Europe was a coffee-drinking continent before it became a tea-drinking one. Tea was grown in China, thousands of miles away. The opening of trade routes with the Far East in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-(5) turies gave Europeans their first taste of tea. However, it was an unpromising start for the bev- erage, because shipments arrived stale, and European tea drinkers miscalculated the steeping time and measurements. This was a far cry from the Chinese(10) preparation techniques, known as a “tea ceremony,” which had strict steps and called for steeping in iron pots at precise temperatures and pouring into porcelain bowls. China had a monopoly on the tea trade and kept(15) their tea cultivation techniques secret. Yet as world- wide demand grew, tea caught on in Europe. Some proprietors touted tea as a cure for maladies. Several European tea companies formed, including the English East India Company. In 1669, it imported(20) 143.5 pounds of tea—very little compared to the 32 million pounds that were imported by 1834. Europeans looked for ways to circumvent China’s monopoly, but their attempts to grow the tea plant (Latin nameCamellia sinensis) failed. Some plants(25) perished in transit from the East. But most often the growing climate wasn’t right, not even in the equato- rial colonies that the British, Dutch, and French controlled. In 1763, the French Academy of Sciences gave up, declaring the tea plant unique to China(30) and unable to be grown anywhere else. Swedish and English botanists grew tea in botanical gardens, but this was not enough to meet demand. After trial and error with a plant variety dis- covered in the Assam district of India, the British(35) managed to establish a source to meet the growing demands of British tea drinkers. In May 1838, the first batch of India-grown tea shipped to London. The harvest was a mere 350 pounds and arrived in November. It sold for between 16 and 34 shillings(40) per pound. Perfecting production methods took many years, but ultimately, India became the world’s largest tea-producing country. By the early 1900s, annual production of India tea exceeded 350 million pounds. This voluminous source was a major factor(45) in tea becoming the staple of European households that it is today.
In Europe, there’s a long tradition of taking afternoon tea. Tea time, typically four o’clock, means not just enjoying a beverage, but taking time out to(50) gather and socialize. The occasion is not identical across Europe, though; just about every culture has its own way of doing things. In France, for example, black tea is served with sugar, milk, or lemon and is almost always accom-(55) panied by a pastry. Rather than sweet pastries, the French prefer the savory kind, such as thegougère, or puff pastry, infused with cheese. Germans, by contrast, put a layer of slowly melt- ing candy at the bottom of their teacup and top the(60) tea with cream. German tea culture is strongest in the eastern part of the country, and during the week tea is served with cookies, while on the weekend or for special events, cakes are served. The Germans think of tea as a good cure for headaches and stress.(65) Russia also has a unique tea culture, rooted in the formalism of its aristocratic classes. Loose leaf black tea is served in a glass held by apodstakannik, an ornate holder with a handle typically made from silver or chrome—though sometimes it may be gold-(70) plated. Brewed separately, the tea is then diluted with boiled water and served strong. The strength of the tea is seen as a measure of the host’s hospitality. Traditionally, tea is taken by the entire family and served after a large meal with jams and pastries.(75) Great Britain has a rich tradition of its own. Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals, breakfast and a second, dinner-like meal called “tea,” which was held around noon. However, during the middle of the eighteenth(80) century, dinner shifted to an evening meal at a late hour; it was then called “high tea.” That meant the necessary introduction of an afternoon snack to tide one over, and “low tea” or “tea time” was introduced by British royalty. In present-day Britain, your(85) afternoon tea might be served with scones and jam, small sandwiches, and cookies (called “biscuits”), depending on whether you’re in Ireland, England, or Scotland. Wherever they are and however they take it,(90) Europeans know the value of savoring an afternoon cup of tea.
As used in line 66, “aristocratic” most nearly means
Category:Reading / Vocab-in-Context
Strategic Advice:Look for other words in this sentence that offer clues to the word’s meaning.
Getting to the Answer:A noble, or high-ranking, class is likely to have associations with formalism, so (D) is the correct answer.
Want another practice question?
Get practice questions delivered by email every day.