basis for
our remarks Professor Jas. F. Johnston's Chemistry of Common
Life, from which work more recent writers draw most of their
Chemists find in manufacturing tea leaves three principal
constituents to which all the physiological effects of tea are
attributed. These are, (1) Theine, (2) Essential or Volatile
Oils, (3) Tannin.
Theine is present in the green leaf of tea, and is apparently
unchanged in the manufactured leaf and in the infusion or
beverage. We regard it as the one essential and the most valuable
element of all teas, physiologically considered. Strangely enough
theine is the one important constituent which is entirely
neglected by the tea-tester and the trader. In testing and
grading teas for purchase and sale, their appearance, odor and
taste, their color and body when "drawn," determine their
pecuniary value, without relation to their percentage of theine,
or its effects upon the tester.
Theine has been found in nature in but a few plants, as in tea,
in coffee, (then termed caffein), in Mat'e (Paraguay or Brazilian
tea), and in the Kola nut of Africa. A very similar principle,
having analogous properties, but containing more nitrogen, exists
in cocoa, (theobroma).
Theine, when isolated by heat from the tea leaf or infusions,
condenses in minute white needles or crystals, having no odor and
but a faintly bitter taste. In manufactured tea leaves, theine
constitutes from one to five percent. of their weight. According
to Professor Johnston, three or four grains per day of this
substance may be taken without injury by most persons; or such
quantity as would be contained in half and ounce of Chinese black
tea. Indian (Assam) tea and Ceylon tea, being stronger in theine,
would suffice in lesser quantity.
Theine is soluble in about 100 parts of hat water. It vaporizes
at 185 degrees C. or 365 degrees Fahr., hence it is not driven
off by continued boiling of tea infusion.
W. Dittmar found by experiment that prolonged steeping of tea
leaves up to ten minutes increased the proportion of theine in
the infusion. His results are as follows:
STEEPED 5 MINUTES.
Average of 8 samples Chinese tea:
Theine, per cent infusion--2.58 Tannin--3.06
Average of 6 samples Ceylon tea:
Average 12 samples of Indian tea:
STEEPED 10 MINUTES.
Theine, per cent infusion--2.79--Increase about 10 per cent
Tannin--3.78--Increase about 25 per cent
Average of 6 samples Ceylon tea:
Theine--3.29--Increase about 5 per cent Tannin--7.30--
Increase about 25 per cent
Average 12 samples of Indian tea:
Theine--3.73--Increase about 3 per cent Tannin--8.09--
Increase about 20 per cent
W. M. Green reported that in prolonging the steeping of tea from
10 to 20 minutes, he observed the formation of a tannate of theine,
which diminished the proportion of 1.30 per cent. of theine at
10 minutes to 1.16 per cent. after 20 minutes steeping, a loss of
about 10 percent., unless the latter salt so formed is proved to
yield up its theine constituent in the human stomach.
While theine is credited as the source of the most powerful and
useful properties of tea, and without which no plant would be
recognized as tea, yet some of the stimulating or exhilarating
influences of this plant are attributed to the volatile oils
which contribute so largely to the flavors and odors which
These Essential or Volatile Oils of manufactured tea are said to
reside in the minute cells of the green leaf, but they are
greatly changed by manipulation, for they are not manifest to the
sense of taste or smell when expressed from the green leaf by
bruising, nor does the green leaf yield their aromatic flavors to
an infusion. Professor Johnston says that these precious oils are
artificially developed by manufacture. David Crole declares that
they are developed "to a certain extent during withering, and
also during the first stage of firing," which last process, if
carelessly conducted, "oxidises it (the oil) into resin."
Green tea, they first remove from the green leaf, imparts very
little flavor or scent to its infusion. In some Oolong Black
teas, and in some Ceylon Black teas, these oils are highly
developed and are very fragrant. In the black Souchongs and
Congous they have again been altered by treatment, but are no
less perceptible, and to many, are quite as agreeable. Although
constituting only one-half to one per cent. by weight of the
dried leaf, these oils are all-important to the trademan and to
These volatile oils are strongest in new teas, and are gradually
wasted by exposure to the atmosphere. Robert Fortune and other
travelers in China have stated that the Chinese will not use new
teas, but allow them to pass through a sort of "ripening"
process. Mr. Crole, speaking probably of the Indian teas with
which he was so familiar as a planter and chemist, says that
"tea should always be kept for a year before being drank. If the
infusion of freshly manufactured tea is drank, it causes violent
diarrhea; therefore it should be kept a year before it is
consumed, in order to let it mellow."
There is no doubt that the more impervious the package containing
tea is to the air, the more perfectly the finer qualities of the
tea are preserved. If there is a necessity for ripening or
mellowing by time, air should be rigidly excluded during that
As to the keeping qualities of fine teas, in tight packages, we
know that they are not spoiled or injured by two years storage in
Tannin is the third important element of the tea leaf, and it
varies greatly in percentage in different teas, and increases
with the age of the growing leaf. It is the cause of the rasping,
puckering, astringent effect upon the tongue and interior of the
Tannin in tea has been a great bugbear with the ill-informed, bit
it is not nearly so deleterious as some careless or unscrupulous
writers would have us believe. In the first place there is a very
insignificant quantity of tannin in properly drawn teas, say in
those drawn for not longer than five or eight minutes. The tannin
present in a fine Black tea, steeped at a moderate temperature
for fifteen or twenty minutes will not harm a delicate stomach.
