The Amazing History of Tea


All over the world, people share a love of tea. Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at the history and customs of this popular drink.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I am Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Some people drink it with food in the afternoon.

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Some people drink it to give themselves energy in the morning.

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Some people drink it as part of a ceremony.

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Some people drink it when they are sick.

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Some people drink it hot.

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Some people drink it very cold.

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People have been drinking it for hundreds of years, in hundreds of countries. What is it? Tea!

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Tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. People pick the leaves off the plant. They set the leaves to dry. The tea leaves are ready when all the water from the leaves is evaporated. There are many ways to prepare the leaves before making the tea drink. Some tea leaves are left open to the air before they are dried. This makes the leaves darker. They will taste stronger. Some people mix tea leaves with flowers, oils, and other plants to give teas different tastes. The people who originally discovered tea developed these methods many years ago.

Voice 1  

The story of tea begins in China. Chinese history says that over 5,000 years ago, Chinese emperor Shen Nung discovered tea. Stories say that a dry leaf from the tea plant fell into the emperor’s cup of hot water. The emperor saw that his water turned dark. He tasted the water and liked it. This was the first cup of tea.

Voice 2  

However it started, tea became very popular in China. People believed that tea was healthy. People in China also created many different ways to prepare tea. In fact, a man named Lu Yu wrote a book just about tea, late in the eighth century.

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Soon after this, tea travelled to Japan. Japanese Buddhist priests travelled to China. And they brought tea back with them. In Japan, people developed special ceremonies to serve tea. Serving tea became a new form of art. It was most common among wealthy people.

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Tea was an important part of both Chinese and Japanese culture. It had travelled to other Asian countries too. But tea had not yet travelled anywhere else in the world. Finally, in the late 1500s, Portuguese travellers brought small amounts of tea back to Europe. Portugal was one of the first European countries to trade with China. Portugal worked with the Netherlands to move the tea through Europe. Dutch ships took tea to France and other countries on the Baltic Sea.

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Only very wealthy people had enough money to drink tea in Europe. It took many months to transport the tea from Asia. And only a limited amount was transported. But more countries started to trade with China. They also brought tea back to Europe. Prices became lower, and more people could drink tea.

Voice 2  

Today, England is the European country most known for tea. British traders started shipping tea to England in the late 1600s. Tea trade had become a very profitable business. England imported about 18,000 kilograms of tea a year in 1699. Ten years later, the country imported six times that amount of tea!

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British colonists also brought tea wherever they settled. Tea became very important in India. It is still a very important crop there. And Indian tea is known around the world.

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Tea played an important part in one British colony you might know. This colony is now known as the United States of America. England sent tea to America. But as time went on, England raised the taxes on the tea and other goods it sent. The people living in the colonies did not like these taxes. To protest the high taxes, a group of colonists took a large shipment of tea and threw it into the ocean. Today, this event is known as “The Boston Tea Party”. It was one of the most important events in the American Revolution.

Voice 1  

Tea has also changed over many years. In the past, people drank tea by putting the leaves directly into the water. But around 1908, an American inventor developed a new method - tea bags. Thomas Sullivan put the tea in a small silk bag. This bag of tea could be put directly into the hot water.

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At first people, in Britain did not like tea bags. But during World War II, people could not get their normal tea. So they had to use tea bags. Today most tea bags are made of paper. And they are very popular in many parts of the world.

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Today, people on every continent drink tea. But people in different places drink tea differently. In the United Kingdom, tea became part of the daily meal.

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Traditionally, two meals involved tea in British homes. These meals became popular in the 1600s. The first was afternoon tea - or “low tea”. This was popular among wealthy people. They would drink tea and eat small sandwiches of meat and bread. This meal happened around three o-clock in the afternoon. The other meal was called “high tea.” High tea was a larger meal eaten later in the night. It was popular among poorer people.

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In Western Asia and the Middle East, a popular way to enjoy tea is as Masala Chai. Masala Chai is a drink made from black tea. But this drink has sugar, spices and milk in it.

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Around the world, people boil plants and flowers to make drinks similar to tea. These are called tisanes. A tisane is any drink made from hot water and any plant material, except from the tea plant. They are also often called herbal teas.

Voice 1

In areas of South America people enjoy a particular tisane. The drink is called Mate. People make it from the leaves of the yerba mate plant. A person puts dry yerba mate leaves into a dry gourd. This is a container made from a dried vegetable skin. He then adds water to the gourd. He drinks the liquid through a thin metal tube - a bombilla.

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People in Southern Africa make a drink called rooibos. This hot drink is made similar to tea. But instead of tea leaves, it uses the leaves from the rooibos plant. The drink is a red color, and is often called red tea.

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However you drink tea, the next time you have a cup, think of all the people around the world who are joining you! Enjoy!

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Do you drink tea? What kinds of tea do you drink? Tell us what you think! You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Joshua Leo. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “The Amazing History of Tea”.

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you drink tea or tisanes? What is your favorite kind of tea?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
regis_f
said on September 02, 2019

I’m from southern Brazil, and here, our tisane is called “ChimarrĂ£o”. It’s the same as Mate, just a different name. Usually, we drink it at evening before dinner. It’s also interesting to say that we share the drink with other people who are gathered together, one after another, following a circle until the hot water ends.

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OSCAR
said on September 02, 2019

Hello everyone, tea is common in my region, a lot people drink some kind of tea, red, black, traditional, etc.
Is common drink tea when the fat people need lost weight
My favorite tea is the tea with lemon and ice, is delicious especialy with hard sun.

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Honneur
said on September 02, 2019

Fortunately, I live in another part of Brazil and I don’t have to share the same cup of mate with people I’ve never seen in my life, and I don’t like tea either. I like Brazilian coffee, very intense, hot and sweet.

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Faiz
said on September 03, 2019

I drink black tea and when l have cold or threot pain l add with black tea ginger with honey or lemon.ln my country mostly drink karak tea which consist of boiled water,sugar,tea and milk. Unfortunately,some people intemperance of using tea.
Thank you for the good topic

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Lan Can
said on September 07, 2019

When I traveled to Sri lanka, I tried tea there in the morning. I cannot forget this flavor and taste. It is hot and yummy and pretty sweet. I drank a pot of tea under a green group of trees.
On the way I arrived in Ella on a train, I saw the large fields of tea. Under sunshine, it looks so beautiful and let my hair down.

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Ayatu-allah
said on September 11, 2019

Yeah i always drink tea most of the time i think I’m addicted to it
And i used to drink more than 6 or 7 cups a day
But this days I’m trying to cut down on it
I drink less maybe 5 cups a day
And my favorite kind of tea is mint tea
And in the morning i often drink green tea
And sometimes black tea
I hate tea with milk once I tried it my stomach can’t stand it

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Dat Pham
said on September 14, 2019

I think that we should use “Japanese Buddhist monks travelled to China”  instead of “Japanese Buddhist priests travelled to China”  :)

 

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Nguyen Kim Anh
said on September 27, 2019

I have drunk tea in every morning before I start my work. Back tea is my one of the most favorite tea and I often mix it with ginger to get energy for the whole day. Sometimes, I drink green tea which is called - Matcha at the tea shop.  When I was a child, my family drank tea by putting the leaves tea directly into hot water. At the moment, I often use tea bags to save times. I will register a course to learn how to make a tea ceremony. I think of preparing and inviting my friends join my tea ceremony at home at the weekend in so far