Dark grey storm clouds overhead, lightning streaks the sky and thunder booms through the air as the rain starts teeming down. The black wooden ship gets pushed through the raging seawater as if it were a sailboat. Sails high and tight as the colours are raised. Pirate smugglers are aboard this ship trying to get their precious illegal cargo to land before the storm gets worse. Their cargo? Tea.
Tea isn’t just something the British drink. It has started it’s own revolution right here in Canada. According to the Tea Association of Canada, 84 per cent of Canadians are tea drinkers.
“I enjoy it because a good cup of tea will calm you down when you are stressed or bring you up if you need a little boost,” said Bridget Noonan, a barista at Wasted Space in Oshawa. “It’s just a pleasant drink to surround in with friends or alone.”
The number of tea drinkers in Canada has grown rapidly over the past couple of years but it took a long time for tea to reach Canadian borders. According to the Mighty Leaf, tea didn’t come to Canada and the western world until the 16th century with a Portuguese missionary who brought it over from China.
As tea slowly started to make its way throughout the world, the price of it just kept getting higher. Eventually it was only for the wealthy because it was taxed so high. This brought on the smugglers, pirates and organized crime to bring in illegal tea and sell it at a fraction of the cost, according to the UK Tea and Infusions Association.
Canadian Food Trends to 2020, a report commissioned by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, stated, “The demand for tea and coffee are both shown to be not classically related to their own price changes. In fact, demand for both these beverages has increased as their real prices have increased.”
It isn’t the price that brings people to the tea side. There are many reasons people switch to tea.
Noonan started drinking tea when she was young and it slowly turned into a family tradition.
“I would have tea with my grandmother when I was about 12. She’d make us a cup of tea mostly milk and we’d play cards together,” said Noonan. “When I was in University I started to branch out into teas that are not just black teas. Like green tea, an herbal tea, and red tea, pretty much any tea you could think of with my sister.”
Amy Wamboldt, a Broadcasting for Contemporary Media student at Durham College, drinks tea because she doesn’t like the taste of coffee.
“Coffee just tastes like I’m drinking dirt and tea still has the caffeine to wake me up and keep me focused,” said Wamboldt.
According to the Canadian Food Trends to 2020, the “awareness and appreciation of the medicinal benefits of ancient natural and herbal remedies is growing within the emerging Natural Health Products Category. Culture diversity will continue to support acceptance of traditional products such as teas.”
Deborah Shattock, a waitress at Serendipity Tea in Bowmanville, said, “Some people are starting to drink tea because of a health issue, some are going to start it because their friends drink it.”
“There are teas that help with headaches, some that help with stomach aches, teas that people drink when they are pregnant, ones that help settle the stomach,” said Shattock. “There are all kinds of health benefits for tea. People with allergies, people with nail problems there are teas to help with a lot of things.”
Some teas are healthier than others, according to Shattock. White, green and rooibos teas are high in antioxidants, which can help prevent illnesses such as cancer.
There are also health benefits to tea compared with coffee.
“[It’s a] healthier option than coffee. I can’t drink coffee without cream and sugar so its added calories and sugar,” said Stephanie Clodd, an Early Childhood Education student at Durham College.
Clodd used to hate tea and then something just ‘clicked.’
“I always had sips of other people’s tea and they always had sugar and milk in it which I hated,” said Clodd. “[I] tried it black one day and haven’t looked back.”
Clodd now drinks at least four cups of tea a day.
According to the Canadian Food Trends to 2020, Clodd isn’t the only person who will be drinking tea who didn’t before by 2020 the consumption of tea is expected to go up by 40 per cent.
“I think the trend has grown because there is so many selections of teas,” said Kristen Gomes, a Broadcasting for Contemporary Media student at Durham College.
“There’s so much hype now and I guess it’s just a cool thing. Just like Starbucks was like walk around with expensive coffee in your hand and now it’s walk around with expensive tea.”
The pirates and smugglers who fought through the storms to bring tea to the New World must have had crystal balls on their ships forecasting the future of tea. Without the illegal transportation of tea 84 per cent of Canadians might not be tea drinkers today. The next time a cup of tea is poured don’t forget the pirates that made it possible.