The Vertues of the Leaf TEA

An Exact Description of the Growth, Quality and Vertues of the Leaf TEA BY Thomas Garway in Exchange Alley near the Royal Exchange in London, Tobacconist, and Seller and Retailer of TEA and COFFEE (1660).

TEA is generally brought from China, and groweth there upon little Shrubs or Bushes, the branches whereof are well garnished with white Flowers that are yellow within, of the bigness and fashion of Sweet Brier, but in smell unlike, bearing thin green leaves. This plant has been reported to grow wild only, but doth not, for they plant in their Gardens about four foot distance and it groweth about four foot high. Of this famous Leaf there are divers sorts (though all one shape) some much better than other, the upper Leaves excelling the other in fineness, a property almost in all Plants, which Leaves they gather every day, and drying them in the shade or in Iron pans over a gentle fire till the humidity be exhausted, then put up close in Leaden pots, preserve them for their Drink Tea, which is used at Meals, and upon all Visits and Entertainments in private Families, and in the Palaces of Grandees: And it is averred by a Padre native of Japan, that the best Tea ought to be gathered but by Virgins who are destined to this work. The said Leaf is of such known vertues, that those very Nations so famous for Antiquity, Knowledge and Wisdom, do frequently sell it among themselves for twice its weight in Silver.

The Drinke is declared to be most wholesome, preserving in perfect heath untill extreme Old Age.  The Particular Vertues are these:

It maketh the Body active and lusty.
It helpeth the Head-ache, giddinesse and heavinesse thereof.
It is good against Lipitude Distillations, and cleareth the Sight.
It is good against Crudities strengthening the weakness of the Ventrice or Stomack, causing good Appetite and Digestion, and particularly for Men of a corpulent Body, and such as are great eaters of Flesh.
It vanquisheth heavy Dreams, easeth the Brain, and strengtheneth the Memory.
It taketh away the difficulty of Breathing, opening Obstructions.
It is very good against the Stone and Gravel, cleaning the Kidneys being drank with Virgin’s Honey instead of Sugar.
It prevents and cures Agues and Feavers, by infusing a fit quantity of the Leaf, thereby provoking a most gentle Vomit and breathing of the Pores.
It removeth the Obstructions of the Spleen.
It (being prepared and drank with Milk and Water) strengtheneth the inward parts, and prevents Consumption, and powerfully asswageth the pain of the Bowels, or griping of the Guts and Loosenesse.
It overcometh superfluous Sleep, and prevents Sleepinesse in general, a draught of the Infusion being taken, so that without trouble whole nights may be spent in study without hurt to the Body.

That the Vertues and Excellencies of this Leaf and Drink are many and great, is evidence and manifest by the high esteem and use of it among the Physitians and knowing men in France, Italy, Holland and other parts of Christendom; and in England it hath been sold in the Leaf for six pounds, and sometimes for ten pounds the pound weight, and in respect of its former scarceness and dearnesse it hath only been used as a Regalia in high Treatments and Entertainments, and Presents made thereof to Princes and Grandees till the year 1657.

Thomas Garway did purchase a quantity thereof, and first publickly sold the said Tea in Leaf and Drink, made according to the directions of the most knowing Merchants and Travellers into those Eastern Countries: And upon knowledge and experience of the said Garway’s continued care and industry in obtaining the best Tea, and making Drink thereof, very many Noblemen, Physitians, Merchants and Gentlemen of Quality have ever since sent to him for the said Leaf, and daily resort to his House in Exchange Alley to drink the Drink thereof.  And to the end that all Persons of Eminency and Quality, Gentlemen and others, who have occasion for Tea in Leaf may be supplyed. These are to give notice, that the said Thomas Garway hath Tea to sell from sixteen to fifty Shillings the pound.

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4 Comments

  • October 23, 2009 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    What an illuminating contribution! Thanks! I spend my life trapped in EEBO. In terms of research, my period ends in 1625, so this blog is something of a departure into unknown territory, which I am greatly enjoying.

  • October 22, 2009 - 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Tea was around in London at least in the 1650s – Mercurius Politicus 435 (get thee to EEBO!) carried an ad for it in 1658, when it was being sold at the The Grand Turk by the Royal Exchange. Interestingly, the Pol ad really hammers the health benefits.

    It didn’t get fashionable until after Catherine of Braganza showed up, though. She got off the ship from Spain to marry Charles II after a rough voyage and said words to the effect of “God, I’m dying for a cup of tea”. Response of local dignitaries: “tea? Dunno about tea – we’ve got plenty of ale if that’s any good to you?” After that she took it upon herself to promote the stuff, and we haven’t looked back.

  • October 21, 2009 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it surprised me that tea came to England so late. I’ve read some interesting texts on coffee recently too, so there might be a second beverage post. Oh, and I could look into gin…

    I love Earl Grey & it has yet to provoke a gentle vomit.

  • October 21, 2009 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    ‘thereby provoking a most gentle vomit’ – when ever I need to vomit gently I drink Early Grey. Disgusting stuff.

    Lovely post. Interesting to have such an early reference to tea as a medicinal ‘drug’, I’ve seen plenty of similar references to coffee around the same time; though coffee was taking of as a drink in the 1660s wheras I think tea took a little longer to become a regularly imbibed tasty beverage.

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