Sunday, 8 March 2015

Exploring Tea Part 2 - The First Cup of Tea

© The Chitra Collection, Sèvres Tea Set

The First Cup of Tea

With origins shrouded in millennia of myth and folklore, the first written record of boiling water for tea appears relatively late, in an anecdotal tale by China’s Wang Piu titled Contract of a Youth in 59 BC. It details a contract between a servant and the author, who stipulates that the servant buy tea, boil tea and serve tea.
A legend ascribes the discovery of tea much earlier to Shen Nung, an emperor whose reign is traditionally dated some 26 centuries before Wang Piu detailed his tea needs. According to one version of the legend, Shen Nung (2737-2697 BC) was boiling water to drink, sheltered in the shade of a majestic tea bush. Whilst the water came to a boil, a gust of wind disturbed the branches and several tea leaves fell into the water. He was so enchanted by the infusion that he included it in his celebrated Pen t’sao, a medical treatise written some time later.
Archaeologists corroborate this period, estimating that tea was consumed for thousands of years before Wang Piu’s written reference in the 1st century BC, as a snack to be chewed or a medicine to be ground into a paste as well as an infusion steeped in boiling water. Whatever its true origins, one thing is certain: tea has been part of human history for millennia. (Courtesy Newby Teas)

Since my last post I have been asked to share how to make a good cup of tea. Since my Grandmother taught me as a child I will share just the way she taught me.
  How to Make a good Cup of Tea
Always use freshly boiled water as re-boiled water will have lost much of it’s oxygen. It is important to heat the pot first, pouring the water away, before taking the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot. Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per person and 1 extra for the pot. Infuse 3 – 5 minutes or to taste.  

Length of infusion

The length of infusion depends on the type of tea and leaf as well as personal preference. Teabags require less time as the leaves are smaller, and the increased surface area lends itself to quicker infusions. Loose leaf teas require slightly more time, with black teas and tisanes requiring the longest length of infusion.


The perfect cup of tea begins well before the water has been boiled. Storing tea correctly is essential. Tea leaves are fragile and easily corrupted by heat, light, moisture and air pollution. Store in a caddy with an airtight lid.(The last two paragraphs courtesy of Newby Teas)

Many more posts to come on the subject of tea.


Janneke said...

So interesting and useful for our Dutch people to learn to make a good cup of tea. I know people here who use only hot water from the tap, swinging a teabag through the water and ready it is. I learned to love tea drinking and making when I was in Southampton as an au pair, a long time ago.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I've enjoyed many a hot cup of tea this winter, but I'm looking forward to my favorite - iced tea as the days will soon be warming up !

Elizabethd said...

I do prefer a loose leaf tea, somehow it has a better taste.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Tea certainly is an ancient beverage! I wonder when it came to Europe . . . I suppose you are going to let us know as you go along. Just think what a huge industry has developed from the humble tea plant . . . and what hours of sipping enjoyment too.

Vee said...

One more question: does the water that warms the tea pot have to be boiling from the tea kettle or may it be from the tap? Very interesting information!

ChrisJ said...

You didn't say whether you put the milk in first or afterwards. Always a great debate in our house. But maybe you don't spoil it with milk!

Lorrie said...

A properly made cup of tea is a delight. I really dislike tea made in a cup with a bag, but sometimes, needs must. Such a pretty Sevres tea set.

Elizabeth said...

Definitely warm the pot!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, I learned something new here as I did not know about using freshly boiled water. I think if we got a new kettle it would help too, thanks for the information. Jane

Terri said...

I love Darjeeling (not quite sure of the spelling), but I also like herb teas. I suppose the making "rules" are the same.
Always an interesting post here.

Anonymous said...

A lovely tea set.
Great info on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
It is the same way my great Aunt taught me many years ago.

Merisi said...

Mesmerising, thank you!

I am steeping my organic Earl Grey for two minutes only, and it makes the perfect tea for me, with a bit of cold milk.