Glossary of Tea and Tea Terms
of the 18th and 19th Centuries
Guest Blog Posted on
November 26, 2018
by Geri Walton of the United Kingdom
Samuel Pepys was the first person in Britain who
documented drinking a cup tea, which he noted in his diary on 25
September 1660. At the time, it was an exotic drink and was in fact
so exotic sometimes people didn’t really understand how to prepare
it. A case in point is shown in the following story:
“A good housekeeper received a pound of tea
as a present from a friend abroad; so she called her neighbors
together to partake of this great rarity, prepared indeed, in a
manner truly novel. First she boiled the herb and strained off
the liquor, and then served it up in a dish, after it was
properly seasoned with salt, butter, and other choice
ingredients. Her guests, ignorant about it as herself, enjoyed
it in this state of preparation.”
When tea arrived in England, no one probably ever
imagined it would turn into the national drink. However, by the
mid-1700s, according to Jane Pettigrew, “tea was widely drunk
amongst even the poorest families in Britain.” With all the tea
drinking, people began needing some way to define everything
associated with it and before long, there were publications defining
tea terms. There was even cyclopedia related to tea that provided
all the details from cultivation and packaging it to diseases and
I thought I’d provide my own tea glossary and tea terms of the 18th
and 19th centuries gathered from different documents of the 1700s
ASSAM TEA A strong tea with a
pungent malty flavor grown in India.
BITTER TEA or
CHA TULCH Tea from Cashmere boiled
in a tinned copper pot to create a strong decoction and while
boiling it salt is added. “The tea is used after meals more
particularly after the early morning repast, which consists of plain
or butter biscuit and this tea.”
BITTER TEA or
SEEN CHA A green tea from Turkestan
infused but only allowed to stand for four minutes. The lighter the
infusion the more highly it was valued. This was prepared only in a
Russian teapot and considered a great luxury.
BLACK TEA Developed in China,
this tea underwent the longest process or oxidation.
A Cornwall term to describe a weak cup of tea.
BOHEA TEA A
species of the genus of THEA and the anglicized pronunciation of Wu-yi,
mountains in the Fukien region from where this leaf was gathered. In
addition, this and CONGO TEA were the top imported teas between 1870
to 1880 in the United Kingdom.
BOX HARRY Slang term for tea and
dinner at one meal.
BRICK TEA A
compressed tea usually made from old leaves (rather than young ones)
pruned in cold weather and formed into bricks that were then dried
to prevent mildew. One book described it as:
“A common kind of tea prepared … by
softening refuse leaves, twigs, and dust with boiling water, and
then pressing the compound into large slabs like bricks.”
crystalline alkaloid found in coffee, tea, and two other vegetable
preparations that stimulates the nervous system.
CAMELLIA SINENSIS An native
evergreen plant of China previously known as Thea Sinesis that was a
botanical variety. Both green and black teas came from it, but
Europeans were unaware of the difference until the mid-nineteenth
CAPERS A variety of tea imported
into England that “may be generally told by the leaves being rolled
up into little lumps with starch or gum, as a class they are much
adulterated, and, in fact, can hardly be called genuine tea.”
CATLAP A Cornwall slang term
sometimes given to weak tea.
CEYLON TEA In 1824, a tea plant
was smuggled into Ceylon by the British from China and planted in
the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial
purposes. Further experimenting and the establishment of the
Planters’ Association of Ceylon in 1854, resulted in an increased
interest in tea. Then, in 1867, James Taylor started a tea
plantation on the Loolecondera estate in Kandy and CEYLON TEA became
the reference for teas grown in Sri Lanka.
CHURNED TEA A tea from Cashmere
that was prepared like BITTER TEA but was churned with milk
afterwards. It was highly prized and used primarily for Cashmere
COFFEE-LEAF TEA Henry Cottam of
Ceylon wrote that he was trying to manufacture what he termed
“Coffee-leaf tea.” Apparently, some people thought it “wish-washy”
and practical unpalatable because it lacked both the aroma and the
delicate flavor of real tea. However, Cottam stated of it in 1882:
“One great advantage coffee-leaf tea would
have over ordinary tea is, that instead of having a tendency to
create nervousness, it contains strengthening properties; this
fact was endorsed by a Medical Journal … a month ago.”
CONGOU TEA A corruption of kung-fou
or cong-foo, indicated that its preparation relied on great care and
labor. In addition, this and BOHEA TEA were the top imported teas
between 1870 to 1880 in the United Kingdom.
CREAM TEA or
VUMAH CHA A black tea from Tukestan
boiled in a tinned copper pot and much stronger than ordinary tea.
Cream was added either while boiling or after it was poured into the
teapot. It was used in Turkestan in the morning only with bits of
bread soaked into it and eaten.
