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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.

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 Shares Favorite A Few Interesting Tea Facts

At Bigelow Tea we love discussing and sharing interesting facts and history about our favorite beverage- tea! The folks over at Mental Floss put together this quick video of thirty-six of the most interesting facts about tea. Here’s a few to sip on:

  • Tea is the world’s 2ndmost popular drink. Water comes in at number one which coincidentally, is a crucial ingredient in making any cup of tea!
  • 85% of the tea sold in the US is iced tea per Mental Floss. At Bigelow, we sell a variety of special iced tea blends but we always encourage our fans to be creative and experiment with brewing their own iced tea at home with any Bigelow tea flavor!
  • Contrary to popular opinion, iced tea did not originate at the 1904 World’s Fair. A recipe can be found from an 1877 cookbook.
  • “Chai Tea” is redundant and actually means “tea tea”. We’ve put a modern twist on this ancient classic with Bigelow Caramel Chai.
  • In 1901, two American women invented the modern tea bag. Just 44 years before our founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow started Bigelow Tea in her kitchen in New York City!
  • If you find yourself in Zillah, WA, keep an eye out for the service station shaped like a teapot! Sounds like the perfect road trip to us!
  • English tea parties became popular around the 1840s when Queen Victoria and her friends would host tea and snacks between lunch and dinner. Check out our tips for hosting the perfect tea party here.
  • The London Tea Auction was a staple of tea trade for 300 years. Today there are actually E-auctions in India!
  • The British Standards Institute has a guide for preparing tea. Bigelow third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow also has her very own guide for the perfect cup of tea!

To learn more fun facts about tea, watch third generation president and CEO Cindi Bigelow’s video where she shares her tea expertise!

Bigelow Tea Talks Teapots

bigelow tea tea potBigelow Tea fans know that the perfect cup of Bigelow Tea starts in the teapot or tea kettle, but may not know much about them. Here’s a quick lesson! A tea kettle is heated on a stovetop and a teapot is not heated but the tea is steeped inside it.

bigelow tea green tea pot

A brief history of the teapot reveals that when tea and teapots were introduced to Great Britain in the early 1600s the original Chinese teapots were undifferentiated from wine-pots, which have a handle and spout. In 1694 the British East India Company indicated that all their teapots needed a grate before the spout to hold back tea leaves. Ceramic teapots are now available in a variety of colors and sizes like this Lime Green Curve Teapot (pictured above and available on the Bigelow Tea website) but they weren’t made in Britain until the 1690s!

tea pot bigelow teaToday, people typically use either stovetop or electric kettles to heat the water for their tea. Facebook Fan Marian Herbet says “a blue kettle heats my water on the stove in the winter. When the Summer comes I use an electric kettle.” Electric tea kettles quickly and quietly boil water while traditional kettles are used on a stovetop (like the Catalina Tea-Kettle in Stainless Steel, pictured above). This traditionally shaped kettle heats up quickly and keeps hands safe with a heat-resistant stay-cool lid and handle. You’ll know your water is ready when you hear the whistle!

In any case, make sure to let your water come to a rolling boil and immediately pour over your favorite Bigelow Tea flavor and of course, enjoy every sip!

On Presidents’ Day, Bigelow Tea Hails U.S. Presidential Tea Drinkers

bigelow tea american breakfastOn Presidents’ Day, Bigelow Tea gives a hail to the chiefs known for drinking tea. Here are some Commanders In Chief historically linked to the beverage.  At Mount Vernon, George Washington stocked up on teas popular during his time, and imported tea chests, silver teaspoons and even a silver-plated tea urn.

o  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.

o  Thomas Jefferson bought different teas for Monticello, but would drink a particular type like Imperial.

o  Lyndon Johnson had four buttons installed in the Oval Office to order his favorite beverages—including tea—on demand!

o  For breakfast, Gerald Ford had tea with lemon alongside OJ, melon, and English muffins.

o  Barack Obama has been spotted drinking tea as well.

o  Let’s not forget the First Ladies! From Dolley Madison to Michelle Obama, they’ve served tea to White House guests.

This year, on Presidents’ Day, Bigelow Tea’s caffeinated American Breakfast teas are a great fit for the day off! Facebook fan Lydia Kammerer starts the morning with “large cup” every day! Sip and think about the presidents who have sipped as well.

 

Bigelow Tea Celebrates Lewis Carroll’s Birthday And His Teatime Inspirations!

Today Bigelow Tea celebrates the birthday of literary legend Lewis Carroll and the teatime mischief made famous in his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a beloved tale that continues to delight readers around the world 150 years after its publication. Now that’s a reason for a tea party!bigelow tea peppermint tea time mug

Born January 27, 1832, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was an accomplished but relatively obscure instructor at Oxford University when he wrote the story about Alice, using the pen name Lewis Carroll. The book has been translated and distributed to more than 80 countries, and Carroll is one of the most quoted authors in the English language.

