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Tea: A brief history

February 15, 2000

See also: Tea anyone?

Tea is thought to have been discovered more than 5,000 years ago by the Chinese emperor Shen Nong. While out campaigning, he had servants boil some water, knowing that boiling drinking water could prevent sickness. Some leaves blew into his cup, he left them there, tasted the brew, and the history of tea began, according to Liz Thompson.

cont. from lifestyle

Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in 1610, and when Charles II was restored to the British throne in 1660 from exile in Holland, he already had a fondness for tea. Tea and teapots were among the valuable items in his Portuguese wife Catherine's dowry, said Thompson, showing off a bit of her Florida State University degree in international relations and minor in European history.

Tea was expensive, costing about $100 a pound, and sold in apothecary shops as medicine for a variety of ills. It was the only caffeinated beverage women could drink, Thompson said.

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Tea was sold in English coffeehouses for the first time in 1657 and became the national drink. Despite tea's cost and taxes levied on it, working and lower classes drank tea as well as the upper classes.

Queen Victoria ended the vocal opposition to tea as a luxury when she ordered, "Bring me tea and a copy of the Times," shortly after her coronation, according to Thompson.

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