Causeway U3A members often enjoy a cup of tea at their monthly meetings. Of course there’s nothing unusual about that...
However, at their February meeting members enjoyed hearing the story of tea. Guest speaker Robert Bell, proprietor of the well-known Belfast tea importers and blenders, gave a fascinating talk on the subject.
Tea is an ancient drink, having been first recorded in the court of a Chinese emperor in 2,737 BC.
Despite that, it took nearly 3,500 years before it arrived in Europe from India in the early17th century. It was introduced to the English Royal Court in 1662 and quickly became a fashionable drink for the well-to-do.
Initially, import duties were so high that only the better off could afford tea. It really only became popular 122 years later when William Pitt the Younger slashed import duties on tea from 112% to 12.5% in 1784. Then it became the drink for most of the UK population and consumption increased so much that government revenue actually increased.
It became popular despite claims from the Reverend John Wesley that tea was the work of the devil on the grounds that it was a mind-altering stimulant. It was soon widely accepted, however, on the grounds that it was better than alcohol.
Tea has played an important part in British history. It was a row about the high level of tax on tea that led to the American War of Independence .
We have more varieties than ever before from China, India, Kenya, Shri Lanka and many other countries.