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15 Weird, True, And Fascinating Facts About Tea

Did you know that tea has more caffeine than coffee?

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1. There are around 3,000 different types of tea.

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According to the Eden Project: "The flavour of teas, like wines, depends on where they grow as well as the type of bush. Teas you buy are sometimes made up of different sorts blended together."

2. Mint tea isn't actually a tea – it's an infusion.

"All teas that are classed as a tea have to come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant," Kate Woollard, tea expert at Whittard, tells BuzzFeed. "A lot of companies have gotten into the habit of giving something the title 'tea' because it's something that you put in your cup and it's hot."Specifically, tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia plant. Everything else, a herb (like mint), fruit (like raspberry) and so on, is an infusion."
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"All teas that are classed as a tea have to come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant," Kate Woollard, tea expert at Whittard, tells BuzzFeed. "A lot of companies have gotten into the habit of giving something the title 'tea' because it's something that you put in your cup and it's hot.

"Specifically, tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia plant. Everything else, a herb (like mint), fruit (like raspberry) and so on, is an infusion."

3. Tea has more caffeine than coffee – but it's not as simple as that.

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"Weight for weight, tea has more caffeine," Kate Woollard, tea expert at Whittard, tells BuzzFeed. "But you use more coffee to make a cup of coffee. So you're using less tea, which means less caffeine."

For example: Cup of black tea = 40–70mg caffeine per cup.

Cup of black coffee = 100–200mg caffeine per cup.

4. The practice of putting milk in first is to do with social class – not taste.

According to Fortnum and Mason, low-quality china cups would crack when hot tea was poured in them, so putting the milk in first meant your cups would stay intact:"When finer and stronger materials came into use, this was no longer necessary –so putting the milk in last became a way of showing that one had the finest china on one’s table. Evelyn Waugh once recorded a friend using the phrase ‘rather milk-in-first’ to refer to a lower-class person, and the habit became a social divider that had little to do with the taste of the tea."
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According to Fortnum and Mason, low-quality china cups would crack when hot tea was poured in them, so putting the milk in first meant your cups would stay intact:

"When finer and stronger materials came into use, this was no longer necessary –so putting the milk in last became a way of showing that one had the finest china on one’s table. Evelyn Waugh once recorded a friend using the phrase ‘rather milk-in-first’ to refer to a lower-class person, and the habit became a social divider that had little to do with the taste of the tea."

5. Tea was so valuable in the 18th century that it was kept in a locked chest – which we now call a tea caddy.

The V&A museum has an example of such a chest, above: "Tea, introduced into Europe in the late 17th century, was a valuable commodity. It was kept securely in elegant boxes with secure locks. At that time, these were usually known as 'tea chests', although they are now generally referred to as 'tea caddies'. Such boxes often contained two or more compartments for different types of tea, or for sugar, stored in small metal containers known as 'tea canisters'."
collections.vam.ac.uk

The V&A museum has an example of such a chest, above: "Tea, introduced into Europe in the late 17th century, was a valuable commodity. It was kept securely in elegant boxes with secure locks. At that time, these were usually known as 'tea chests', although they are now generally referred to as 'tea caddies'. Such boxes often contained two or more compartments for different types of tea, or for sugar, stored in small metal containers known as 'tea canisters'."

6. As tea was so expensive, it was often cut with other additives.

In The World in Your Teacup Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far, author Lisa Boalt Richardson writes: "At one time in the late 18th century, many believed that more tea was imported through illegal methods than through legal channels. To make matters worse, smugglers began compromising the purity of the tea by mixing it with leaves from other plants; thus stretching their supply and increasing their profits."
Cassie Smyth/ BuzzFeed

In The World in Your Teacup Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far, author Lisa Boalt Richardson writes: "At one time in the late 18th century, many believed that more tea was imported through illegal methods than through legal channels. To make matters worse, smugglers began compromising the purity of the tea by mixing it with leaves from other plants; thus stretching their supply and increasing their profits."