We take quite as much tannin in some fruits, and make no fuss
about it. Secondly, if a strong solution of tannin is taken into
the stomach and there comes in contact with albuminous or
gelatinous foods, it will expend its coagulating power upon such
substances. If there are no such substances present, it is the
expressed opinion of Mr. Crole (in a discussion upon the
chemistry of tea) that the tannin is converted into glucose and
other harmless products by the digestive processes. The wild
declarations that tea tannin "tans" the coating of the stomach
into a leathery condition is without foundation. Even where too
prolonged steeping has greatly increased the usual proportion of
tannin in tea infusion, milk, when added, neutralizes the
coagulating power of the tannin entirely or to such degree as to
render it harmless.
Professor Johnston thinks it quite probable that tannin takes
some part in the exhilarating effect of tea, and in that of the
betel-nut of the East. While the astringent influence of strong
tannin upon the bowels is regarded as unfavorable, hot tea
infusion has with many persons a contrary effect, stimulating the
peristaltic movements and antagonizing constipation.
If tannin is injurious, it should be observed that its proportion
in the leaf of green teas is very much larger than in Black teas.
An analysis by Mulder gave as the percentage of tannin in a Black
tea, 12.85 per cent., and in a green tea as 17.80 per cent. But
another analysis made by Y. Kazai, of the Imperial College of
Agriculture of Japan, made the per centage of tannin (gallo-
tannic acid) in a Green tea 10.64, and in a Black tea from the
same leaf 4.89. In the green leaf from which these teas were
derived he found 12.91 per cent. of tannin. This analysis
indicates also that a portion of the tannin disappears in
manufacturing Green tea, but a still larger, proportion is lost
or changed in the manufacture of Black tea.
Tannic acid taken into the human stomach in large quantity
produces, according to the U.S. Dispensatory, "only a mild
Passing over the phosphoric acid, the gluten, and other
interesting constituents of the tea leaf, we proceed to the
observed effects of tea upon the human system.
Professor Johnston (before quoted) says that tea "exhilarates
without sensibly intoxicating. It excites the brain to increased
activity and produces wakefulness; hence its usefulness to hard
students, to those who have vigils to keep, and to persons who
labor much with the head. It soothes, on the contrary, and stills
the vascular system, (arteries, veins, capillaries, etc.), and
hence its use in inflammatory diseases, and as a cure for
headaches. Green tea, when strong, acts very powerfully on some
constitutions, producing nervous tremblings and other distressing
symptoms, acting as a narcotic, and in inferior animals even
producing paralysis. Its exciting effect upon the nerves makes it
useful in counteracting the effects of fermented liquors, and the
stupor sometimes induced by fever." And again, tea "lessens
waste," and diminishes the quantity of food required; "saves
food; stands to a certain extent in the place of food, while at
the same time it soothes the body and enlivens the mind."
Professor A. H. Church, of Oxon, England, in one of his often
quoted books on Food, says that "the infusion of tea has little
nutritive value, but it increases respiratory action, and excites
the brain to greater activity."
J.C. Hutchinson, M.D., (late President Medical Society of State
of New York), remarks that caffein, which he regards as identical
with theine, "is a gentle stimulant, without any injurious
reaction. It produces a restful feeling after exhausting efforts
of mind or body; it tranquilizes but does not disqualify for
labor, and therefore it is highly esteemed by persons of literary
pursuits. The excessive use of either tea or coffee will cause
Dr. Kane, the Artic Explorer, speaking of the diet of his men
while sojourning in the Artic ice fields, said that his men
preferred coffee in the mornings, but at night, "tea soothed
them after a hard day's labor, and better enabled them to sleep."
Dr. Edward Smith, an English Physiologist, in an address before
the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, remarked that "tea
increased waste in the body, excited every function, and was well
fitted to cases where there was a superfluity of material in the
system;--but is injurious to the under-fed, or where there is
greater waste than supply." Dr. Smith recommended tea as a
preventive of heat-appoplexy, and in cases of suspended
animation, as from partial drowning.
We have selected these expressions of opinion from among a large
number of diverse character, for the purpose of illustrating the
uncertainty of knowledge concerning tea. To recapitulate:--
Professor Johnston finds that tea exhilarates; excites to
activity, produces wakefulness; yet it sooths, and it
tranquilizes the vascular system; it lessens waste and saves
Dr. Smith found tea to increase waste, and to be injurious where
food is deficient; says tea excites every function,--which must
include the vascular system.
Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Kane agree in the main.
What is the meaning of such radical differences of view? We think
they arise from three causes: First, tea affects different
persons very differently; secondly, the subject has not received
that careful study which it merits, and thirdly, there is a
careless confounding of at least three classes of effects, and a
confusion of terms in describing them.
We feel an unaffected diffidence in criticising and endeavoring
to improve upon the expressions of scientific men of honest
purpose, but we may be pardoned for pointing the way to a more
careful analysis of the merits and deficiencies of an article of
diet used by so many millions of people.
We find among the ordinary effects of tea-drinking:
Exhilaration:--an elevation of feeling, a lightness of mood or
spirits; a cheerfulness or even joy, which is compatible with
rest. This effect may be entirely independent of pure stimulus,
or of any disposition to mental or physical activity.
