TEA, s. Crawfurd alleges that we got this word in its various European forms from the Malay Te, the
Chinese name being Chhâ. The latter is indeed the pronunciation attached, when reading in the mandarin
dialect, to the character representing the teaplant, and is the form which has accompanied the
knowledge of tea to India, Persia, Portugal, Greece ( [Greek Text] tsai) and Russia. But though it may
be probable that Te, like several other names of articles of trade, may have come to us through the
Malay, the word is, not the less, originally Chinese, Tê (or Tay as Medhurst writes it) being the utterance
attached to the character in the Fuhkien dialect. The original pronunciation, whether direct from Fuh-
kien or through the Malay, accompanied the introduction of tea to England as well as other countries of
Western Europe. This is shown by several couplets in Pope, e.g.
There stands a structure of majestic frame
Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its name.
* * * * *
Here thou, great ANNA, whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea.
Rape of the Lock, iii.
Here tay was evidently the pronunciation, as in Fuh-kien. The Rape of the Lock
was published in 1711. In Grays Trivia, published in 1720, we find tea rhyme to pay, in a passage
needless to quite (ii. 296). Fifty years later there seems no room for doubt that the pronunciation had
changed to that now in use, as is shown by Johnsons extemporised verses (c. 1770):
I therefore pray thee, Renny, dear,
That thou wilt give to me
With cream and sugar softend well,
dish of teaand so on.
Johnsoniana, ed. Boswell, 1835, ix. 194.
The change must have taken place between 1720 and 1750, for about the latter date we find in the
verses of Edward Moore:
One day in July last at tea,
And in the house of Mrs. P.
The Trial of Sarah, &c.
[But the two forms of pronunciation seem to have been in use earlier, as appears
from the following advertisement in The Gazette of Sept. 9, 1658 (quoted in 8 ser. N. & Q. vi. 266): That
excellent, and by all Physitians approved, China Drink, called by the Chineans Toha, by other nations
Tay, alias Tee, is sold at the Sultaness Head, a coffee house in Sweetings Rents by the Royal Exchange,
London.] And in Zedlers Lexicon (1745) it is stated that the English write the word either Tee or Tea,
but pronounce it Tiy, which seems to represent our modern pronunciation. [Strange to say, the Italians,
however, have two names for tea, cia and te, the latter, of course, is from the Chinese word te, noticed
above, while the former is derived from the word cha. It is curious to note in this connection that an
early mention, if not the first notice, of the word in English is under the form cha (in an English Glossary
of A.D. 1671); we are also told that it was once spelt tchaboth evidently derived from the Cantonese
form of the word: but 13 years later we have the word derived from the Fokienese te, but borrowed
through the French and spelt as in the latter language the; the next change in the word is early in the
following century when it drops the French spelling and adopts the present form of tea, though the
Fokienese pronunciation, which the French still retain, is not dropped for the modern pronunciation of
the now wholly Anglicised word tea till comparatively lately. It will thus be seen that we, like the Italians,
might have had two forms of the word, had we not discarded the first, which seemed to have made but
little lodgement with us, for the second (Ball, Things Chinese, 3rd ed. 583 seq.).]
states that the Tea-shrub is mentioned in the ancient Dictionary Rh-ya, which is believed to date long
before our era, under the names Kia and Ku-tu (Ku=bitter), and a commentator on this work who
wrote in the 4th century A.D. describes it, adding From the leaves can be made by boiling a hot beverage
(On Chinese Botanical Works, &c., p. 13). But the first distinct mention of tea-cultivation in Chinese
history is said to be a record in the annals of the Tang Dynasty under A.D. 793, which mentions the