The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974



by Janet Spencer

Next to water, tea is the most-consumed beve-rage in the world. Worldwide, tea consumption equals all other beverages (aside from water), including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and al-cohol, combined. Come along with Tidbits as we drink a cup of tea!


• An average of 3 billion cups of tea are drunk every day around the world, with green tea being the most popular type of tea. In the U.S., 1.2 million pounds of tea leaves are used daily.

• There are over 3,000 different varieties of tea, but all of it, whether black, green, white, or oolong comes from the same plant, Camellia sinesis, an evergreen shrub or small tree. The word “camellia” comes from the name of botanist Georg Kamel for whom the plant is named, and “sinesis” comes from the Latin word for China. Different types of tea come from different leaves that are plucked from the plant, as well as the different ways the leaves are treated after being harvested.

• Herbal teas that come from plants other than Camellia sinesis such as chamomile or peppermint are not true teas, but are instead more accurately called “infusions.” Flavored teas, on the other hand, are made of real tea with various added essences, including herbal ones.

• The story goes that tea was discovered nearly 5,000 years ago when a camellia blossom accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water belonging to Chinese emperor Shen Nung. Whether or not the story is true, it’s a fact that China now cultivates some of the world’s biggest tea plantations.

• The earliest known physical evidence of tea was discovered in 2016 in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han in China, proving that tea from the genus Camellia was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors as early as the 2nd century B.C.

• China had a monopoly on tea for centuries, and export of the plants or seeds was forbidden by the Chinese government. In 1848, the British-owned East India Trading Company hired Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to travel to China, learn the secrets of tea manufacture, and smuggle back cuttings and seeds. Fortune disguised himself as a rich merchant and succeeded in his quest. His cuttings and seeds were planted in the British-owned territory of Darjeeling, India, where they flourished. Within his lifetime, Fortune saw India surpass China as the top exporter of tea.


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