Stimulation:--a quickening or rousing to action of any faculty,
but as usually employed, an urging to action of bodily or mental
Sustaining:--enabling one to continue the expenditure of energy
with less sense of fatigue, at the time, or afterwards.
Refreshing:--relieving or reviving after exertion of any kind;
reanimating, invigorating; contributing to rest after fatigue.
Exciting:--in the sense of stimulation of brain and nervous
system to higher tension, but not necessarily attended by
disposition to labor or useful activity.
Now some tea-drinkers find in the beverage exhilaration only, a
lightness of mood, but they are disposed to rest and to revery,
to simply a passive meditation, or an indulgence of the
Others are stimulated to mental or to physical activity, and are
sustained during such action. Afterwards they are refreshed when
fatigued, by the same beverage.
Others again are nervously excited and cannot rest or sleep; but
are too "nervous," as they express it, to set about any formal
task, especially of a mental character.
We have known tea-drinkers, too, who after a hard day's toil,
could drink two or three cups of strong tea and lie down to sleep
for the night as quietly as babes are expected to--but do not.
It must be evident that each person should observe the effects of
tea upon himself or herself and be governed accordingly. Tea is a
poison to some temperaments, and so are strawberries. Tea will
cure a headache or may produce one; will dispose to rest or
excite to action. We will sum then by conceding that all our
quoted authorities are right in their conclusions, if limited to
a limited class of tea-drinkers, and all are wrong, in a very
Theine is the one constant agency in the effects of tea. It is
present in teas that are devoid of essential oils--so far as the
senses go--and it then still refreshes, stimulates, sustains,
and even exhilarates, by actual experiment.
The feeling of "comfort," attributed by some writers to the hot
water of the tea, may be also enjoyed by drinking cold tea, which
is no less refreshing in hot weather. The high-flavored essential
oils (strictly oils which evaporate at very moderate
temperatures) of Formosa teas seem to take part in the superior
exhilarating or almost intoxicating effects of the choice
varieties, but we have no certain proof of the fact; while the
more intoxicating and stimulating, as well as deleterious, green
teas possess very little, if any, of these pleasant oils.
It seems to be an authodox opinion among physiologists that tea
contributes nothing towards support of the human system; that it
only rouses it into action, an effect which should, consistently,
be followed by corresponding reaction and depression, which
plainly is not the case. This hypothesis leaves the enquiring
layman in a dilemma. Tea must either enable the system to draw
more heavily or more economically upon the resources afforded by
recognized food, or it is itself nutriment. Otherwise, an
established principle of physics--that there can be no
expenditure of energy without correlative cost--would be
subverted. As tea is admitted upon experience to be most useful,
and most craved by mankind, where the supply of food is
insufficient; and as it is known to refresh and sustain in large
degree in the absence of any food whatever, there is fair ground
for the opinion, however heterodox, that tea directly affords
nutriment to the human organism, and, possibly, to the brain and
nerves in particular, as with phosphoric acid.
Animal gelatine has been placed in the same class with tea by
Liebig, Dr. John W. Draper, and others, and it is asserted that
it conserves waste without itself entering into the substance of
human tissue. It is an accepted physiological law that nothing
taken as food or drink can support expenditure of human energy in
sensible motion, in heat, or in the nervous waste of mental or
emotional exercise without first being built up into living
tissue; the breaking down or chemical decomposition of which
tissue, and subsequent oxidation of less complex compounds or
their constituents, is the direct source of bodily energy of
every description. This, at least, is our reading of modern
authorities, like Foster. If tea and gelatine, and possibly
alcohol, are to form exceptions to the law, the law no longer
stands. But it would seem more reasonable to amend the hypothesis
concerning exceptions, and bring them into line by admitting that
they are nutritious in a manner not yet ascertained. All
physiological laws are provisional, good until proved
insufficient, and then to be amended in the light of accumulating
Meanwhile Hanna the housemaid had closed and fastened the
shutters, Spread the cloth, and lighted the lamp on the table,
and placed there Plates and cups from the dresser, the brown rye
loaf and the butter Fresh from the dairy, and then, protecting
her hand with a holder, Took from the crane in the chimney the
steaming and simmering kettle, Poised it aloft in the air, and
filled the earthen teapot, Made in delft, and adorned with quaint
and wonderful figures.
LONGFELLOW'S TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN.
Many besides those who live principally by the labor of their
brains, will subscribe to the sentiment expressed by Thomas De
Quincey, in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater, when he
said that--"Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally of
coarse nerves, or are become so from wine drinking, and are not
susceptible of influence from so refined a stimulant, will always
be the favorite beverage of the intellectual; and for my part, I
would have joined Dr. Johnson in a bellum internecinum against
Jonas Hanway, or any other impious person who should presume to
The only stimulant that Hazlitt indulged in was strong Black tea,
using the very best obtainable.
Wordsworth was a lover of tea, and he sweetened his tea beyond
the taste of ordinary mortals.
