Antelope Valley Press - AV Living (Antelope Valley)

The origins of the name, tea

- WRITTEN BY Scott Lee | Special to the Valley Press

When did tea first start being called tea? Like most things that have a name, there can be a question of where that name come from.

Tea was likely first discovered in the Eastern Himalayan mountains, a region labeled “the cradle of tea” by a Dutch botanist in 1916. There are written descriptio­ns of tea in an assortment of language families from the Eastern Himalayas. These families include Austroasia­tic, Trans-Himalayan, Hmong-Mien and Kradai.

They describe pickling tea, which is still a common way of consuming tea leaves in parts of Burma where it’s served as a salad with chiles, garlic, nuts and dried fish. Tea leaves are also eaten raw and smoked in bamboo.

Some of the earliest words for tea from this region include la, na, la zi and la phi, all of which describe the brew made from tea leaves. Early Chinese used the word tu, which was pronounced more like “de” or “da,” then eventually pronounced as “tay.” During the Tang period, northern China began using cha. As tea spread around the world, tu and cha became the terms adopted and adapted by other cultures and nations.

Tu moved through most of Europe: Tea (English), The (French), Thee (Dutch), Te (Italian and Spanish) and Thea in Latin. Other languages used cha or forms of it: Cha (Japanese, Farsi, Korean, Urdu), Chai (Hindi), Shai (Arabic, pronounced Shui), Ja (Tibetan). The tu/cha geographic split is not strict as forms of cha are used in some European languages (Chai in Russian, Chi in Bulgarian, Cha in Portuguese) and tu became part of non-European languages (Tey in Tamil, and Tu in parts of China).

The scientific name for tea is camellia sinensis, largely determined by European scientists over the centuries. In 1712, a Dutch East India Company physician named it Thea japonense, after Japan.

It took over 40 years for this to be corrected to Thea sinensis (sinensis is Latin for “from China).

Eventually it become recognized as a Camellia. The Camellia was actually named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 after a Jesuit in Monrovia named George Kamel, who was a pharmacist and botanist.

It was in 1881 when Camellia and sinensis were officially combined into one term essentiall­y meaning the “Camellia from China”. Although there are over 200 species of Camellia, only the Camellia sinensis and its varieties and cultivars are used to make tea.

That’s why terms such as herbal tea are actually oxymoronic. Tea only truly comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States