Good morning, my wonderful friends! Over the next couple weeks the owner of this lovely establishment and I, have decided it would be fun to have a little histor-tea lesson! Often times we are approached and asked about tea etiquette and what is appropriate to add to your tea, how much, when to add it, etc etc. While I maintain that there is no truly right or wrong way to enjoy tea, there is definitely a rich history to be known on why we do tend to add certain things to our tea. In the coming weeks, I will be exploring this history and why we choose certain additives over others. Today, we’ll be tackling the ever talked about, sugar!
Sugar, Sweetener, Glucose, C 6H 12O 6, whatever you want to call it, this little molecule is constantly discussed and fretted over due to its health concerns but more positively, its inherent delicious taste.
This was in fact sugars first and most appealing quality in relation to tea. When Catherine of Braganza initially introduced tea to the English in the mid 1600s, it was only consumed by the upper class that took fondly to it. Because of its delicacy in nature, consumers sought to add only other luxury items to it. In the 1600’s sugar proved to be such a rarity and the upper class began to add it to their tea for it’s delectable taste. It was not only added to tea, but sprinkled on desserts, mixed into wines, and used for it’s believed property of increasing energy levels.
Today we know sugar to be less of a rarity and more of a commonplace occurrence and this is due to a variety of reasons. Historically speaking, sugar first faced adversity in the late 1600s when medical scholars bashed it for its attributions to teeth rotting, and weight gain leading to gout. In normal economic fashion, this lower of demand prompted a decrease in price of sugar and it became a more commonplace product.
Post its fall in status, sugar began to be demanded again by the masses and thus caused more medical speculation for potential benefits. By the mid 1700s some nutritionist were actually endorsing the adding of a teaspoon of sugar to a “nonalcoholic herbal infusion”… AKA TEA!!!
Again, speaking historically, the British owned and controlled mass sugar plantations (run by slavery) in the Caribbean that would allow for this increase in demand. With the increase in demand for sugar, came in turn, an increase in demand for tea. Tea became Britain’s most popular drink as a direct result of the availability of this sugar. As this continued for over a century until the Act of 1833 was passed (termination of slavery), the daily consumption of tea and sugar had escalated to normalcy. Monetary profits for the British had sustained to create a whole new sect of their economy dedicated solely to tea and sugar.
While the British Empire did extend to the Caribbean to sustain their sugar intake, it did not include areas in China where their new obsession, tea, came from. While this would seem to create a roadblock, the East India Company of the British Empire had already gone to China seeking silk and spices so their pathway to obtain tea was already in place. Additionally, the Chinese commercial and economic system were equipped enough to the a lot for the rising demand.
As the tea industry as a whole began to grow rapidly, it expanded geographically into India. Two areas in particular, Assam and Darjeeling, became the leading tea producing areas by the end of the 18 th century. Both of these areas are currently actually names of teas that are still made today and sold in our store. Click the links below to check them out! With this ability to obtain tea and the decrease in the price of sugar, tea continued to become more and more plebian. This would eventually allow for a development of the industry into different gradations and status’ of teas.
With the growth in popularity of tea and it becoming more mainstream, working class individuals began to drink it regularly. Formerly, these individuals would indulge in beer, wine, or cider for its properties of providing a full feeling while also numbing the pain of intense physical labor. With the development of the factories and the Industrial Revolution the ability to show up to work intoxicated was not something that these laborers could risk or could be tolerated. Tea, not almost now always seen to be sweetened by sugar, would allow workers the energy they sought, the sweetness they desired, and the warmth that comforted them during a meal.
By the end of the 18 th century and into the 19 th, tea and sugar had both leading roles in the economic strength of Great Britain. Tea accounted for 10% of the overall tax income and duties on sugar alone sustained all the ships on their Navy. This increase in wealth allowed for the expansion we see and the colonization we know of to the America’s. As Lord Becket, from Pirates of the Caribbean, would say, “Its just good business.”
I, for one, love sugar in my tea. I prefer the raw amber sugarwe sell here at Good Life Tea. It allows for the sugar to melt slowly into my cup and distributes the sweetness evenly. If I drink my cup of tea a bit fast it even allows for a delicious sweet last sip! I hope you have enjoyed learning about why it is that we choose to add sugar to our tea, because I certainly enjoyed researching it for you! Next post we will explore the adding of cream or milk! Please let me know if you have any comments or questions or anything to add to this post! Hope you all have a wonderful week! – Kay-tea :)
P.S. Continue reading the remainder of the series here...