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Glossary of Tea and Tea Terms
of the 18th and 19th Centuries
Guest Blog Posted on November 26, 2018
by Geri Walton of the United Kingdom

Page 2

PEKOE TEA This tea from the Chinese Pai-hao, means white down or hair, because it was picked from young spring leaf-buds that still contained down upon them.

POUCHONG A type of tea so called because of how it was packed.

SHARD OF TEA Slang term used in Cornwall for a cup of tea.

SINGLO TEA Also called “Pi-cha,” or “skin tea,” it was the name of the mountain range from where this particular leaf was cultivated.

SLOP BOWLS Usually part of a tea service that allowed tea drinkers to pour cold tea into them before refilling their cup with fresh, hot tea. They also held the dregs of tea and any errant leaves left behind from the bottom of a cup. For more on tea service and equipage, click here.

SNAP A reference to a light meal, dinner, or tea.

SOUCHONG TEA A dark tea from Seao-chug that means “little sprouts.” It was a variety of teas that supposedly contained the finest flavor.

SPLIT-PEA A slang word for tea.

TANNIN A chemical component of tea responsible for its astringent and palate-cleansing character.

TAY or TEY An old pronunciation for tea when it first arrived in Britain.

TEA ACT 1773 An unpopular piece of legislation among American colonists that was devised to ensure that they paid taxes on the tea they consumed. A protest ensued by American colonists in what became known as the Boston Tea Party and resulted in tea cargoes being destroyed and the idea that it was unpatriotic for the colonists to drink tea.

TEA BAG An accidentally invention by a New York tea importer named Thomas Sullivan whose bags began to appear commercially around 1904 but prior to that had been shipping out his tea in silk bags around the world.

TEA BALLS A device that held tea leaves with a chain attached thereby allowing the tea to be suspended during the steeping process.

TEA BLIGHT Crop damage caused by insects or fungoids. Some of the destructive insects at the time were the caterpillar, “The Borer,” Orange Beetle, grubs, spiders, and what was termed a “Tea Bug,” an insect that when full grown was about the size of mosquito, had no jaws, only a sucker with wing-cases that when folded formed an “x” and when open were used to vibrate.

TEA-BOARD Tea tray.

TEA CADDY Chests that held fresh tea in homes. They were sometimes divided into sections and usually locked to prevent unauthorized taking of the tea, which was costly even into the late 1700s. Caddies were made from such woods as mahogany, ebony, rosewood, coromandel, fruitwood, or burr yew.

TEA CADDY SPOON A spoon used to measure out tea leaves from a tea caddy before they were put into the teapot.

TEA CHEST Wooden chests that were originally lead-lined and used for shipping and transporting tea.

TEACUP The cup into which hot tea was poured and the cup from which people drank their tea.

TEA DEALER A retailer of tea who sold mostly coffee, tea, and groceries. According to one British Trade book in 1872, “There are about 120,000 licensed tea dealers in the kingdom.

TEA DRESS or TEA GOWN Popular gowns in the late 1800s that were half-way between a wrap and a ball gown and were comfortable, flowing, and diaphanous.

TEA GARDENS Pleasure gardens designed for refreshments and strolling, such as Ranelagh Gardens or Vauxhall Gardens.

TEA-GOOBERS A slang name for tea tasters or to indicate every available space that was filled with tea.

TEA-GRATHING or TEA-TATTLING Classified as mid-Yorkshire term for tea things.

TEA-JACKET A multi-use jacket in the late 1800s that could be worn to the theatre, at home for dinner, and, of course, when pouring afternoon tea.

TEA-KITCHEN A term used in Sheffield for a tea-urn.

TEA-POT The vessel with a handle for making and pouring tea.

TEA-POY or TEPOY An small ornamental pedestal table that was handy for tea because it had a lifting top with two lidded compartments, one for storing tea and the other for mixing dried tea.

TEA ROOM or TEA SHOPS Popular spots beginning in 1864 where people could share tea and be social.

TEA ROSE A popular garden rose derived from Rosa Odorata that has repeat-flowering roses and is named for its fragrance that said to be reminiscent of Chinese black tea, although that is not always the case.

TEA-SAUCER The stand on which the TEACUP was placed.

TEA-SPOON A spoon used for stirring tea.

TEA-TABLE A table that was small and round that tea was served on.

TEA URN A teapot or urn with a gravity-fed tap at the bottom.

THÉ DANSANTE A slang term meaning in French “dancing tea” that was an invitation to friends (both male and female) to take tea and have a dance afterwards.

THEA A genus of plants of camellia (camellieoe) in the family theaceae (Ternströmiaceoe) that was so named from the slightly altered Chinese name of the dried herb that formed the almost universal beverage of the British Isle by the late 1800s. “It is differently named in different parts of China, as Tcha, or Cha, also Tha, whence we have Tsia, The, and Tea. In Persian works in use in India, tea is called Cha-Khutai, or Tea of Cathay.”

TWINING, THOMAS He established and founded TWINING COMPANY in London. He initially sold coffee but then included teas, and quickly garnered a reputation for having some of the finest blends in London. Soon he was selling more dry tea than brewed. He named his tea and coffee house the Golden Lyon in 1717 and his shop was one of the first in London where women could buy tea. His grandson, Richard Twining, explained in 1784:

“In my grandfather’s time … it was the custom for Ladies and Gentlemen to come to the shop, ad to order their own Teas – the chests used to be spread out, and when my grandfather had mixed some of them together, in the presence of his customers, they were used to taste the Tea: and mixing was varied till it suited the palates of the purchasers.”

TWININGS COMPANY All the various teas sold through Twinings that was established by THOMAS TWINING.


WAITER A tea tray.

YERBA MATE TEA A beverage that was used in South America and also called PARAGUAY TEA.

YOUNG HYSON TEA From Yu-chien meaning “before the rains” because it was picked early in the season.

To add to your tea knowledge, read "The Origin of Afternoon Tea."

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