2021-10-18 05:53:06 GMT2021-10-18 13:53:06(Beijing Time) Sina English


The true story behind England’s tea obsession

And while it’s fairly common knowledge that Westerners have China to thank for the original cultivation of the tannic brew, it’s far less known that it was the Portuguese who inspired its popularity in England – in particular, one Portuguese woman.


Travel back in time to 1662, when Catherine of Braganza (daughter of Portugal’s King John IV) won the hand of England’s newly restored monarch, King Charles II, with the help of a very large dowry that included money, spices, treasures and the lucrative ports of Tangiers and Bombay. This hookup made her one very important lady: the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.


When she relocated up north to join King Charles, she is said to have packed loose-leaf tea as part of her personal belongings; it would also have likely been part of her dowry. A fun legend has it that the crates were marked Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas (Transport of Aromatic Herbs) – later abbreviated to T.E.A.

之后,她一路北进与查理国王会合,据说其随身物品中包含一些散装茶叶;也许,这也是其陪嫁物品之一。有趣的是,传说这些茶叶在《芳香植物的运输》(Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas)一书中有所记载,该书后来被简称为“T.E.A.”。

When Catherine arrived in England, tea was being consumed there only as a medicine, supposedly invigorating the body and keeping the spleen free of obstructions. But since the young queen was used to sipping the pick-me-up as part of her daily routine, she no doubt continued her habit, making it popular as a social beverage rather than as a health tonic.


“When Catherine married Charles, she was the focus of attention – everything from her clothes to her furniture became the source of court talk,” said Sarah-Beth Watkins, author of Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen. “Her regular drinking of tea encouraged others to drink it. Ladies flocked to copy her and be a part of her circle.”


Hot poet of the time, Edmund Waller, even wrote a birthday ode to her shortly after her arrival, which forever linked the queen and Portugal with the fashionable status of tea in England. He wrote:

“The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe

To that bold nation, which the way did show

To the fair region where the sun doth rise,

Whose rich productions we so justly prize.”








To be fair, tea could be found in England before Catherine arrived, but it wasn’t very popular. “Waller is recorded drinking tea in 1657, which is a whole six years before Catherine turns up,” said Markman Ellis, professor of 18th-Century Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and co-author of Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World. “He is a well-known aficionado for tea, which is unusual because it was so expensive and everyone was drinking coffee at this time.”


The reason for the cost was threefold: England had no direct trade with China; tea from India wasn’t around yet; and the small quantities that the Dutch were importing were sold at a very high premium.


“It was very expensive because it came from China and it was taxed very heavily,” explained Jane Pettigrew, author of A Social History of Tea, winner of the 2014 World Tea Awards’ Best Tea Educator and director of studies at UK Tea Academy.


Indeed it was so pricey (a pound went for as much as a working-class citizen made in a year), that, according to Ellis, “it ruled out anyone but the most elite and wealthiest sectors of society. So tea became associated with elite women’s sociability around the royal court, of which Catherine was the most famous emblem.”


And what happens with famous people? Non-famous people imitate them. “When the queen does something, everyone wants to follow suit, so very, very gradually by the end of the 17th Century, the aristocracy had started sipping small amounts of tea,” Pettrigrew said.


Of course, the upper class didn’t invent the ritual of tea-drinking themselves – they were imitators too. As Pettigrew recounted, “Until tea arrived with the Dutch, we [the English] didn’t know anything about tea. No sugar spoons, no cups, no tea kettles (only kitchen kettles), so we did what always happens: we copied the entire ritual from China. We imported Chinese tiny porcelain tea bowls, the saucers, the dishes for sugar, the small teapots.”


Catherine’s home country had a hand in in popularising this aspect of the tea experience, too. “Portugal was one of the routes [by which] porcelain got to Europe,” Ellis noted. “It was very expensive and very beautiful, and one of the things that made tea drinking attractive was all the pretty stuff that went with it, like having the latest iPhone.”


Since it was so prized, porcelain was probably part of Catherine’s dowry, and, like other aristocratic ladies, she would have accrued many gorgeous trappings to pad out her tea sessions once she was living in England. Pettigrew explained, “She started it as an aristocratic habit in her palaces – very posh, very upper class, and so the ceremony that arrived from China was immediately associated with fine living. As soon as tea arrived, it had very strong connections to feminine women and very big houses, I suppose through Catherine, because the porcelain cost huge amounts of money. The poor had to make due with earthenware. So everything that was expensive had to do with the aristocracy. It’s the same as today: You buy expensive things to show how important you are.”


