Tea for the British…

An English collector of traveller’s tales by the name of Samuel Purchas mentioned in 1625 in ‘Purchas His Pilgrimes’ that the Chinese ‘use much the powder of a certaine herbe called chia of which they put as much a a walnut shell may containe, into a dish Porcelane, and drink it with hot water’….In 1637, the Cornish traveller Peter Mundy wrote that the people of Fukien in China’s Fujian Province ‘gave us a certain Drinke called Chaa which is only water with a kind of herb boyled on it’.

So when Thomas Garraway started offering tea for sale at his general store in Exchange Alley in the City of London in 1657, it was not a totally unknown drink, but till Garraway recognised the need to advertise and, in 1660, wrote his famous broadsheet entitled ‘An Exact Description for the Growth, Quality and Vertues of the Lea Tea’.

In it he explained where tea came from, how it was produced and why it was good for you. Fourteen clauses claimed that tea would cure headaches, kidney problems, skin complaints, loss of memory, breathing difficulties, infections, drowsiness, insomnia, runny noses, watery eyes, aches and pains, fevers and colds, dropsy and scurvy. But tea, a rare oriental luxury, was expensive and made more so by a heavy tax imposed by the government, so Garrawya’s customers were at first few and far between and came occasionally from their aristocratic houses and palaces to buy half a pound or less at a time.


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