Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of tea. First, you will have some time to look at questions 34 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 34 to 40.)
L: Good morning all, and welcome to today’s talk about tea.
Now, tea is often thought of as being a quintessentially British drink, and we have been drinking it in the UK for over 350 years. But, of course, the history of tea goes much further back.
The story of tea began in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. The emperor, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea.
It is impossible to know whether there is any truth in this story. But tea drinking certainly became established in China many centuries before it had even been heard of in the west. Containers for tea have been found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty but it was under the Tang dynasty that tea became firmly established as the national drink of China. It became such a favourite that during the late eighth century a writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea. It was shortly after this that tea was first introduced to Japan by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study. Tea drinking has become a vital part of Japanese culture, as seen in the development of the Tea Ceremony.
So at this stage in the history of tea, Europe was rather lagging behind. In the latter half of the sixteenth century there are the first brief mentions of tea as a drink among Europeans. These are mostly from the Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries. But although some of these individuals may have brought back samples of tea to their native country, it was not the Portuguese who were the first to ship back tea as a commercial import. This was done by the Dutch, who in the last years of the sixteenth century, began to encroach on Portuguese trading routes in the East. By the turn of the century they had established a trading post on the island of Java, and it was via Java that in 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland. Tea soon became a fashionable drink among the Dutch, and from there spread to other countries in continental Western Europe. However, because of its high price, it remained a drink for the wealthy.
Britain at this point had yet to become the nation of tea drinkers that it is today. Since 1600, the British East India Company had a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe, and it is likely that sailors on these ships brought tea home as gifts. But the first dated reference to tea in the UK is from an advert in a London newspaper from September 1658. It announced that 'a Chinese Drink was on sale at a coffee house in London. The first coffee house had been established in London in 1652, and the terms of this advert suggest that tea was still somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, so it is fair to assume that the drink was still something of a curiosity.
It was the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza that would prove to be a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. She was a Portuguese princess, and a tea addict, and it was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage first at court, and then among the wealthy classes as a whole. Capitalising on this, the East India Company began to import tea into Britain, its first order being placed in 1664 - for 100lbs of China tea to be shipped from Java.
The British took to tea with an enthusiasm that continues to the present day. It became a popular drink in coffee houses, which were as much locations for the transaction of business as they were for relaxation or pleasure. They were though the preserve of middle- and upper-class men; women drank tea in their own homes, and as yet tea was still too expensive to be widespread among the working classes. In part, its high price was due to a punitive system of taxation. The first tax on tea in the leaf, introduced in 1689, was so high that it almost stopped sales. It was reduced 1692, and from then until as recently as 1964, when tea duties were finally abolished, politicians were forever adjusting the exact rate and method of the taxation of tea.
In 1851, when virtually all tea in Britain had come from China, annual consumption per head was less than 2lbs. But by 1901, fuelled by cheaper imports from India and Sri Lanka, this had rocketed to over 6lbs per head. Tea had become firmly established as part of the British way of life. This was officially recognised during the First World War, when the government took over the importation of tea to Britain in order to ensure that this essential morale-boosting beverage continued to be available at an affordable price. The government took control again during the Second World War, and tea was rationed from 1940 until 1952.
Tea bags were invented in America in the early twentieth century, but sales only really took off in Britain in the 1970s. Nowadays it would be hard for many tea-drinkers to imagine life without them. With recent scientific research indicating that tea drinking may have direct health benefits, it is assured that for centuries to come there will be a place at the centre of British life for a nice cup of tea.