Lecture Details and Reviews

The Passage of Tea through Time

6th May, 2014 Mark Nicholls (Twinings Tea)

Mark is the ‘Tea Ambassador’ for Twinings, managing the 307 year old flagship teas store on the Strand in London. He will tell us about the journey of tea from plant to cup, and its first discovery and uses by different Chinese dynasties until it reached Europe. Mark will describe the role Thomas Twining played in Georgian England, when tea was becoming a fashionable drink, and how he first began selling it from his London premises. Word of this exotic new drink had quickly spread in the C18th and it was drunk from the by now mostly Europe manufactured, elegantly decorated china cups of the period, in circles such of those frequented and described by Jane Austen.

Tastings of different teas will be on offer as part of the evening's programme.


Reviewed by Pam on 15th June, 2014

The was some concern when preparing for this lecture because we were asked to provide “tea tasting” for 50 of our members, however there was no need to worry as we were treated to a very entertaining and informative evening which finished with the opportunity to sample 4 different types of tea.

The Emperor and herbalist, Shennong around 3,000 BC, discovered the practice of tea drinking in China. He decreed that it should be made with boiling water and the health advantages of this soon became obvious.

The ceremonies surrounding tea drinking are fascinating especially the explanation of why the little finger sticks out when drinking. It originated because the Chinese drank from bowls and the thumb of the right hand had to be under the bowl and the next three fingers along the rim so there was no room for the little finger without sticking the elbow out in a very ungainly manner

If you have ever thought that drinking tea out of a bone china cup tastes better, then it actually does, because ordinary china absorbs the chemicals from dishwasher powder and washing up liquid while bone china is hard and does not absorb chemicals. Therefore you only taste the tea.

Thomas Twining began the firm in 1706 when he realized that men were enjoying raucous times in the coffee shops and he had the idea to provide a drink for women instead of the usual beer or gin. The original shop is still there on the Strand in London and the firm's logo is the oldest in the world. It is a good place to go for a free cup of tea.

Tea has had a tremendous influence on History. We were reminded of the heavy duty on tea sparking off the American War of Independence and the smugglers luring ships onto the rocks so they could salvage the tea. We will never take tea for granted again, just imagine paying £5,000 for a pound of tea in 1800, no wonder tea caddies were locked and the key carried by the mistress of the house on a chatelaine around her waist.

It was an excellent evening and our grateful thanks to Mark Nicholls the Twinings Tea Ambassador

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