Key to the author’s enduring appeal is his association with one of the world’s most popular beverages: tea! While many are familiar with the Mad Hatter’s tea party and several Alice movies, they may not know about the real-life tea inspirations for this particular scene and the book itself.  Here are a few fun facts shared by NPR:

 

bigelow tea mad tea party

  • The story evolved from an outing on a “golden afternoon” in 1862, when Charles and a colleague took the three daughters of his college dean (one of whom was named Alice) on a boating expedition on the river Isis. The group stopped for tea along the way, and Charles entertained the girls with a story of how an adventurous girl pops down a large rabbit hole, “never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
  • The “golden afternoon” fell on the Fourth of July, a detail Carroll worked into the published story.
  • The Victorian ceremony of high tea also figures prominently. Carroll pokes fun at the pretensions of the day with memorable images of rudeness at the Mad Hatter’s tea party:  Alice sitting down uninvited, elbows on the table, the March Hare offering Alice wine where there is no wine, and the Hatter making personal remarks such as, “Your hair wants cutting.”

It’s all in good fun, and that’s just what Bigelow Tea believes tea time should be, even when you bring out the fine china and scones!

Second image via Wikipedia

How The World Looked In 1945 When Bigelow Tea Began

bigelow tea history tin
In 1945, World War II ended, the Yalta Agreement was signed and Bigelow Tea was born! As Bigelow has been celebrating 70 years as America’s family tea blenders, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the company’s auspicious beginning and the many historical milestones ushered in during the same year. Here’s a snapshot of events and statistics from 1945, when Ruth Campbell Bigelow adapted a Colonial recipe to create “Constant Comment®”:

  • The first German war crimes trial began in Nuremburg.
  • Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from France.
  • The average American salary was $2,400.
  • The cost of a gallon of gas was 15 cents.
  • Ruth and her husband, David Bigelow, were making a living blending and packaging seasonings that they sold in New York City. They wanted to expand their product offerings, and Ruth’s hunch that the American market was ready for a more flavorful tea than the bland brew available at the time proved correct.bigelow tea ruth bigelow
  • A July 1945 article in the New York Herald Tribunereported the following about “Constant Comment,”®according to a recent account in Connecticut Explored magazine:  “One of
    Mrs. Bigelow’s Park Avenue friends was giving an afternoon party, and it was suggested she try the new blend. Not a word was said to the guest regarding its novelty, yet everyone spoke of the tea’s aroma, its flavor—there was ‘constant comment.’ A good name, why not? Labels were made and the tea was hurried to the stores where it is selling at around 75 cents for the two-and-one-quarter ounce jar. Expensive? But here’s a tea so flavorful that three-quarters of a teaspoon make six bracing cups of aromatic spiciness.”

Today, “Constant Comment”® remains one of Bigelow Tea’s best-loved flavors in a line that has expanded to include more than 120 varieties. Just ask Instagrammer @Scot30, who says “Constant Comment”® is his all-time favorite tea. Enjoy the aroma, taste and nostalgia in every cup of Bigelow Tea!

 

Bigelow Tea Looks At How Early American Quests For Chinese Tea Minted Millionaires

bigelow tea history

 

Early Americans who dumped British tea in 1773 later consoled themselves with coffee and newfound freedom, but they never lost their taste for tea! And so began the quest for tea in China and an epic story of economic growth and wealth in the United States, as told by NPRBigelow Tea takes a moment to share some fascinating facts from this tea tale:

  • The first American trade ship to set sail for China left from New York in 1784. The Empress of China was laden with 242 casks of ginseng to trade with the Chinese.
  • The first cargo of tea brought back to America sold for a 25 percent profit, prompting new merchants to jump into the tea trade.
  • Over the next decade, tea consumption in the United States reached 3 million pounds annually!
  • Tea trading fostered the first American millionaires: John Jacob Astor, Thomas Handasyd Perkins and Stephen Girard.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ancestors traded with Houqua, a Chinese multimillionaire and one of the richest men in the world at that time. Descendants of both families reportedly kept in touch well into the 20th century.
  • Demand for tea spurred growth in shipbuilding (speedy new clipper ships came in handy!) and led to new construction of canals, railroads and factories.
  • Soon enough, there was demand for tea sets, porcelain ware and punch bowls from China.
  • George and Martha Washington displayed an impressive collection of fine chinaware.

Interestingly enough, tea is a big part of our American history which we appreciate and honor as a third generation family owned business creating tea in the United States!  Have you had your cup today?

Unique Ways to Repurpose Your Bigelow Tea

bigelow tea recipes

Never doubt the power of a cup of Bigelow Tea. Not only is it a flavorful and invigorating beverage, it can tenderize your meat, stain your furniture, and clean your glass surfaces! Who knew?

In a recent article from POPSUGAR, tea drinkers were given 11 creative ways to repurpose tea. Here are just a few:

*Tenderize meat: Tannins in tea can soften meat while adding a flavorful punch. Marinate meat with a black or green tea and allow it to soak up the flavor. Never fear, vegetarians! You can find a great recipe for Tea Marinated Grilled Tofu using Green Tea with Pomegranate tea bags on the Bigelow Tea website.

*Stain furniture: For your next DIY project, try your hand at a rustic stain made with brewed black tea.

*Clean glass surfaces: Tannins in tea also make great cleaners. Grease residue getting you down? Leave your dish in hot water with tea bags overnight and voilà!

And while you may want to avoid adding tea bags to the washing machine (hey, sometimes, it’s an accident — as @Jac0bSummerz will tell you!), you can add some brew to your mopping routine. According to the article, black tea can naturally restore your floor’s color, sheen, and fill in tiny scratches.

So grab a cup of your favorite Bigelow Tea blend, enjoy your cup … and keep the tea bag!