China Connection 222nd February 2021 by Michele Auborn
Tea is China’s national drink, so much so that there is a China National Tea Museum.
The oldest type of tea, and the most popular there today is Green Tea which has been brewed for thousands of years. For this you select the newest and youngest leaves of the plant, and leave them to dry naturally. It is supposed to have many benefits for health which adds to its popularity. Black tea is the second most popular and the most widely available. It is again made from the newest leaves but they are fermented, and dried quickly. Actually the colour once brewed is red not black.
In China and in Japan tea is drunk with much ceremony, and when it first started appearing over here we also treated it with reverence; the early tea was very expensive and was usually stored in a locking box called a tea caddy. This was so that visitors, or servants, could not dip into the tea for themselves. There were even more expensive versions with a lidded compartment at each end and a glass mixing bowl in the middle. That fell from favour but they were replaced by elaborate silver tea pots like the George III one (dating from 1802) which we show as our featured card (W675-206 [tobacco : UK] W.D. & H.O. Wills “Old Silver” (Nov.1924) 23/25) These were still used in the 1920s and 1930s, but after that they started to decline, though they are still made today for restaurants and special occasions.
What probably led to the decline of the silver teapot was a change in the way of life, but it was also affected by the increasing popularity of tea bags. These were patented as tea pockets in 1903, and the first ones were hand sewn and hand packed. They looked like little sacks. They were not immediately popular due to a rumour that the tea in them was swept from the floor and included dust. It took until 1929 for the packing process to be mechanized; the machinery was invented in Germany. The rectangular bag only arrived in the late 1940s. And pyramid bags were not invented by Brooke Bond, as many suppose, they were first introduced in the 1930s.
In 1988 Brooke Bond issued a set called the Language of Tea, just twelve cards. Number three is China, and the back tells us not only that tea drinking goes back to the fourth century, but that it arose from an accident, when some leaves fell off a tree into some water just as it was being boiled by Emperor Shen Nung. He liked the flavour so much that he began to cultivate the wild tea plant. The back also says that the word Tea comes from he Chinese word t`e but that it is actually pronounced “tay” not “tee”
You can read lots more about tea at:
and you can find lots of tea cards at
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Greetings to all readers from the Hants and Surrey Branch. We are getting ready to come out of hibernation with a grand postal auction in April. Have a good look through this catalogue as there are some really exciting items included. And remember t
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