Shelly also was a lover of tea. Kant drank tea habitually for
breakfast. Motley used either tea or coffee for breakfast, as
William Howitt found great refreshment in both tea and coffee,
but he wrote that on his great pedestrian journeys, "Tea would
always in a manner almost miraculous banish all my fatigue, and
diffuse through my whole frame comfort and exhilaration without
any subsequent evil effect. Tea is a wonderful refresher and
Justin McCarthy, M. P. the brilliant historian, said that he was
a liberal drinker of tea, and that he found it "of immense
benefit in keeping off headache, my only malady."
Harriet Martineau dearly loved her cup of tea. Geo. R. Sims says
"Tea is my favorite tonic when I am tired or languid."
An amiable weakness for Afternoon Tea in the course of his daily
official duties which was manifested by the late Hon. Wm. L.
Strong, the worthy mayor of New York in 1895-6, furnished the New
York newspapers with opportunities for many a good-natured jest
and jibe; one of the best of which we have preserved in the lines
A BALLAD OF OOLONG.
By John Paul Bocock.
Whenever the magistrate, good Li Song
Is short of his favorite tea, Oolong,
He lays his gout and his spectacles down
And hies him away into Chinatown.
Into the region of Mon Lay Won,
When the day of official life is done,
Into the land of slant-eyed Lee's
He hies him away to replenish his teas.
All day long, in the places of Tax,
Of rubicund tape and sealingwax,
He toils and moils till the hour of tea,
Blessed old five o'clock, sets him free!
Blest liberator, better than rum,
Of the Fa and the Fee and the Fi Fo Fum
Of the tammany Ogre who used to dwell
In the metropolitan citadel.
Blest over all the heroes that be
On the sunny side of the Ceylon Sea,
Nerve him still to be Good and Strong.
Excellent magistrate, great Li Song.
Dr. King Chambers, in a Manual of Diet in Health and Disease says
of Tea that--"It soothes the nervous system when it is in an
uncomfortable state from hunger, fatigue, or mental excitement."
Florence Nightingale said--"When you see the natural and almost
universal craving in English sick for their tea, you cannot but
feel that nature knows what she is about. There is nothing yet
discovered which is a substitute to the English patient for his
or her cup of tea."
Buckle (the Historian) quotes Dr. Jackson as saying (in 1845)
that--"Even for those who have to go through great fatigues, a
breakfast of tea and dry bread is more strengthening than one of
beefsteak and porter."
Prof. Parkes says--"As an article of diet for soldiers, tea is
most useful. The hot infusion, like that of coffee, is potent
both against heat and cold; it is useful in great fatigue,
especially in hot climates, and also has a great purifying effect
upon water. It should form the drink par excellence of the
soldiers on service."
Admiral Inglefield, in 1881, said, that in evidence given before
the Artic Committee, of which he was a member, all the witnesses
were unanimous in the opinion that spirits taken to keep out cold
was a fallacy, and that nothing was more effectual than a good
fatty diet, and hot tea or coffee, as a drink "Seamen who
Journeyed with me up the shores of Wellington Channel," says the
Admiral," in the artic regions, after one day's experience of
rum-drinking, came to the conclusion that Tea, which was the only
beverage I used, was much more to be preferred."
Lord Wolsely, late Commander in Chief of the British Army, wrote
"It fell to my lot to lead a brigade through a distant country
for more than 600 miles. I fed the men as well as I could, but no
one, officer or private, had anything stronger than tea to drink
during the expedition. The men had peculiarly hard work to do,
and they did it well, and without a murmur. We seem to have left
crime and sickness behind us with the 'grog,' for the conduct of
all was most exemplary and no one was ever ill. "
Mr. Winter Blyth, Medical Officer of Health for Marylebone,
(London), says in reference to long cycling excursions, and
experiments with beer and spirits,--"My own experience as to
the best drink when on the road is most decidedly in favor of
Tea. Tea appears to rouse both the nervous and muscular systems,
with, so far as I can discover, no after-depressing effects."
"Edward Payson Weston, the great Pedestrian, finds in Tea and
rest the most effective restoratives. He once walked 5000 miles
in 100 days, and after each day's work, lectured on 'Tea versus
C. J. Nichod, late Secretary of the London Athletic Club, writes
in his book--"Guide to Athletic Training," that "Tea is
preferable for training purposes, possessing less heating
properties and being more digestible than beer or spirits."
Cowper's lines, however hackneyed in quotation, are still classic
in their application to English homes and their evening
"Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in."
"Tea" was the designation of the customary evening meal in
most American families for about two centuries, and as late as
1850, since which time it has merged in the more substantial
"late dinner," in cities and towns especially, although the last
meal of the closing day is still "Tea" in spirit and in name
in many families where commercial necessities have not compelled
change. The same is true of England from which we derive our
customs, and with which we also changed it. According to
Washington Irving's veracious History of New York, tea-parties
were indulged in by the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam during
the reign of Governor Wouter Van Twiller (which commenced in
1633). Irving says:
"But though our worthy ancestors were singularly averse to
giving dinners, yet they kept up the social bonds of intimacy by
occasional banqueting, called tea parties.
"These fashionable parties were generally confined to the higher
classes or noblesse, that is to say, such as kept their own cows,
and drove their own wagons. The company commonly assembled at 3
o'clock, and went away about six, unless it was in winter time,
when the fashionable hours were a little earlier, that the ladies
might get home before dark. . . . The tea was served out of a
majestic Delft tea-pot, ornamented with paintings of fat little
Dutch shepherdesses tending pigs, with boats sailing in the air
and houses built in the clouds, and sundry other Dutch fantasies.
