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, (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 Gray’s 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 Johnson’s extemporised verses (c. 1770):

“I therefore pray thee, Renny, dear,
That thou wilt give to me
With cream and sugar soften’d well,
Another dish of tea”—and 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 Zedler’s 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 ch’a. 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 tcha—both 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.).]

Dr. Bretschneider 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 K’u-tu (K’u=‘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 T’ang Dynasty under A.D. 793, which mentions the

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