Drinking tea has been a long-standing tradition in many countries around the world, with unique recipes and preparations evolving along the way. Bell has unique blends sourced from some of the finest tea estates around the world through the Ethical Tea Partnership.
To learn more select a country from the map below.
Tea was born in China. It was cultivated well before the birth of Christ and has since become a part of most Chinese households’ daily lives. Previous to World War II, close to half of the world’s production and selection of excellent teas was created by China, which now has dropped down to second place following India. At present there are 18 regions in China where tea is grown, Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guizhou, Guangdong, Henan, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Yunnan, Zhejiang, Tibet and Guangxi Zhuang. But the most important and well-known regions are Zhejiang, Hunan, Sichuan, Fujian and Anhui. Tea or tea leaves in many countries come from the Chinese character “Cha”.
The introduction of tea took place in 1900, Uganda Botanic Gardens. Since then companies started purchasing land in East and mainly West Africa and started producing huge tea estates. Tea seeds used in these tea estates came from a small region in Assam situated in North East India. The Great Rift Valley that runs 5000 kilometres from Lebanon to Mozambique is bounded on either side by highlands and mountains that are home to some of the finest tea growing plantations in the world. Principal among these are the great Kenyan estates that lie to the east of the Rift Valley at the foot of Mt Kenya. Also prized are the teas from smallholders west of the Rift, in the Nandi Hills, the Kericho highlands and the approaches to Mt Elgon.
Almost 95% of Argentina's teas come from the northern estates of the country from the province of Misiones and the remainder 5% from Corrientes. The teas in Argentina are mechanically plucked due to the shortage of labour, which in turn has increased productivity. Teas from Argentina are well known for their complementary flavour and body when blended with other teas. They are also perfect for creating iced teas.
The first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and 1654, and it became popular enough to replace ale as England's national drink. As in Holland, it was the nobility that gave tea its stamp of approval. Both King Charles ll and his wife, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza were both tea drinkers. And, although tea prices were kept fairly high, tea mania swept through England just as it had the other countries.
As a matter of fact, prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, breakfast and dinner were the two meals that were commonly served. But it didn't take long before Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, adopted the European tea service format and invited friends to join her in an afternoon meal. The menu centered around small cakes, sandwiches, assorted sweets and, of course, tea. This practice proved so popular that soon she was sending friends notes that invited them to her London home for Tea Time and a walk in the fields. Likewise, this idea was copied by other hostesses and serving tea became a common thread for almost all families in England. Tea was made in a heated silver pot and brought to the guests and was served in the finest porcelain from China. The food, which almost always included crumpets, wafer thin crust less sandwiches and shrimp and fish pates, was also served on the fine china.
At this time, two types of tea services emerged, which are called High and Low. Low Tea was served in the homes of wealthy aristocrats and consisted of simple gourmet tidbits rather than regular meals. At these teas, the emphasis was on the presentation and conversation. For the middle and lower classes, High Tea was considered the main meal of the day and featured meats, vegetables and, naturally, tea.
The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz in 1560 A.D., in his capacity as a missionary. After the introduction of tea into Portugal, they shipped tea to Lisbon; and Dutch ships transported it to France, Holland and the Baltic countries. Because of the travel costs to ship, at that time, tea cost over $100 per pound! This made it the domain of the wealthy. But, by 1675 A. D., it was less expensive and available in the food shops throughout Holland and France. Tea drinking became part of the way of life. Dutch inns provided the first restaurant service of tea. Tavern owners furnished hot portable tea sets to their guests at their garden tables. Into the 1700s France and Holland led Europe in the use of tea.
The world’s largest tea producing country, India has 39,700 tea estates and has built up a tea producing labour force of more than a million people. Due to the size of India’s population and the increasing appetite of tea, only half of the tea produced in India is exported. The most famous and largest tea growing regions in India are: Assam – Known for its robust taste and dark colour. Darjeeling – Is known for its delicate aroma and light colour. Nilgiri – Intensely aromatic and flavoured. It is from the hills of Nilgiris. Tea in India is mostly served with milk, sugar, masala and is called “Chai”.