The beaux distinguished themselves by their adroitness in
replenishing this tea-pot from a huge copper tea-kettle. . . .
To sweeten the beverage, a lump of sugar was laid beside each
cup, and the company alternately nibbled and sipped with great
decorum, until an improvement was introduced by a shrewd and
economic old lady, which was to suspend a large lump directly
over the tea-table by a string from the ceiling, so that it
should be swung from mouth to mouth--an ingenious expedient
which is still kept up by some families in Albany, but which
prevails without exception in Communipaw, Bergen, Flatbush, and
all our uncontaminated Dutch villages.
"At these primitive tea-parties the utmost propriety and dignity
of deportment prevailed. No flirting or coquetin gambu of old
ladies, nor hoyden chattering and romping of young ones, no self
satisfied struttings of wealthy gentlemen with their brains in
their pockets, nor amusing conceits and monkey divertisements of
smart young gentlemen with no brains at all. On the contrary, the
young ladies seated themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed
chairs, and knit their own woolen stockings, nor ever opened
their lips except to say "yaw, mynherr," or "yaw, yaw, Vrouw,"
to any question that was asked them, behaving in all things like
decent, well educated damsels. As to the gentlemen, each of them
tranquilly smoked his pipe, and seemed lost in contemplation of
the blue and white tiles with which the fire-places were
decorated, wherein sundry passages of scripture were piously
But it was in New England that the tea-party reached its highest
importance as a social function, and in the New England of more
than a century ago. Then and there were the weightiest themes of
religion and philosophy of such enthralling interest and so
interwoven with the practical affairs of men, that they were
familiarly discussed all the way from the pulpit and desk to the
household and tea-table, and were liable to be brought forward at
the table of the artisan, the farmer, or the shopkeeper, as well
as at that of the scholar. Every reader of early New England
history or New England fiction must be aware of this fact. The
presence of the "minister." so far from discouraging these
discussions, usually stimulated them, and lent them additional
interest. Instances of such gatherings and conversations, of
typical New England tea-parties, may be found in Mrs. Stowe's
The "tea-table" will always live in name and in association,
and we trust in reality, as an essential feature of family life,
even though the nature of the repast has greatly changed. The
pleasantest part of the working-day in former years was the
occasion when the family, drawn together by common interests and
sympathies, after the heavier tasks of the day were completed,
gathered around the table whose crowning symbol of good cheer was
the familiar and homely old tea-pot. From this fairy godmother
flowed forth a spirit of kindly toleration and genial good humor.
A quiet fireside, a snug corner, and a singing tea-kettle, were
potent sources of enjoyment to young as well as old folks, in
those days when the kitchen was not turned entirely over to alien
The tea-kettle and the hearth-stone may be pushed back out of
sight or even quite banished from the household, by modern
metropolitan life and enforced changes; but under the influence
of old associations and traditions, they will surely return in
time with recurring cycles of sentiment or of fashion.
Five o'clock Tea is but an attempt to revive an old custom, and
for those whom fortune has favored with leisure for social
amenities at that hour, it furnishes an agreeable and informal
occasion for exchange of courtesies and for harmless gossip or
even more dignified "conservation."
A correspondent of the New York Sun recently gave an account of
actual or impending changes in the social customs of Paris, which
have a bearing upon this branch of our subject. He writes that
the English five o'clock tea having been adopted by Parisians
several years ago, and being found to interfere with the still
fashionable 7 o'clock dinner, an effort was recently made to
revive the ancient mid-day dinner, say at 2 o'clock. In some
cases, the difficulty was met by taking tea at five o'clock, and
serving a substantial supper late in the evening.
When we desire to get away for a time from our modern
conventional ideas and restraints, and indulge in a bit of homely
healthy sentiment, we may fall back on such utterances as the
following, from Dicken's Cricket on the Hearth:
"Now it was, you observe, that the Kettle began to spend the
evening. Now it was, that the Kettle, growing mellow and musical,
began to have irrepressible gurglings in its throat, and to
indulge in short vocal snorts, which it checked in the bud, as if
it hadn't quite made up its mind yet, to be good company. Now it
was, that after two or three such vain attempts to stifle its
convivial sentiments, it threw off all moroseness, all reserve,
and burst into a stream of song so cosy and hilarious as never
maudlin nightingale yet formed the least idea of." . . .
"So plain, too! Bless you, you might have understood it like a
book--better than some books you and I could name, perhaps. With
its warm breath gushing forth in a light cloud which merrily and
gracefully ascended a few feet, then hung about the chimney-
corner as its own domestic Heaven, it trolled its song with that
strong energy of cheerfulness, that its iron body hummed and
stirred upon the fire, and the lid itself, the recently
rebellious lid--such is the influence of a bright example--
performed a sort of jig, and clattered like a deaf and dumb young
cymbal that had never known the use of its twin brother." . . .
"And here, if you like, the Cricket DID chime in! with a
Chirrup, Chirrup, Chirrup of such magnitude, by the way of
chorus, with a voice so astoundingly disproportionate to its
size, as compared with the Kettle, (size! you couldn't see it!)
that if it had then and there burst itself like an overcharged
gun, if it had fallen a victim on the spot, and chirruped its
little body into fifty pieces it would have seemed a natural and
inevitable consequence for which it had expressly labored." . . .
