Many people love to relax with a cup of coffee but tea is fast becoming popular as the beverage of choice due to the delicious flavours now available and the reported health benefits.
The legend of tea maintains that over 5000 years ago in ancient China, an Emperor by the name of Shen Nung required all drinking water to be boiled as a hygienic precaution. One summer day while Shen Nung was out travelling his kingdom, he stopped to rest. In accordance with his rule, the servants began to boil water for him to drink. Dried leaves from a bush nearby fell into the boiling water and a brown liquid was created. The Emperor drank the liquid and found it very refreshing, and according to legend, this is how tea was created.
Whether or not this legend has any basis of fact, tea has played a significant role in Asian culture. Chinese scholars regarded the brew as a cure for ailments, the nobility considered tea drinking as a status symbol and the commoners simply enjoyed its flavour.
As the craze for things oriental swept Europe in the 1600s, tea became part of the way of life. By 1650 the Dutch were actively involved in trade throughout the western world and by 1680 the first reference of adding milk to tea was made.
Tea arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and by 1820, tea was the drink of choice and enjoyed by all Australians regardless of their position in society. Early folklore talks of swagmen roaming the countryside, sharing tales beside campfires whilst drinking their “cuppa”. Swagmen and soldiers used to carry their tea leaves in their kit and the sundowner was rarely without his billy as he arrived at the stations often at dusk hoping to be granted some free rations.
Tea has also inspired much poetry and song and features in Banjo Paterson’s “Waltzing Matilda” written in 1895 as well as in “While The Billy Boils” written in 1863 by Keighley Goodchild. Tea evoked a sense of nostalgia and togetherness, particularly for the Australian soldiers abroad who were mailed packets of tea to remind them of home.