“The first tea roses were imported from China at the beginning of the 19th century,” says Robert. “There are a number of accounts for how the name came about. The first was that they came from the famous Fa Tee gardens in China. Others said they were called tea roses because the seedlings were shipped over on the old tea clippers. The obvious explanation is quite simply that they smelled of tea and that was recognised very early on when they were often described as ‘tea-scented roses’ rather than simply ‘tea roses’.
“My ultimate authority is The Rose Fancier’s Manual written by Catherine Gore,” says Robert. “In it she describes the yellow tea rose of Guerin as ‘very agreeably scented with the aroma of Pekoe tea’. That was written in 1838 and they only came over in around 1809. I would agree with her. To me they smell of a freshly opened packet of China tea. They have a sort of tarry smell that is completely unrelated to the European roses – chemically absolutely different – and the smell must have evolved completely differently.”
The tea scent is often associated with yellow and orange flower colour.
Rosa Graham Thomas (=‘Ausmas’)(1983) A David Austin rose with a light tea fragrance. Medium-sized, cupped blooms of an unusually rich, pure yellow along with smooth green foliage. It forms a bushy, upright and vigorous shrub. 1.2m x 1.2m. AGM. RHS H6.