Britain’s Oldest Tea Discovered in London Museum

Artifacts sit in museum basements and storage spaces, untouched for decades. Then, occasionally, a surprise is discovered. Just such a discovery was made at the Natural History Museum in London and it was Britain’s oldest tea.

Image from Phys.Org

Image from Phys.Org

More than 300 years ago a box was packed with green tea leaves and flowers and was labeled with the words “a sort of tea from China.” An amateur naturalist from Scotland named James Cuninghame brought the tea back from Amoy in the Fujian province to Britain in the 17th century. Eventually his samples were purchased by a collector named Hans Sloane. Sloane amassed thousands of plants over his career and his collection eventually came to be the property of the British Museum and the National History Museum. There they were carefully filed away.

Researchers Matthew Mauger and Richard Coulton from London’s Queen Mary University were deep in the museum’s archives, exploring information on tea’s history for an upcoming book when they found the cardboard box with the glass lid. The museum allowed them to smell the sample, but no more than that.

The contents of the container have been named the oldest tea sample in Britain’s history.

SOURCE: The Guardian and The Telegraph

Katrina Avila Munichiello

About Katrina Avila Munichiello

Katrina Ávila Munichiello is an experienced freelance writer and editor with a passion for tea. Formerly the Senior Editor at Tea Magazine, she is also the author of "A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time." She currently co-owns and operates Tea Biz, a custom content company that specializes in supporting the tea industry.