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From Leaf To Cup: International Tea Day

There's something satisfying about starting the day with a warm mug of tea - but did you know your cup is steeped in a history beginning over 4,000 years ago?

According to legend, tea was discovered in China by Emperor Shen Nung when a few leaves from the tree above blew into his boiling water, creating the first ever cup of tea. This delightful accident has led to a tradition that spans across the globe.

Every year on May 21st, tea-lovers around the world celebrate International Tea Day. The day is dedicated to acknowledging the efforts of the countries and people who make tea what it is - from the lush fields of India to the mountainous terrains of Sri Lanka.

The essence of International Tea Day is about supporting sustainable production and practices. Small tea growers, often from developing countries, strive to earn a living wage despite the challenges of the world market. International Tea Day aims to combat poverty and improve the quality of life among tea farming communities.

Tea is actually the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water. Across the world, over two billion cups of tea are consumed every day, with 160 million of those cuppas coming from the UK alone! When you look at those numbers, it’s easy to support fair trade and practices by making sure you choose ethically-sourced tea.

Tea-riffic Facts

British astronaut Tim Peake took a special ‘space cup’ with him when he went aboard the International Space Station. It was designed to keep the liquid in the cup so that he could brew tea in zero gravity, rather than sucking his brew from a bag!

One of the most expensive teas in the world is a type of oolong tea from China. The crop is nearly extinct, exceedingly valuable, and only produces 400g of tea a year. Although the harvest is reserved for high-ranking officials in China, if it were sold on the open market you’d be looking at about £1,000 per gram.

Here in the UK, we favour an English Breakfast tea, served hot with milk and sugar as preferred. But across the world, this differs massively:

  • In China, green tea is the favourite, served hot
  • India prefers masala chai, which is a hot, spiced tea with milk
  • Japan is known for matcha, a finely ground green tea, enjoyed both hot and cold
  • The United States drinks sweet, iced tea, especially in the Southern states
  • South Africa enjoys rooibos, which is a red, naturally decaffeinated tea, both hot and iced
  • Yerba mate is popular in Argentina, traditionally drunk from a gourd with a metal straw, again hot or cold
  • Turkey prefers hot, black Turkish tea in a small glass
  • Bubble tea (a cold milk tea with tapioca pearls) originates from Taiwan, but has become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years

International Tea Day is not just about enjoying a cup of tea; it's about recognising and respecting the journey from leaf to cup - a journey that involves the hard work of millions and the joy of billions. Let's sip to that!

21st May 2024