DARJEELING TEA Traditionally, it
was a high-quality black tea grown in the Himalayan Mountains of
India. Tea planting in the district of Darjeeling began in 1841
after Archibald Campbell, a civil surgeon of the Indian Medical
Service, brought seeds of the Chinese CAMELLIA SINESIS from the
Kumaon Kingdom and began to experiment with them in Darjeeling.
Commercial development then began during the 1850s.
EARL GREY TEA A blend of tea
thought to be named after Charles, 2nd Earl Grey who was Prime
Minister from 1830 to 1834. Grey reputedly received a gift of tea
flavored with bergamot oil from a grateful Chinese mandarin, and
when his supply ran out, he asked his tea merchant at the TWINING
COMPANY to recreate it for him. It then became a popular staple of
EAST INDIA COMPANY A private
company that was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region. It
turned into a monopoly for British trade with the East and produced
a profound effect on the history of tea.
GREEN TEA A coarse tea sold in
Kumaon and Gurhwal to traveling merchants without packing.
GOLDEN LYON The symbol used by
THOMAS TWINING that he placed above his tea and coffee shop located
at 216 Strand. The lion became the emblem of the TWININGS COMPANY
and remains there today.
GROOSHANS Term used in Cornwall
to describe the sediment left in a cup of tea or the dregs.
GUNPOWDER TEA This tea acquired
its name from its dark gray irregular-shaped balls that looked like
early gunpowder pellets. It was dried at a higher temperature than
other teas and therefore contained less hygroscopic moisture.
In 1826, Horniman devised the idea to pre-package tea in
pre-sealed, lead-lined tea packets. His tea packets were not an
immediate hit with grocers, and, so, initially, he sold his tea only
to pharmacies and apothecaries.
HYSON TEA A pale, young tea
meaning “flourishing spring.” Like gunpowder tea, it was dried at a
higher temperature than other teas and therefore contained less
JAVA TEA A tea harvested in
Java. The first plantation was created in 1827 with seeds sent from
Decima in Japan in 1826. However, according to most Londoners, it
was a weak tea they described as being “very good looking,” small,
JOHORE TEA A soft, bright tea
leaf and a hybrid of the Assam seed.
JUTE OF TEA Slang term in
Cornwall for a small quantity of tea.
LICENSED VICTUALLERS’ TEA ASSOCIATION
An Act was passed which allowed any shopkeeper to sell wine and
spirits and which resulted in licensed victuallers finding their
interests in jeopardy. Therefore, according to one book:
“They thought that, by selecting a few from
their body who, assisted by gentlemen of large experience as
Tea-tasters and long residence in China, should apply themselves
to the purchase of good and serviceable Teas, they would be able
to compete most successfully in that commodity.
They then formed the association in
September of 1867, which proved to be successful. The also
created a trademark which was represented by a “drayman on one
side and a Chinese on the other, holding shields; underneath the
motto, Dum vivo bibo (while I live I drink).” In addition, they
used different covers or wrappers to pack their tea according to
LIE TEA A tea
mixed with willow and other spurious leaves into genuine teal leaves
and then fraudulently sold as tea. It looked like tea but was easily
detected by a tea taster as not being good tea.
LONDON TEA AUCTION Auctions held
daily in London with the first one held quarterly under the EAST
INDIAN COMPANY. They were held in Leadenhall Street beginning in
1679, but in 1834 after the EAST INDIA COMPANY ceased to be a
commercial enterprise, the auction was moved to Mincing Lane.
Auctions lasted until 1998.
MALOO MIXTURE It was a medley of
“used tea-leaves, the leaves or various other plants, and rubbish of
all kinds, manufactured in Shanghai and shipped to England as tea.”
MASH Referred to pouring hot
water over tea leaves.
MEDICINE TEA This tea was
composed of coarse leaf and stalks, mixed with various kinds of
MOTE SPOONS They functioned in
three ways: as a measuring device, a skimmer, and a prodding device.
They were made of silver with small holes in the bowl and a thin
long handle with a pointed end. These were replaced by the late
1700s with teaspoons.
OOLONG TEA This large-leaf tea
came from China and was described thusly:
“A roughly made tea with an unassorted
appearance of a light greenish color. It is briskly fired and
has a taking scent when crushed in the hand. In liquor, it draws
a light coloured water and is pleasant to drink.”
ORANGE PEOKE TEA
A large leafed tea that had thin, long, wiry leaves and contained
yellow or white tips from the leaf bud.
PARAGUAY TEA A tea substitute
used in South America and also called YERBA MATE.
To add to your tea knowledge, read "The
Origin of Afternoon Tea."
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