The introduction of tea in Indonesia took place 200 years ago and has since then been a way of life for many Indonesians. Indonesian tea estates are found in the highest mountains where the tropical climate and volcanic soil are predominant which therefore results in their tea being light and flavourful. About 80% of the black tea production in Indonesia is exported.
New Zealanders are solid tea drinkers when compared to other countries around the world! Tea consumption per capita in New Zealand is around 1kg - we consume more tea per head of population than Australia or USA, and around one third of Ireland who are the highest volume tea consumers in the world. 77% of New Zealand households drink tea and one in 3 households drink Bell tea. That’s more than any other brand of tea in the country. Bell Tea & Coffee Company produces over 700 million teabags each year – that’s an average of 218 teabags per person aged over 15 years!
Ice Tea and Tea Bags The discovery of "iced tea" was attributed to an Englishman, and possible plantation owner, named Richard Blechynden. This young, ingenious tea merchant, presented various teas, some from Calcutta and Ceylon - the Far East tea trade, at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, MO in the U.S.A., and planned to give his selected samples of the hot brew to all of the visitors. But, when the scorching heat of the day caused disinterest in hot tea drinks, he dumped a load of ice into the batch and inventively, produced the world's first iced tea! This new love of tea in America prompted the production of tea plantations in all of the American South. Four years later, Thomas Sullivan of New York produced the first bagged tea. As a tea merchant, he carefully wrapped each bag for consideration at restaurants. He formulated the idea to help keep the kitchens tidy and uncomplicated with brewing big batches of tea. His idea was a success.
The Buddhist Priest Yeisei first brought tea seeds to Japan from China. He had seen the value of the tea ceremony for use in enhancing religious meditation. As a result, he is known as the Father of Tea in Japan. So, tea received almost instant imperial sponsorship and its use spread rapidly from the royal court and monasteries to all of Japanese society. Soon, tea was elevated to an art form resulting in the creation of the Japanese Tea Ceremony (the Cha-no-yu) or the hot water for tea. Irish-Greek historian, Lafcadio Hearn wrote from personal observation: ”The Tea Ceremony requires years of personal training and practice to graduate in the art yet the whole of this art, as to detail, signifies no more than the making and serving of a cup of tea. The supremely important matter is that the act be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful, most charming manner possible.” This pure form of expression prompted the development of tea houses in which the hostesses of Japan, the Geishi, began to specialise in The Tea Ceremony. Soon, nearly everyone became involved in the excitement of tea.
Tea drinking is a part of the Sri Lankan culture where tea is served in English style with sugar and warmed milk. Prior to tea, coffee was Sri Lanka’s main crop until being destroyed by a coffee fungus in 1869, which then saw Sri Lanka turn to producing tea. Sri Lanka is the third largest tea producing country in the world, and its tea is known as Ceylon tea. Famous tea growing regions of Sri Lanka are: Dimbula – west of the central mountains Uva – east of Dimbula Nuwara Eliya – highest area which produces the finest blend of teas Galle – situated to the south of Sri Lanka Teas in Sri Lanka are hand picked
English Tea Gardens
Taken from the Dutch tavern garden teas, the English enhanced the idea of Tea Gardens. On private grounds, ladies and gentlemen took their tea outdoors and were entertained by orchestras, flowered walkways, bowling greens, concerts, games and other lavish elements. In public tea gardens, women were allowed to mix freely for the first time without social criticism; and British society and the middle classes also gathered freely, thus cutting across lines of class and birth.
By 1720 A.D., tea was a special favourite of colonial women. Noteworthy, the tea trade was based in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, which became future centres of American rebellion because the imported British tea was heavily taxed. Soon, contraband tea was smuggled into the colonies from ports far away and herbal teas were used from the American Indian. Tea companies fumed as they saw their profits diminish and they pressured parliament to take action. In June, 1767, the tea tax was introduced and ignited the flames of anger among the colonists. England counted on the passion for tea among the women colonists to help subside the rage, but it backfired. The women refused to buy English tea until their rights and those of their merchant husbands were restored, and the unjust taxes levied were brought into perspective. As events deteriorated, the men of Boston, dressed as Indians gathered and threw hundreds of pounds of British tea into the Boston Harbor. Hence, the name Boston Tea Party! Later, America stabilised her government, strengthened her borders and tea interests.