Bigelow Tea on YouTube Subscribe Follow Me on Pinterest Follow Us on Instagram

Archives for the ‘Tea History’ Category

10 Historical Tea Tidbits To Sip On

Oh, snap! Who doesn’t love a history lesson on tea? Bigelow Tea sure does! And what better than when the narrative is illustrated with super fun animations?! Well, in this super interesting TED-Ed Original lesson, Shunan Teng details tea’s long history. From Chinese legends to opium wars, check out this quick video! Here are 10 tea points you don’t want to miss from the short clip!

  1. According to Chinese legend, Emperor Shennong accidentally poisoned himself – 72 times! But before the poisons took his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it saved his life. That leaf was tea.
  2. Research suggests tea was first cultivated in China, more than 6000 years ago.
  3. Originally, the same type of tea we drink today was eaten as a vegetable or cooked with grains.
  4. Tea only shifted from food to a beverage about 1500 years ago, where it was pressed into cakes, prepared with hot water and called matcha. It wasn’t until the 14th century when loose leaf tea appeared.
  5. Matcha became so popular that a distinct tea culture emerged. Tea appeared in books and poetry, and was the favorite drink for emperors. It also became a medium for art – artists would draw intricate pictures in the foam of the tea.
  6. In the 9th century, during the Tang dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first tea plant to Japan.
  7. Tea was one of China’s most important exports, along with porcelain and silk. This gave China a great deal of power as tea drinking spread around the world.
  8. In the 1600s, Dutch traders brought tea to Europe. Many credit Charles II and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, for introducing tea to the English aristocracy.
  9. As England grew to be more powerful, tea became more popular. By the 1700s, tea in Europe sold for ten times the price of coffee. However, at that time, tea was still only grown in China. So, when the English could no longer afford it with silver, they began to trade opium for tea. Unfortunately, this triggered a public health issue in China, and opium addiction increased.
  10. Fast-forward to 1839, a Chinese official ordered his troops to destroy British shipments of opium, as a statement against Western influence, which began the First Opium War between England and China.

As you can see, tea has a roller coaster of a history. Thirsty for more? Read about tea history on the Bigelow Tea blog. Whether you’re digging into the past or simply savoring the present moment, we can all agree that it’s always a good time to brew a cup of tea, right?! ….there is always a #TeaProudly moment in front of us!

Bigelow Tea Shows Off Its Sense Of Humors, Thanks To Chocolate And Tea!

Before there was modern medicine, there was humorism. And then, chocolate and tea (and other New World goodies, like coffee) messed up everything. What exactly does that mean? Grab your mug of Bigelow Tea and let’s get learning.

The concept of humors – also known as humorism or humoralism – was a system of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body. It was adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, including Hippocrates and Galen. Basically, the belief was that the human body was made up of four humors, or fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. (A little gross, we know.) The key to this pseudo-medical system was finding equilibrium. Every person had a unique humoral composition and if the individual’s body fell out of balance, they’d get sick.

For centuries, this is how medicine worked: get sick, then eat this or drink that. For example, if someone had a fever, the belief was that they were too hot, so they needed to eat something cold. Anyhow, this worked well enough until new foods were introduced that didn’t fit into the pre-assigned categories. When chocolate, tea and others were brought to the Western world in the 1600s, madness ensued (or maybe, the tea hit the fan??) because they were considered to be dietary chameleons. In fact, in 1687, Nicolas de Blegny, physician and pharmacist to France’s Louis XIV, even wrote a book on the “correct” usage of tea and chocolate to cure illness. How about that?

Eventually, modern medicine became the way of the present (and future) – thanks to technology and inventions like the microscope. Long story short: tea and chocolate may have been disrupters at one point, but they powered through. And with Bigelow Tea, you get the best of both worlds – even in the same cup (or dish). Take Bigelow’s Chocolate Chai Tea – chocolate coupled with black tea and spice… ab fab (absolutely fabulous) or the ever so popular Benefits Chocolate and Almond Herbal tea (serious yum!!). Curious to take these tea and chocolate from mug to plate? Here are a few favorite recipes! Enjoy!

Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 10 bags Bigelow Earl Grey Tea*
  • 2 cups (12-ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (6-ounces) milk chocolate chips
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

In 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring evaporated milk to a simmer. Add 10 tea bags; steep 5 minutes. Remove bags from evaporated milk and squeeze to remove liquid; discard bags. Add remaining sauce ingredients to tea milk mixture. Stir until chocolate chips melt (2 to 3 minutes). If necessary, heat over low heat to help melt chocolate chips. To serve: place a scoop of ice cream in bowl. Top with Earl Grey chocolate sauce. Refrigerate remaining chocolate sauce. Re-heat refrigerated Earl Grey sauce over low heat until softened to desired consistency.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Brownies

Ingredients

  • Bigelow Mint Medley Herbal Tea Bags
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup (1-½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 9×13 inch baking pan, greased and floured

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set the rack on the middle setting. Place tea bags in ½ cup of hot water. Set aside to cool, and then remove tea bags, squeezing out liquid from bags. Meanwhile, place 1-¼ cups of the chocolate chips and butter in a metal bowl. Set over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of water, to create a double-boiler. Heat on low and let chocolate and butter melt, stirring frequently. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until well blended. Add the cooled tea mixture and whisk to combine. Add a few tablespoons of the melted chocolate/butter combination to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining chocolate and incorporate. Lastly, add the flour and remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake approximately 25 minutes. Center will feel firm but still moist. Bake 5-10 minutes longer for a drier brownie. Place pan on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into 20 squares.

Darjeeling & Dark Chocolate Pots

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • Bigelow® Darjeeling Tea Bags
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao content) or semi-sweet chips
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

In a glass measuring cup, heat milk in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until very hot. Alternatively, this step can be done in a small saucepan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Place the tea bags in the hot milk and allow to steep for 2 minutes. Thoroughly squeeze out tea bags into milk before discarding. Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in a blender and process until finely chopped. Pour the hot tea infused milk over the chocolate and blend until smooth, about one minute. Add egg and a pinch of salt and blend again to incorporate fully. Note: It is important that the milk is hot to ensure the chocolate melts completely and creates the right consistency. Divide mixture evenly between four tea cups (or individually sized ramekins) and place in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. During this time, the mixture will firm up to the consistency of pudding. Serve chilled, with any combination of the following garnishes: whipped cream, fresh raspberries, or fresh mint leaves.

A President, A Monk, A Heist And A Duchess… And Other Times Tea Appeared In History

Okay, so maybe history wasn’t everyone’s favorite subject in school, but when it comes to tea—and its thousands of years of history—there are definitely some interesting stories to tell. So, grab a mug of your favorite Bigelow Tea flavor and enjoy these fun tales of tea from centuries past!

  1. The story behind afternoon tea: Many tea drinkers may think of afternoon teatime as a British tradition (even though the post-lunch, pre-dinner cup and nibble has roots across numerous cultures). Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is the woman to thank for the traditional English teatime as we know it. In 1840, Anna started partaking in the light meal to help stave off afternoon hunger pangs in between lunch and the typically late dinner hour of the time. Hey, whatever is necessary to avoid getting “hangry,” right?
  2. How about some ice for that hot tea? Richard Blechynden has often been attributed with making the first iced tea at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. As sales for his hot tea dropped while summer temperatures rose, he purportedly poured tea over ice to entice fairgoers. Some dedicated research tells another story, though, with iced tea’s roots reaching as far back as 1879, when Marion Cabell Tyree created a recipe for green tea over ice, which was published in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Later, in 1884, another recipe for iced black tea surfaced from the Boston Cooking School.
  3. The oldest book on tea! Long ago—in 1211 to be exact—a famous Buddhist priest by the name of Eisai wrote what is known to be the oldest book on tea in Japan: Kissa Yojoki (“How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea”). Kind of cool to know that even in the 1200s, tea was a part of a trend of healthy living…
  4. When tea wasn’t considered patriotic: Letters between John and Abigail Adams mention tea. One from July 1774 describes a hostess only serving coffee since tea (during the American Revolution) was considered unpatriotic. Fortunately, Americans came back around to this delightful beverage—and not just for throwing it into harbors.
  5. Tea in tombs: Experts now have what they believe is physical evidence of tea’s existence in two tombs that are 2,100 years old. Leaf buds found in these tombs resemble the finest tea. To prove their hunch, researchers compared the chemistry of the buds to modern tea samples. The presence of caffeine was helpful, but not conclusive, evidence. A few other plants also contain caffeine. Finding theanine was “the clincher.” The investigation also supported the belief that tea has long been highly prized and sought after, as one of the tombs –in western China – belonged to an emperor. Sounds like the humble cup of tea has some pretty lofty ancestors!
  6. Even a heist! According to Smithsonian magazine, in 1848, the British East India Company sent Robert Fortune on a trip to an area of China that was forbidden to foreigners. Disguised as a Chinese merchant, his mission was to steal the secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. (No need for thievery these days, we put our best blends right in the teabag for you to enjoy.)

