Category Archives: History

Where does breakfast tea come from?

A good friend of mine loves “Scottish Morning” tea. Which is a strong tea, Darjeeling/Assam blend of teas, that when brewed properly can give you a pretty amazing jolt of caffeine. I was wondering what truly determines a “morning” blend, “breakfast” blend, etc. I found that there are a lot of different things that can make up these determinations.

Norwood Platt wrote an interesting article on the topic:

“Breakfast teas are not the only ones designed for a certain hour of the day. Indar, a French brand, describes itself intriguingly as Boudoir Tea-for whenever the opportunity arises, no doubt. British firms like Jacksons sell Afternoon and Evening teas but the apogee of this practice was attained by the now-defunct London firm which only sold six teas: Morning, Lunchtime, Afternoon, After-Dinner, Evening and Drawing Room.

Another “veddy Brit” practice hallowed by usage is to give teas names connecting them, however remotely, to the institution of the monarchy, Melrose, the leading Scottish tea brand, created its Queen’s Tea for Victoria’s use at her beloved Balmoral Castle. It is predominantly Darjeeling, with the addition of black teas from China, Assam and Ceylon. In London it was Thomas Ridgway who catered to the Queen’s tea needs with Her Majesty’s Blend or H.M.B. tea, which is also still sold. Ridgways’ H.M.B. is a delightful blend of rather delicate India, Ceylon, Taiwan and China black teas. This practice spread to the colonies as well. In Vancouver, British Columbia, Murchies’ Empress Blend has been sold for over a century, just as First Colony in Norfolk, Virginia, has sold its Queen’s Blend since the 1870s, both created in Victoria’s honor by Scots who immigrated to the New World. Mr. John Murchie apprenticed at Melroses, in fact. Some fragments of tea history are preserved in certain proprietary names like Boston Harbor Tea, exported by a London firm which was already 127 years old when it changed its name to Davison, Newman & Co. in 1777, only a few years after previous exports were tipped into Boston Harbor, purportedly by Indians. Mark T. Wendell’s Hu-Kwa Tea carries the name of a Cantonese who became a world- famous merchant prince and a household name for half a century. He had actually sold tea to the clipper ship captain whose nephew Mark T. Wendell founded the present firm in Boston. Before the Opium War, the chop, or stamp, of HuKwa (actually spelled Houqua) was a guarantee of excellence. A man who concluded deals on a handshake, he was so highly esteemed that America’s first clipper ship was named for him. Houqua tea made the fortunes of Astor, Perkins, and Peabody, America’s first millionaires, and sustains Mark T. Wendell still.”

History has a way of coloring how we still do some things today. The whole “well we have always done it that way” mantra that drive so many people.

I’m not a big consumer of “breakfast” types of tea but the one quality that I really enjoy from them is the way they can give a dose of, at times much needed, caffeine when starting the day off. A few beverage companies have tried to hone in on the drinking their beverages during certain times to even out the blood sugar during the day. I tend to think that there is something there that can be marketed.

Wishing you an amazing cuppa tea,


The Origin Of Our Word, “Tea”

calligraphic representation for the word tea.

In English tea is a neat, short word, but through out it’s long history, it has been spelled many different ways. It has been called tea, tee, tcha, chai, and many other variants.

The symbol to the right is the Chinese character for tea and has been used since at least the third century. There are in fact, two families of words that are used around the world, which come from the way that the Chinese character for tea has been pronounced. In Mandarin it is pronounced cha, In the Amoy dialect, which is spoken in the Fujian province and Taiwan, it is pronounced tay.

The two words took different paths in spreading out to the rest of the world, based on trade routes.

  • Cha. In the 5th century, the word cha expanded beyond the Chinese border. Tea went to Japan as o-cha, and to Persia as cha, which later evolved into the Arabic and Russian chai and the Turkish chay. Tea went to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, remaining as cha. While most of Western Europe uses a variation of “tay”, the Portuguese, who first brought tea to Europe, use cha.
  • Tay. The word tay began its travels later than cha, but spread beyond the Pacific Rim and Middle East to Europe. Xiamen (also known as Amoy), in the Fujian (Hokkien) province, was the port of trade first used by Europeans (mainly the Portuguese) in 1541. Near the end of the Ming Dynasty, in 1644, British merchants set up trading posts there; in the nineteenth century, it was China’s main port for exporting tea.

The pictures below are lists of names, and the languages and the derivative of either Tay or Cha. Click on the pictures to view them full size.













Thank you to “The Tea Cyclopedia” for these images.