"There was all the excitement of a race about it. Chirp,
chirp, chirp! Cricket a mile ahead. Hum, hum, hum-m-m! Kettle
making play in the distance, like a great top. Chirp, chirp,
chirp!--Cricket round the corner. Hum, hum, hum! Kettle
sticking to him in his own way, no idea of giving in. Chirp,
chirp, chirp ! Cricket fresher than ever. Hum, hum, hum-m-m!
Kettle slow and steady. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket going to
finish him. Hum, hum, hum! Kettle not to be finished. Until at
last, they got so jumbled up together, in the hurry-skurry,
helter-skelter of the match, that whether the Kettle chirped or
the Cricket hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the Kettle hummed,
or the Cricket chirped and the Kettle hummed, or the both chirped
and both hummed, it would have taken a clearer head than yours or
mine to have decided with anything like certainty. But of this
there is no doubt, that the Kettle and the Cricket, at one and
the same moment, and by some power of amalgamation best known to
themselves, sent each his fireside song of comfort streaming into
a ray of the candle that shone through the window, and a long way
down the lane. And this light, bursting on a certain person who
on the instant, approached towards it through the gloom,
expressed the whole thing to him, literally in a twinkling, and
cried, 'Welcome home, old fellow! Welcome home, my boy!"
"The willow-pattern that we knew
In childhood. with its bridge of blue,
Leading to unknown thoroughfares."
Peradventure some who read these rambling paragraphs may be the
fortunate possessor of a few pieces of that willow-pattern, blue
or pink china table ware which was but too lightly esteemed when
it was a common heritage of English and American families. If
not, a vivid remembrance of the ware and of the fancies which it
inspired, must be little less prized by those who cherish such
associations with home and childhood. We are tempted here to
recall some of our own reminiscences of old china, which the
impatient reader may excusably skip for more serious matter.
From the semi-aquatic summer-house with roof curving upward like
an inverted umbrella, imprinted upon a favorite tea-plate, we
often sallied forth in fancy to explore the Chinese world as
portrayed in blue or pink upon earthen table-ware of the olden
time. And what a world! How artfully adapted to childish
notions, how convenient for bird's-eye views, this arrangement of
lofty mountain peaks, deep gorges, and rocks of fantastic forms,
tangled up with examples of nature subdued by Chinese art in
landscape gardening and ornate architecture. In the near distance
(far and near are the same in Chinese art), we behold a slender
streak of waterfall descending from mountain peaks a thousand
feet or height by comparison; a broad flight of stone stairs
leading up to a palace or temple of intricate construction and
marvellous ornamentation; a majestic river a mile or two in
width, winding serenely by these wonders of nature and art, but
submitting to be spanned by a single arch of bridge, perhaps
thrice the length of the Chinaman advancing over its camel-humped
back, who placidly regards from under his ruffle-edged umbrella
the pleasure boats floating beneath him. A little group of high-
born Chinese ladies in holiday attire are seated in a garden of
potted plants on the river's bank, drinking tea, flirting their
fans, and doubtless talking over the latest Court gossip. Nearby
is a willow, not the stiff, ugly tree now seen upon tame and
degenerate imitations of real old China pottery, but a graceful
weeping-willow, whose drooping branches sweep the opposite
shore, as sublimely indifferent to distance as the untrammeled
No hint here of imperative human toil, or of human need, or of
anything but present enjoyment and rest; it is a picture of
contented, comfortable existence, for dreamy contemplation, amid
a grouping of art and nature that calmly defies probability and
challenges the impossible.
But perhaps the Chinese artist had more justification for his
incredible fancies than we have imagined. Strange contradictions
occur in China, judged by our conventional standards, and there
are surprises and incongruities even in their actual landscapes,
which are unsuspected by thousands of our intelligent countrymen.
Some examples of such departure from our notions of natural and
of artificial scenery are given in the illustrations of this
"The east wind fans a gentle breeze,
The streams and trees glory in the brightness of the spring.
The bright sun illuminates the green shrubs,
And the falling flowers are scattered and fly away,
The solitary cloud retreats to the hollow hill;
The birds return to their leafy haunts:
Every being has a refuge whither he may turn;
I alone have nothing to which to cling.
So, seated opposite the moon shining o'er the cliff,
I drink and sing to the fragrant blossoms."
The foregoing lines are by Le Tai-Pih, styled the Chinese
Anacreon, literally translated by R. K. Douglas, in the
Encylopaedia Britannica. They might easily apply to a tea garden.
The power of a single word to arouse trains of thought composed
of the most varied ideas, to set in motion a panorama of scenery
which is well nigh endless with persons of lively imaginations,
is illustrated by this word, tea. While to one person it may
suggest only refreshment and personal comfort, and to another,
scenes of home life, to still others it will bring into being all
that the dreamer has read or heard of China, that land of Cathay,
and of its slant-eyed, mild mannered wearers of the pig-tail, and
their real or fabulous characteristics. Not the least interesting
of such associations are memories of the queer manners and habits
of the Chinese people, some of which to us outside barbarians,
appear so drolly opposed to our civilization of fancied
superiority. Let us recapitulate a few of the most marked
differences between the Chinese and Western peoples.