Whether it was the subject of scandal, a sought-after noble treat or a target of old world corporate espionage, tea has a storied history that could give the likes of James Bond a run for his money. So the next time you’re confronted by a historical fact and feel your eyes threatening to glaze over, just think about how tea was probably livening things up behind the scenes. Do you have a favorite tea-related story to tell from your own history? Tag #TeaProudly on social media and share it with us!

Brew A Brilliant Cup Of Bigelow Tea

We love our friends across the pond. And, clearly, there’s a shared passion for tea. But have you ever wondered what exactly sets England apart from the United States of America when it comes to brewing a pot of tea? Well, a couple of things. Bigelow Tea has the scoop.

For starters, though, a bit of history.

The tea culture in America is an important thread in the fabric of the history of the United States. Tea was originally imported by early Dutch settlers in the 17th century, and became very popular. Over time, most tea was imported through Great Britain and the large population of early English immigrants passed their tea drinking customs to the colonists. However, tea and tea taxes soon became a point of contention between the American colonies and Great Britain. In 1776, angry Colonists dumped the tea cargo from British ships into the Boston Harbor (The Boston Tea Party), which became a precipitating event of the American Revolutionary War. And for a while there, tea drinking was considered unpatriotic. Fast-forward several hundred years to today, where 82% of Americans drink tea—that’s more than 158 million people who count tea as a top beverage choice.

Talk about #TeaProudly!

Anyhow, today, both Brits and Americans often steep a tea bag (an American invention, by the way, no biggie) in a cup of hot water. And while Americans are more likely to enjoy their tea over ice (can we get a pitcher of sweet tea, please?), we can all agree that a splash of milk or sweetener is an acceptable form of deliciousness. Also, Americans are known to explore a myriad of flavors, whereas the most popular tea in Britain is a simple cup of black tea.

Whatever your tea style – whether you’re an Anglophile or an adherent to the Americanized trends of tea – you want to make sure your tea is brewed right. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Start with premium quality tea and fresh cold water. Cold water is essential to making a great cup of tea. It’s the oxygen in the water that opens up the tea leaf for full flavor extraction so always allow tap water to run for 30 seconds before filling tea kettle. If you prefer to use bottled water, shake the bottle to aerate (oxygenate) the water.
  2. Chill out (or off). When using a teapot, take the chill off the pot by rinsing it with hot water.
  3. Boil, baby, boil. For black, oolong, herb and rooibos teas, always bring water to a rolling boil then immediately pour over tea. For green and white teas, bring water just to the point where tiny bubbles begin to form then pour over tea.
  4. But, you know, whatever. All Bigelow Tea packages list recommended brew times but as a general rule, black is best enjoyed when steeped 2-4 minutes, green teas for 1-3 minutes, herb teas for 4 minutes, or whatever time you prefer!

Regardless of your preferences, we think it’s fair to say that tea is warm and cozy; it soothes souls, connects people, invites conversation and makes memories. So, whether you’re taking builders tea in England or waking up to a mug of herbal bliss in the U.S. of A., raise your cup and share the experience with those close to you for a drink we all love. Tag #TeaProudly with your favorite way to enjoy a cup!

Travel, Profit and 100 Billion Cups of Tea…A Historical Look at Tea!

bigelow tea cup

As you most likely know, Bigelow Tea has been a family tea blender since 1945 where creating tea flavors continues to be our passionate pursuit. Perhaps that’s why we love exploring the role tea has played in various cultures throughout history. We recently discovered this fascinating map that was published in 1934 by Fortune Magazine and written about on Atlas Obscura, a website that guides readers to wondrous and curious places in the world. The map shows the size of countries based on how much tea was consumed in the area.

bigelow tea map

It displays China as about equal to the British Isles, but in reality the article details that the population of China was at the time, nine times bigger than that of the U.K., and the country’s inhabitants drank nearly twice as much tea as the Brits did!

