The art of making tea

The creation of a worldwide phenomenon

ACCORDING to the history books, the story of tea began about 5000 years ago when Chinese Emperor Shen Nong was out in the countryside.

Shen Nong was a pretty creative scientist-type and had a number of peculiar habits, one of which was to boil water before drinking it as a hygienic precaution. So, Shen Nong and his gang are sitting around waiting for the billy to boil when a gust of wind blows some dried leaves from a nearby bush into the billy. Now, most us would have scooped the leaves out, but not the hygienic Shen Nong – he apparently liked the idea of trying the brown liquid. The rest, as they say, is history.

True tea is made from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which was first cultivated in China and was found growing wild in India. Today there are more than 3000 varieties of tea.

For the most part it has been the British who have created the tea culture of today. Tea in England was drunk by all levels of society and replaced ale as the national drink soon after its introduction in the early 1700s. It was at this time, as tea was becoming more popular, that ‘afternoon tea’ was born.

The Duchess of Bedford was experiencing ‘that sinking feeling’ late in the afternoon, so decided one bright summer’s day to invite a couple of girlfriends over to chat, have a few rounds of cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea.

So popular did afternoon tea become that the practice was adopted by other social hostesses throughout England.

“As long as it’s hot and wet and goes down the right way, that’s all that matters.” – The Duchess of York.

As they were the biggest consumers of tea it is hardly surprising that the British named most of the popular tea types. A Scottish tea master developed English Breakfast. Queen Victoria was crazy for all things Scottish and therefore drank his brew often when staying at Balmoral Castle.

As the Queen demanded the same tea when at home in London, teashops began stocking her favorite brew and began marketing it as English Breakfast. The Irish have always drunk their tea very strong … “a proper cup of tea should be ‘strong enough for a mouse to trot on”, according to the old saying.

Irish Breakfast is drunk in the morning and has a robust flavour and a full taste, often served with lots of sugar and a dash of room temperature milk, never cream.

Earl Grey tea was named after the one-time Prime Minister of England. Legend says that the blend was given to him by a Chinese official seeking to influence trade relations. It is a smoky tea with a little natural sweetness, best served black, and is the second most popular tea in the world. Russian Caravan came about through a trade treaty establishing a common boarder with China, which allowed Russian caravans to cross back and forth freely. A hearty brew perfect for Russian life was born out of a blend of teas picked up on the Russians’ travels in China and Tibet.

Some of Perth’s best local suppliers of quality tea.

Tea For Me

Shop 3 /94 Rokeby Road

Subiaco WA 6008

9380 9377

Tea For Me in Subiaco explained to me that, in order to discover the perfect brew, I would have to pop into their shop for a taste. The most common mistake people make is to brew tea for too long. This is the most critical stage of making a good cuppa.

While loose tea leaves make the best tea, the range of tea bags at Tea For Me are are of the same quality as their loose tea leaves, providing both quality and convenience. Their more popular teas at the moment are a strong blend called Loolecondera – a morning tea; Monk’s blend, which combines vanilla and grenadine; and many people’s favourite, Earl Grey.


3-4 162 Rokeby Road

Subiaco WA 6008

9388 7272

Brew-Ha in Subiaco told me that green tea is very popular at the moment, along with some of our herbal blends.

Popular green teas include Gunpowder and Dragon Moon, while vanilla tea is also proving popular at this time of the year, as is ginger tea. One tea that really intrigued me was a herbal tea called Tropical Fruit Sunset, which was described as a “meal in itself”.

Belaroma West

73a Colin Street

West Perth WA 6005

9321 4909

Belaroma West, tucked away in Colin Street just off Hay Street, is well known for both tea and coffee supplies of quality. Earl Grey, English and Irish Breakfast remain popular loose leaf teas, which many people are moving back to, leaving the tea bags jiggling away in someone else’s cuppa.

Herbal teas such as peppermint and chamomile are growing in popularity, as are the anti-oxidant linked green teas. Belaroma has an amazing selection of teas, ranging from $15/kg through to $280/kg. ‘Badda’s tears’ is one popular variety of single garden teas which is very scarce worldwide, difficult to source and really worth brewing for the dedicated tea lover.

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