The very first antithesis that strikes us is the braided pig-tail
of long black glossy hair so religiously cherished by the men.
Have they forgotten that this is a badge of servitude? The
original inhabitants of China--by which we mean that people who
occupied central China as far back as the beginning of the
Assyrian Empire, or say 1300 years before Christ,--are said to
have worn their jet black hair long, and coiled loosely upon the
crown of the head, but they did not shave any portion of the
head, nor braid their hair in a queue. The northern tribes of
Manchus and Mongols (Tarters or Taters in olden nomenclature),
who inhabited Manchuria and Mongolia, had endeavored to conquer
the Chinese in wars which began about 950 A. D., and during which
in the 12th century, the celebrated Jenghiz Khan and Kublai Khan
severally commanded the Mongolian armies. These wars continued
until 1627 A. D. when the Manchurian invaders regarded their
conquest as sufficiently assured to warrant them in imposing
their commands upon their Chinese vassals. At that time the
Manchus partly shaved their head and wore braided queues. In 1627
an edict was issued by the Manchus requiring all Chinese subjects
to henceforth follow the Manchu fashion and to wear the pig-tail
as a token of submission to their conquerors. So, after time a
badge of bondage became with the Chinese an insignia of national
pride and honor.
Then, let us consider their written language, the oldest in the
world except Hebrew, says Dr. Williams, and the oldest spoken
language without any exception. Professor James Legge, writing
upon Confucianism and Taoism, says that the written language of
China takes us back at least five thousand years. Like most
things in China, the language has suffered very little change
since its adoption and completion. It does not consist of words,
built up of letters, as with us; it has no alphabet, no letters,
but its curious symbols represent objects, qualities, ideas, or
sounds, which by combination express every shade of Chinese
thought. The number of these written characters is variously
estimated by European philologists at from 25,000 to 50,000,
although it is believed that one may become a fair reader of
Chinese literature, by acquiring a knowledge of say 10,000 of the
pictorial symbols, with their allowable variations of form in
use. Punctuation is not ordinarily used in Chinese literature and
of course sentences or paragraphs are not divided from each other
by capitals, for they have none.
In the spoken language, rising or falling inflections, and
indescribable variations of tone must be learned, as well as
pronunciation, and when it is said that there are many different
dialects, each unintelligible to those accustomed to some other
one, there seems to be little encouragement for the introduction
of Chinese into our public school system. For all this, Dr.
Morrison, the compiler of a Chinese and English dictionary,
declares that "Chinese fine writing darts upon the mind with a
vivid flash, a force and beauty, of which alphabetic language is
Graphic representation of an idea in a picture illustrates Dr.
Chinese written or printed composition is arranged in
perpendicular columns, which are read from top to bottom
and from the right to the left; and a Chinese book
begins at the end from our point of view.
When in China two polite acquaintances accost each
other, they pause before meeting and each shakes his own
hand; (a much neater and more refined custom than our
To raise one's hat to a Chinaman is to offer an insult.
A favorite road vehicle for passengers is a wheel
barrow, and a mast and sail are often attached to aid in
its propulsion, with a fair wind.
Kite-flying is a sport for old men, boys look on.
The game of checkers or draughts is played with 360 men.
Shop signs are set on end.
White is the universal color for full mourning. Men make
women's head dresses.
Women row heavy boats on the canals.
A Chinese compass needle points to the south.
In addressing a person, his last or surname is first
written, and his first name last.
The seat of honor at the table is at the left of the
Fashions in fine clothing never change in China.
Thieves are required by the Government to be organized
into companies or guilds with elected heads, with whom
the Government and public may treat.
If a man is busy at his store, a traveling restaurant
will wait upon him.
A charcoal furnace, culinary vessels, and food, are
slung upon a pole carried by the proprietor, who stops
before the customer's door, and cooks a meal to order.
The first paddle-wheel boats built in China were
anchored in the stream where the current turned the
paddle-wheels, and ground grain for food.
The Chinese paint the edges of their shoe-soles white.
An expensive coffin is always an acceptable present from
an affectionate son and heir to his living father.
Military officers in the Chinese army formerly wore
embroidered silk petticoats, and strings of beads around
their necks; they carried fans, and mounted their horses
on the right hand side.
Chinese Cashiers are said to be uniformly honest.
American Tea Culture.
During a period of at least 40 years, tea plants have been
cultivated by a few experimenters in the southern United states,
and American tea, grown South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, has
satisfactorily supplied the family needs of a hundred or more
persons, at a cost not exceeding the retail price of good foreign
When Mr. Wm. G. Le Duc, Commissioner of the Department of
Agriculture at Washington, seriously recommended systematic tea
culture in the southern States, press writers and press readers
found a new subject of mirth and standing jokes which lasted for
several years. To be sure, those who laughed so long and loudly
did not know the difference between a Chinese tea plant and a
China Aster, and few of them had ever heard that in certain tea
growing districts of China, ice and snow were familiar associates
of the hardy Chinese tea plant. Enquiry would have taught them
that here in the United States individual tea plants had for many
years withstood a freezing temperature in winter. Better informed
persons fell back upon the objection that Americans could never
learn the secrets of curing tea, and finally that the very low
cost of Chinese labor would be fatal to American competition. But
the mills of the Gods grind right along, regardless of individual
opinions or precedents. Foreign tea plants have been so
acclimatised in South Carolina that a plantation of tea has
withstood a winter temperature of zero, the lowest recorded
degree for 150 years; the secrets of curing the leaf have been
disclosed and successfully practiced by Americans, and a cheap
form of child labor for picking the tea leaves has resulted in
commercial success for American grown tea.