The map also demonstrates that each person in Britain consumed around 6 cups of tea a day, adding up to 485,000 pounds of tea per year. That breaks down to one hundred billion cups of tea, total – clearly, the British do love their tea!

Also interesting is the discussion of how the British made quite the profit from their tea habit, with earnings from the tea trade leading Britain into colonizing one third of the world! The map text even quotes, “Where Britain goes, tea goes with them.” The article goes on to explain that Britain grows and sells four-fifths of the world’s tea, though part of this large tea industry took place in India, where the British grew and sold Indian tea.

Finally, if you notice the red lines drawn on the map, you’ll see the many routes of where tea traveled during the time period. The information shows the U.S. consumed 95,000 pounds of tea annually.

One last historical nugget: the map was created not long after the 1929 Wall Street crash, as the article points out. This crash caused tea prices to drop, and in 1933 tea companies in India, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) came to an agreement to lower output, leading to a slow price increase that was more profitable for all growers and sellers.

Tell us: do you have interesting tea historical tea facts to share?  Please do and tag with #TeaProudly so we can learn too!

Bigelow Toasts To Afternoon Teatime Traditions

bigelow-tea-teatimeOn a historical tea note, many Bigelow Tea drinkers may think of afternoon teatime as a British tradition (even though the post-lunch, pre-dinner cup and nibble has roots across numerous cultures as noted in Forbes recently). Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is the woman to thank for the traditional English teatime as we know it. In 1840, Anna started partaking in the light meal to help stave off afternoon hunger pangs in between lunch and the typically late dinner hour of the time.

Today, the quintessential afternoon tea is a common tradition in countries that were once British colonies, such as Malaysia. While the English may serve their tea with small bites and savory treats, Malaysians, for example, enjoy delicacies such as yam cake or prawn fritters with their steaming cup which also sounds delicious!

Another fact that tea neophytes may also be interested to learn is that afternoon tea and high tea were not one and the same. While afternoon tea was a ritual for the upper classes, high tea was viewed as a filling meal of heavier foods that was strictly a working class affair.

And finally, did you know that the Japanese have enjoyed tea time even longer than the British? The culture has observed a very strict ceremony surrounding the making, serving, and drinking of tea. This ceremony dates back over a thousand years, and involves specific guidelines that make the serving of tea a beautiful art form, complete with designated wardrobe items, surrounding décor, and foods.

Of course, we always find the practice of drinking tea to be a time honored tradition to share with family and friends. Tell us- do you have any tea drinking rituals, such as a special treat or favorite flavor you can share with us?

Bigelow Tea Uncovers the Mysteries of Chai

bigelow tea vanilla chaiWe love to respond to Bigelow Tea fan questions and this was a good one so we wanted to share it with you as well.  A reader asked. “What is Chai?”  The easiest definition of Chai is spiced milk tea, but let’s look a bit more closely at this historical brew.

Chai originated in the East and dates back to thousands of years ago as a concoction sipped by Eastern royalty, though it did not actually contain tea leaves at the time. The drink grew in popularity when the British set up tea plantations in India in the 1800’s, leading to widespread variations across the country and eventually the rest of the world.  Chai was often used as a healthful tonic for common ailments such as colds or indigestion.

Chai is typically a blend of rich black tea, ginger, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn, nutmeg and cinnamon.  It may also be made with green tea.  Spices and sweeteners may vary based on preference so if you are up for a tea change,  check out our Spiced Chai (also available in Decaf), Vanilla Chai, Green Tea Chai,  Chocolate Chai (Yum!), and Caramel Chai as they will be sure to keep you coming back to the kettle for another cup.

Now, how many of you hesitate to talk about how much you love Chai as an alternative to morning coffee or an irresistible beverage any time of day just because you are not exactly sure how to pronounce it?  Is it “ch I” or “k I?”  The answer is: ch I.  In fact, Chai is actually the word for tea in many languages.

bigelow tea chai tea

So now that you have some history and Chai and you know how to pronounce it, which Bigelow Chai flavor will be your first choice to try?

Bigelow Explores The History of Iced Tea

bigelow tea iced tea history

When you hear the words “iced tea,” it’s easy to envision a pitcher of your favorite Bigelow Tea flavor over ice. Perhaps you add in a sweetener, or maybe you enjoy it nice and simple. Whichever way you drink it, now you can sip with an appreciation for its back story—it is steeped in history, after all!

