Tay is the oldest word for tea in Chinese. Chinese-Tea.net explains that in Chinese dialects, the pronunciation of “tea” is divided into two classes based on phonetic similarity.
In Mandarin, tea is cha.
In Hokkien or Amoy, the dialect of the Fujian (Hokkien) province, tea is tay.
The two words took different paths in spreading out to the rest of the world, based on trade routes.
Cha. In the 5th century, the word cha expanded beyond the Chinese border. Tea went to Japan as o-cha, and to Persia as cha, which later evolved into the Arabic and Russian chai and the Turkish chay. Tea went to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, remaining as cha. While most of Western Europe uses a variation of “tay” (see below), the Portuguese, who first brought tea to Europe, use cha.
Tay. The word tay began its travels later than cha, but spread beyond the Pacific Rim and Middle East to Europe. Xiamen (also known as Amoy), in the Fujian (Hokkien) province, was the port of trade first used by Europeans (mainly the Portuguese) in 1541. Near the end of the Ming Dynasty, in 1644, British merchants set up trading posts there; in the nineteenth century, it was China’s main port for exporting tea.
As a result, Hokkien (also known as the Amoy dialect), not Mandarin, influenced what Europeans called the beverage. What the Xiamenese people call tay, the British spell tea, the French spell thé, the Spanish té, the Italians tè and the Germans, tee. The pronunciation varies from “tay” to “tee.”
Other words from the Hokkien language that entered English: ketchup (kiô-chap), Pekoe (pekh-hô), kowtow (khàu-thâu) and, possibly, Japan (Jit-pún).
Now that you know how it got its various names, enjoy some of the delicious blends from Tay Tea.
Black, Oolong, Rooibos & Herbal Tea Blends
$14.00 To $16.00
Eight 2-Ounce Tins
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