This result is due to the encouragement of the U. S. Agricultural
Bureau, and the persistent efforts of Dr. Charles U. Shepard, at
Summerville, S. C., who continued his exertions to found a
permanent tea plantation on a large scale long after the
Government authorities had ceased to hope for success. In Dr.
Shepard's tea gardens the deficiency in rain fall is made good by
deep pulverization of the soil and artificial irrigation; the
natural shade of jungle or forest under which the seed germinates
and grows where the plant is indigenous, is supplied by
artificial shade; and the expensive process of picking the leaves
is cheapened by employing children, who are paid in money, and
also by being taught to read and write in a school maintained on
the premises by Dr. Shepard. Machinery has supplanted some of the
tedious hand-manipulation of tea in Dr. Shepard's factory, and
further progress in this direction is constantly being made.
The Pinehurst tea--for Pinehurst is the designation of Dr.
Shepard's plantation at Summerville--sometimes disappoints those
accustomed to the strong flavors and pronounced fragrance of some
foreign teas, but it contains a full proportion of that
stimulating, sustaining constituent of all genuine teas, theine,
as consumers all discover. Like our American grapes and wines,
American teas will doubtless improve by continuous cultivation
upon a given soil, and probably will at length develop
characteristics of their own, as precious in the estimation of
tea drinkers as those of the exceptional foreign teas.
Impressed by the importance of Dr. Shepard's success, and the
latent possibilities of this new field of American enterprise,
Messrs. Francis H. Leggett & Co., of New York, have purchased
from Dr. Shepard the entire crop of American Pinehurst teas for
1900, amounting in quantity to several thousand pounds.
How Shall We Make Tea?
How shall tea be drawn or infused? Is there but one standard
method for all teas, or all persons? Certainly not. A method
which will suit very many delicate tastes may be briefly stated:
Use water as free as possible from impurities, from earthly
matters like lime. If water is boiled too long its contained air
is expelled and the tea will have a "flat" taste. Use an
earthen teapot by preference; one which is never applied to any
other purpose. A preliminary warming of the dry teapot is
advised. Drop in your tea leaves, and pour on the whole quantity
of water required, while at boiling temperature. Set in warm but
not very hot situation to steep, avoiding so far as practicable,
loss of vapor and aroma from the teapot.
Now, as to the length of time tea should steep:--it will vary
with different teas and different tastes. Some steep tea but
three minutes; others double the time; while still others extend
the time to 15 minutes. In any event, as soon as the
characteristic flavor is extracted from the leaves, known by the
loss of an agreeable tea-odor in the withdrawn leaves, the
beverage will be improved rather than impaired by pouring it off
into a clean teapot, in which the tea may then be preserved for a
long time without injury.
To some tastes, a little of the tannin is agreeable, and its
absence would be missed. Then as to sugar or milk: it is evidence
of exaggerated personality (conceit, some call it), to declare
that milk or cream or sugar injure the flavor of tea. As well
insist upon a special spice being used for all viands because the
critic likes it. To hold the Chinese up as examples of what is
proper in tea drinking is to offer a limit to human progress. As
milk or cream neutralize the tannin to a considerable extent,
they are so far desirable, without regard to taste.
OVER MY TEA CUP.
by Charles J. Everett
This homely can of painted tin
Is casket precious in my eyes;
Its withered fragrant leaves within,
Beyond all costly gems I prize.
For for those crumpled leaves of tea,
The sunbeams of long summer days,
The song of bird, the hum of bee,
The cricket's evening hymn of praise,
The gorgeous colors of sunrise,
The joy that greets each new-born day;
The glowing tints of sunset's skies,
The calm that comes with evening grey;
The chatter of contented toil,
The merry laugh of childish glee,
The tonic virtues of the soil,
Were caught and gathered with the tea.
Lifeless those withered leaves may seem,
Locked fast in slumber deep as death,
But soon the Kettle's boiling steam
May rouse to life their fragrant breath.
With sigh of deep content we breath
The sweet mists rising lazily,
With eager, parted lips receive taste of tea.
Forlight and warmth and mood of men,
Whate'er the plant hath heard or seen
Or felt, while fixed in field or fen,
And stored within its depths serene,
Are now transmuted into thrills
Of sense or feeling, echoes faint
From peaceful perfumed tea-cladhills,
From placid Orientals quaint.
And fancies born in other lands,
Which dormant lie in magic tea,
Dream-castles fair not made with hands,
By some mysterious alchemy
Emerge from cloudland into sight,
Transform the sombre working-world,
The gloomy hours of day or night
From leaden hue to tint of gold,
Bring rest to wearied heart and brain,
Kind nature's soul to us reveal,
Enlarge the realm of Fancy's reign,
Renew the power to see and feel
The radiance of the rising sun,
The sunset's glow, the moon's pale light,
The promise of a day begun,
The rest from toil that comes with night.
And as I sip my cup of tea,
Though not a friend may be in sight,
I know that a brave company
Is taking tea with me this night.
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