Richard Blechynden has often been attributed with making the first iced tea at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. As sales for his hot tea dropped while summer temperatures rose, he purportedly poured tea over ice to entice fairgoers. Some dedicated research tells another story, though, with iced tea’s roots reaching as far back as 1879, when Marion Cabell Tyree created a recipe for green tea over ice, which was published in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Later, in 1884, another recipe for iced black tea surfaced from the Boston Cooking School.bigelow tea iced tea blend These days, while iced tea is still extremely popular during summer, the classic drink is enjoyed year ‘round. In the United States, 85 percent of tea consumed each year is iced as noted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We are an iced tea culture, and we are the only country in the world [noted as such],” said Peter Goggi, president of Tea Association of the USA. Who are the most popular consumers, you may wonder? Well, baby boomers and millennials, of course! 87 percent of millennials drink tea, according to the Tea Association. Goggi said that it’s likely because millennials grew up in the ready-to-drink era that accepted tea as a good alternative to soda and other sugary drinks.

Whatever the reason (or season!), iced tea is always a cool option—and you can make it with any flavor of Bigelow Tea that you would normally enjoy hot. So pick your favorite (@LukeIsASequin suggests “Constant Comment®”), brew and pour over ice for a cold treat any time!

Learn Why Bigelow Uses Tea From Sri Lanka

 

bigelow tea sri lankaHigh in the mountains of Sri Lanka grow acres of gorgeous tea plants renowned for yielding a light, bright brew prized as “the champagne of teas.” Bigelow Tea founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow fell in love with tea from the region and initiated a partnership that has endured for 67 years! Third-generation President and CEO Cindi Bigelow was thrilled to visit this tiny island country in South Asia to meet the folks who expertly hand-pick tea leaves used in Bigelow’s black teas.

For a rare peek inside the tea gardens of Sri Lanka, check out Cindi’s Sri Lanka journal and videos. And here are a few more interesting facts highlighting why Bigelow Tea embraces Sri Lankan tea producers as part of its extended global family:

  • The British planted the first camellia sinensis (tea) plant in Sri Lanka in the 1800s following a blight that had wiped out the coffee crop, sparking new traditions built around tea farming.
  • Today, tea cultivation is a $1.5 billion industry in Sri Lanka employing more than 1 million people who produce the world’s most expensive tea.
  • Before 1972, while under British colonization, the island was known as “Ceylon.” Hence tea from Sri Lanka is still called Ceylon tea.
  • Every tea estate in Sri Lanka with which Bigelow Tea does business is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which promotes fair treatment of workers and sustainable farming practices.
  • With high elevations that can exceed 6,000 feet, Sri Lankan tea gardens boast extremely favorable soil and weather conditions for growing delicate tea plants.
  • Each Sri Lankan estate prides itself on producing signature teas—much the same way vintners age wines for different tastes.

Enjoy the delicious results in your mug of Bigelow black tea! @Daniela441 tweeted his love for English Teatime. What’s your favorite Bigelow black tea blend?

Bigelow Tea Takes A Look At Cataract Awareness Month

bigelow tea green tea mug
Your eyes are like cameras, taking in images of what’s around you. Since June is Cataract Awareness MonthBigelow Tea is getting a clear perspective on how cataracts can affect vision. So brew up a little iced tea and read on!

bigelow tea iced teaAccording to the American Optometric Association, a cataract can impact the eye’s lens, which focuses light onto the retina to transmit what images the brain can see. A cataract blocks light from properly passing through the lens, which in turn can make your vision blurry or dim. Just like with a camera, a blurry lens affects how the images come out!

Cataracts can happen at any age, but they often develop as you become older. Treatment can really make a difference in handling cataracts, so it’s important to visit your eye doctor on a regular basis.  Nutrition, too, plays a factor, as lutein and Vitamins C & E appear to help with eye health.

And let’s not forget about tea’s connection to eye health where over the last decade, researchers have begun to study the effects of black tea, green tea, and EGCG from green tea extract on preventing the development of cataracts in the lens of the eye.  So, during this warmer weather—and during Iced Tea Month—enjoy Bigelow Green Tea with Pomegranate Iced Tea. Sip a little while you plan on having a clearer view of taking care of your eyes!