Tea’s Jesuit Connections


While tea was flourishing as the beverage of choice in the far east for 5000 years, word about this remarkable drink still hadn’t reached Europe. But all that changed in the 16th century.

In the 1500s, Portugal was the dominant European trading partner with the far east. It’s ships ruled the seas, and it is no wonder then, that Portugal had something to do with the advent of tea in the west. In 1560, A Portuguese Jesuit missionary named Jasper de Cruz was the first person to write about his encounter with tea. Since the Portuguese had a monopoly on the spice trade, they developed a trade route through which tea was shipped to Lisbon. From Lisbon, Dutch ships would then carry tea to the rest of Europe. The Dutch were responsible for establishing the commercial viability of tea in Europe. The early teas shipped to Europe were expensive, making tea a drink for the elite.

Another Jesuit Connection

Georg Josef Kamel (1661-1706) was a botanist who was born in Brno, Moravia (Czech Republic). After becoming a Jesuit in 1682, he latinised his name to Camellus. He was sent as a missionary to the Philippines in 1688 where he took up the study of botany. The results of his work, particularly on the Philippine island of Luzon, were authored under the name “Camellus”. His papers were sent to London, where they were published in “The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society”.

Even though Georg Kamel did not discover the plants we now know as Camellias, the Swedish botanist Charles von Linnaeus (responsible for creating the system of taxonomy), was so impressed with his work, he decided to honor Kamel by renaming Thea sinensis “Camellia sinensis”.

Learn more about tea’s history at The Simple Leaf.

One Response to “Tea’s Jesuit Connections”

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