15 interesting things about tea

1. Brits drink 165 million cups of tea a day. That’s a staggering 60.2 billion a year.

2. All teas come from the same plant. So black, green, oolong, white and pu-erh all come from the camellia sinensis, a sub-tropical evergreen plant native to Asia but now grown all over the world.

3. Tea was first discovered in China by Shen Nung in 2737BC, who used it as an antidote to poisonous herbs.

4. The most expensive tea bag in the world was created by Boodles jewellers to celebrate PG Tips 75th birthday. The diamond-encrusted bag was worth £7000 and was auctioned off for charity.

5. Tea really took hold in the UK thanks to the British East India Company, which held a monopoly on Chinese tea in the eighteenth century. Coffee was hard to come by as the UK went to war with France and Spain, cutting it off from countries that supplied it.

6. Until Victorian times, English upper classes pronounced it ‘tay’. It was seen as the preserve of the rich, and posh ladies would even carry the key to the tea caddy round their necks to keep it safe from maids.

7. Tea now grows in 52 countries – the oldest tree, in China, is 3,200 years old.

8. Thought Brits were the biggest tea drinkers? You’d be wrong! In fact, Ireland has the highest amount of tea consumption per person, with 75% of the population gulping down tea at an average of six cups a day.

9. Tea breaks have been with us for around 200 years. Workers used to commence their days around 6am, so employers allowed a break in the morning for tea and food.

10. Tea should be left for two minutes to brew – but apparently 80% of us just can’t wait that long!

11. For centuries, tea was used only as a medicine. It took almost 3,000 years for it to become an everyday drink.

12. Tea bags were invented in 1908 in the United States by Thomas Sullivan. He created small silk bags to give samples of tea to his customers. Some of them thought that the bags were supposed to be put directly in the tea pot, like a metal infuser, rather than emptied out. Thus, the tea bag was created by accident!

13. English tea gardens were the first public gathering place where women were allowed to mix with men publicly, without scandal or criticism.

14. Black tea can reduce eye puffiness. Steep two black tea bags in hot water for five minutes. Remove the bags and squeeze out the liquid. Allow the bags to cool, and place them on your eyes for 10 minutes.

15. You should always use fresh water when making tea. Water that has been boiled previously has lost oxygen which can make your tea taste flat.

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