Eventually the lower classes transformed tea into a more egalitarian drink, but today, travellers to London can still experience the aristocratic pomp and circumstance at upscale hotels’ afternoon tea services, most notably at the Langham Hotel’s Palm Court in London (which claims to be the birthplace of afternoon tea), the famed Ritz London and Claridge’s.

后来,下层阶级使饮茶变得更加平民化。但在当今社会,伦敦的游客依然可以通过高档酒店提供的下午茶服务体验贵族的奢华,尤其是在伦敦朗廷酒店(Langham Hotel)的廷廊(据称这里是下午茶的诞生地)、赫赫有名的伦敦丽兹酒店(Ritz London)和凯莱奇酒店(Claridge's)。

You can find fancy tea events in Portugal too, but even there, the link to Queen Catherine is not well known. In the historic municipality of Sintra, though, one hotel is trying to change that. At the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Sintra Hotel, general manager Mario Custódio is about to launch a special afternoon tea themed after Catherine in October. “In school we don’t get this [history],” Custódio said. “I had no idea. Even the Portuguese don’t know this.”

此外,您还可以在葡萄牙体验极其盛大的饮茶仪式。尽管如此,就算在葡萄牙,英国饮茶之风与凯瑟琳王后的渊源也鲜为人知。然而,古镇辛特拉(Sintra)的一个酒店要努力改变这一状况。这就是提弗里瑟特阿斯皇宫酒店(Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Sintra Hotel),酒店总经理马里奥·库斯托迪奥(Mario Custódio)举办以凯瑟琳为主题的下午茶活动。“读书时,我们不了解这段历史,”库斯托迪奥说,“我什么也不清楚,就连其他葡萄牙人对此也一无所知。”

The area of Sintra, spread across lush green mountains about 30 minutes outside Lisbon, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, noted for its concentrated displays of European romantic architecture. The Seteais Palace, built in the 1780s by Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester, is just one of several ornate, whimsical estate homes that dot the Sintra landscape; wedding-cake follies overlooking intricate, sprawling gardens and parks. Queen Catherine never lived here, but the concentration of old wealth and must-see mansions makes it the perfect place to reflect on what the lives of Portuguese nobility used to be like. You can easily imagine opulently dressed noblewomen gathering in opulently draped drawing rooms, clinking teacups and swapping news and gossip.

辛特拉地区距离里斯本大约30分钟的行程,向外延伸到植被茂盛的山脚下。这里因云集欧洲浪漫主义建筑而闻名,被列入教科文组织世界遗产名录。瑟特阿斯宫(Seteais Palace)由荷兰领事丹尼尔·吉尔德梅斯特(Daniel Gildemeester)于18世纪80年代建成,宫殿装饰奢华、造型独特,成为辛特拉景观中的一道亮丽风景线。婚礼蛋糕式样的怪异装饰物高高耸立于交错蔓生的花园与公园之上。虽然凯瑟琳王后从未居住于此,但这里云集的古老财富、经典的建筑群将葡萄牙贵族过去的生活呈现得淋漓尽致。想象一下,一群衣着华丽的贵妇正在富丽堂皇的会客厅聚会,时不时传来清脆的茶杯撞击声,以及叽叽喳喳的交头接耳声。

For Custódio, bringing these little-known bits of history to life is what makes the travel experience special and personal for visitors. “I’m trying to [present] these things that are very unknown because that is luxury today,” he said.


The daily tea service (open only to hotel guests), will highlight aspects of the Portuguese connection to this genteel tradition. For instance, Custódio is working with a historian to serve the type of tea Catherine would have drank (Ellis thinks it’s most likely a green tea, as no tea came out of India until the 1830s, long after she’d passed away). Marmalade will also be part of the menu, as that’s another part of the Catherine of Braganza mythology that Custódio has stumbled across in his research. The tale goes that, since some of the best oranges in the world come from Portugal, Catherine had them shipped over to her new English home regularly. The ones that didn’t make the journey in top condition were turned into marmalade. Of course, whole oranges were a more prized snack, so if Queen Catherine gave you a gift of marmalade instead of oranges, it meant she didn’t think that much of you.


The spread at the Seteais Palace will come with no such judgments. Custódio is simply hoping that by mingling with visitors during the themed tea service and by gifting them with a small book – complete with QR codes for more photos, historical facts and fun stories – he’ll be helping to share some of the culture and colour of his home and reinforce the long-term influence of a little-known transplant queen.


“We Portuguese want to believe that Catarina was responsible for the tea. I don’t want this history to die.”


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