7. These additives included twigs, sawdust and sheep dung.

The Telegraph reports: "Because tea was such a valuable commodity, demand regularly outstripped supply and adulteration was widespread. Twigs, sawdust and iron filings were commonly added; in 1770 one village near London was quoted as producing more than 20 tons of adulterated material a year for supply to tea merchants. Their recipe was ash leaves boiled with sheep dung (for colour). In some cases the adulterants were added for flavour as well as bulk."
Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

The Telegraph reports: "Because tea was such a valuable commodity, demand regularly outstripped supply and adulteration was widespread. Twigs, sawdust and iron filings were commonly added; in 1770 one village near London was quoted as producing more than 20 tons of adulterated material a year for supply to tea merchants. Their recipe was ash leaves boiled with sheep dung (for colour). In some cases the adulterants were added for flavour as well as bulk."

8. You should never use boiling water for tea as you'll burn the leaf.

"You never want boiling water when you're drinking tea," Kate Woollard, tea expert at Whittard, tells BuzzFeed. "You don't want to burn the leaf."
Gena-Mour Barrett / BuzzFeed

"You never want boiling water when you're drinking tea," Kate Woollard, tea expert at Whittard, tells BuzzFeed. "You don't want to burn the leaf."

9. Teabags were invented in the early 1900s.

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There's some discussion as to when the first teabag was invented. A patent was filed in 1901 for a tea-leaf holder by Roberta C. Lawson and Mary Molaren from Milwaukee. And in 1908, American businessman Thomas Sullivan shipped samples of tea in fine silk pouches – which customers dunked straight into hot water.

10. Earl Grey tea was named after the actual Earl Grey.

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Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey was born in 1764. According to his government biography, "he reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic present, of tea that was flavoured with bergamot oil. It became so popular that he asked British tea merchants to recreate it."

11. Black tea can affect iron absorbtion.

The LA Times interviewed Diane McKay, an antioxidants researcher at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University: "Tea, especially black tea, blocks iron absorption from foods and supplements. McKay recommends avoiding tea when taking vitamins and while eating foods that are rich in iron. "This is especially important for pregnant women who take prenatal vitamins," she says.
Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

The LA Times interviewed Diane McKay, an antioxidants researcher at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University: "Tea, especially black tea, blocks iron absorption from foods and supplements. McKay recommends avoiding tea when taking vitamins and while eating foods that are rich in iron. "This is especially important for pregnant women who take prenatal vitamins," she says.

12. Darjeeling is know as the "Champagne of tea" – as like Champagne, it all comes from one specific region.

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In fact, anyone selling Darjeeling must first get a license from the Tea Board of India, according to Twinings: "In February 2000, a compulsory system was incorporated into the 1953 Tea Act. This was to make it necessary for all dealers in Darjeeling tea to obtain a licence from the Tea Board of India, on the condition that they supply information on the production and manufacture of their tea. Due to this act, any tea labelled as Darjeeling without guaranteeing its quality with correct certification will not be exported from the region."

13. Tea is a diurectic – it makes you need to urinate.

The Eden Project explains: "As well as being a stimulant, tea is a diuretic, meaning it makes you need to wee!"
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The Eden Project explains: "As well as being a stimulant, tea is a diuretic, meaning it makes you need to wee!"

14. The London Tea Auction ran for 300 years. According to the BBC, "by the 1950s a third of all the world's tea was bought through the auction."

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The UK Tea and Infusions Association adds: "Auctions were held roughly quarterly, and tea was sold 'by the candle'. This meant that rather than allowing bidding to go on for an unlimited length of time, a candle was lit at the beginning of the sale of each lot, and when an inch of the candle had burnt away, the hammer fell and the sale was ended."

15. There is a British standard for the perfect cup of tea.

The Independent reports: "The British Tea Producers’ Association, Tea Trade Committee and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food all helped to create the standards, which were developed in 1980 to help professional tea testers and are officially known as BS 6008."You need a pot made of porcelain, and there must be at least two grams of tea to every 100ml of water. The temperature can’t go beyond 85 degrees when served but should be above 60 degrees for "optimum flavour and sensation".
Maggy Vaneijk / BuzzFeed

The Independent reports: "The British Tea Producers’ Association, Tea Trade Committee and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food all helped to create the standards, which were developed in 1980 to help professional tea testers and are officially known as BS 6008.

"You need a pot made of porcelain, and there must be at least two grams of tea to every 100ml of water. The temperature can’t go beyond 85 degrees when served but should be above 60 degrees for "optimum flavour and sensation".