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It was only after the Portuguese maritime powers opened up the trade routes to the Far East that tea was introduced to Europe. The Dutch, German and British then established trading houses such as the Dutch East India Company, that brought tea into the commercial world. China, India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) were the main sources of tea then and the best teas still come from these countries.
Of course the story of the tea clippers, such as the famous 'Cutty Sark' racing the oceans to get their tea shipments into England are well known.
In the United States high taxes on tea imports levied by the British led to the 'Boston Tea Party' where ships carrying tea shipments were destroyed in Boston Harbor. This was a significant event in the revolutionary war that led to American independence.
Tea was rare and expensive in the nineteenth century and only drunk by the wealthy. In England the poorer classes drank beer! The establishment of large grocery chains by entrepreneurs such as Sir Thomas Lipton finally brought tea to the masses.
The medical benefits of tea, well known to the ancient world and countries of the Far East, have now been recognised by medical experts in Europe and the USA. Tea is enjoying a renaissance all over the world and its consumption is increasing. The many varieties of tea available, its health benefits, the natural flavours being added to it and the fact that a cup of tea contains about a third of the caffeine contained in a cup of coffee, contribute to its popularity.
Tea is relatively cheap and is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. Three thousand million (3 Billion) cups of tea are estimated to be drunk daily in various forms and environments.
This ancient, noble and sometime mystical beverage with its rich history, tradition and ceremony is playing an increasingly healthy and interesting role in the modern world.