I bet that you don’t know the connection between Portugal, England and tea. Well, today’s the day, you can learn about the “tie” that binds the three of them together! It starts way back when in…
The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought about an explosion of exploration, with Portugal and Spain leading the way. Other countries such as the Netherlands and England were also part of the explorers of the time, but it was Portugal and Spain that devoted the most time and money into the ships that took them to faraway lands.
The Portuguese and the Spanish took advantage of new ship designs that would allow them to sail on the open oceans. Previous “galley” designs limited their travel to water areas that were more confined. Both Spain and Portugal were in a kind of race to see which country could sail the furthest, find the shortest routes, and make claim to the most territories.
By 1557, Macau became a formal trading port of Portugal under Chinese Sovereignty, which allowed for a Chinese representative to be provided by the Ming Emperor of China. During the first century of its existence, Macau served as a vital trading hub and layover port for Portuguese traders. Products from the Chinese port of Canton such as tea, pearls, and silk made their way to Macau before being traded towards Portuguese Timor below Indonesia, and Lisbon in Portugal. BUT… Even before the opening of the port in 1557 – Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century, and they brought it back to Europe.
Now…while it’s fairly common knowledge that Westerners (the Portuguese in our case) 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.
It is from 1662, date which corresponds to the marriage of the king of England Charles II and the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, that the habit of taking tea becomes popular in Europe. The princess brought to the Royal Court the habit of taking afternoon tea.
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