The Process of Tea Spreading From the East to the West

The earliest record of tea in European writing is said to be found in the statement of an Arabian traveller, that after the year 879 the main sources of revenue in Canton were the duties on salt and tea.  Marco Polo records the deposition of a Chinese minister of finance in 1285 for his arbitrary  augmentation of the tea-taxes.  It was at the period of the great discoveries that the European people began to know more about the extreme Orient.  At the end of the sixteenth century the Hollanders brought the news that a pleasant drink was made in the East from the leaves of a bush.  The travellers Giovanni Batista Ramusio (1559), L. Almeida (1576), Maffeno (1588), Tareira (1610), also mentioned tea.  In the last-named year ships of the Dutch East India Company brought the first tea into Europe.  It was known  in France in 1636, and reached Russia in 1638.  England  welcomed it in 1650 and spoke of it as "That excellent and by all physicians approved China drink, called by the  Chineans Tcha, and by other nations Tay, alias Tea."


It is the only Asiatic ceremonial which commands universal esteem.  The white man has scoffed at our religion and our morals, but has accepted the brown beverage without hesitation.  The afternoon tea is now an important function in Western society.  In the delicate clatter of trays and  saucers, in the soft rustle of feminine hospitality, in the common catechism about cream and sugar, we know that the Worship of Tea is established beyond question.  The philosophic resignation of the guest to the fate awaiting him in the dubious decoction proclaims that in this single instance the Oriental spirit reigns supreme.

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