Tea revolution changed the world 9/22/2015 •

Tea revolution changed the world

Sometimes you don't need to be an aristocrat, or be good at sword combat or perform feats in order to become a knight of the British Empire. Sometimes it is just enough to be an expert on tea.

At the latter half of the 19th century tea was a privilege of the rich until the British grocer Thomas Lipton started to sell it prepackaged which was cheaper. Thanks to him the drink became available to almost everybody. He was even created a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in March 1901 by King Edward VII.

Meanwhile, the price of tea in America was still high and only wealthy people could afford it. Besides, tea wasn't so popular with the Americans as with the Europeans. The situation changed radically due to a mistake. In 1908 Thomas Sullivan, a tea and coffee merchant sent tea to his potential buyers. But he prepackaged it not in big tin cans as it was normally done, but in small silk bags (one such bag was enough for one cup of tea). The clients thought that the tea had to be brewed right in these bags. Sullivan got very surprised when some time later the clients expressed the desire to buy tea in silk bags!

During the First World War tea bags were even delivered to the US army but the bags were made of gauze. Gauze spoiled the flavor of the tea and in 1930 Faye Osborne of Dexter Corporation suggested that it should be substituted by a fabric from wild abaca fiber (or manila hemp). But soon WW II disrupted the availability of manila hemp fiber. In 1938 Dexter Corporation finally patented special paper for tea bags that was porous, didn't impart a taste to the brew and had enough wet strength so that it didn't fall apart in the water.

The main qualitative difference between tea in bags and loose tea is that tea particles of bag tea are smaller – this helps to reduce the time needed for brewing, because there are more splits through which tea enzymes get into the water.

So, the tea revolution turned the beverage of the rich into the drink any person can afford. However, there are some negative consequences. For example, Japanese culture experts are worried that tea bags have a bad impact on their traditional tea ceremony. According to recent surveys, many young Japanese have a very vague idea of how to brew tea properly. Moreover, more than 20% of all Japanese families don't use loose tea at all. This is very sad since the tea ceremony is a part of the national culture in Japan.


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