For a whole generation of video players, Prince of Persia was a major hit with a “complex” story of prince, princess, assassins and a Persian kingdom (and a heart) to conquer. It sounds familiar? You change the name and the settings and you will have another mega-hit (but a Disney one) with Aladdin.
I knew from reading here and there some blogs and for having bought some tea from there that Persia (as usual with tea, I will stick to the old name of the country but for those wishing more precise things, you can replace the name with Iran) was a tea producer but I never really give a thought about its history.
This changed when I read a world history book that presented the major powers of the time around the death of the French King Louis XIV (1715). Among the chapters and the powers was a presentation of the situation in Persia and the story of an ambassador being sent to France to try to settle a military and trading agreement. What interested me foremost was that among the interesting things noted by some memoirists was that Mohammed Rheza Beg drank all day long chocolate, coffee and tea. Yes, you read it right. He was drinking tea all day long.
I was so intrigued by this that I decided to make some research on tea and Persia and I found interesting little things, not enough to have a clear picture of things but enough to “paint” some views of it.
At first, Persia was associated with coffee. But at first is somewhere in the 15th century when coffee became available from Yemen and Ethiopia and then in the 16th century exported to the Middle-East including Persia.
This is when I noted something was wrong as I read somewhere else that the tea culture was introduced in Persia at the end of the 15th century and that because it was closer to the homeland, it replaced coffee.
I don’t really get this idea of tea production places being closer to the coffee ones but perhaps this is the influence of the Silk Road that went through Persia?
This would necessitate further research but one hypothesis I can make is that Chinese traders could have brought some with them (perhaps to create a market or as a drink or as gift as Chinese didn’t trade); another is that it could have been brought though Tibet.
If anyone has any information, I would be glad to hear from you as this is the part I find the more puzzling in this story.
By whatever road it really came to Persia, tea must have really picked up in Persia as in 1697, Dutch ships were used to bring tea from Formosa. And knowing the VOC, it must have meant they thought it could be lucrative.
Let’s make a back to the future trip and move to the end of the 19th century with Prince Mohammed Miza, a diplomat, who had first directly imported tea from India, managed to steal tea production secrets and samples from the British in India bringing them back to his own town of Lahijan.
How did he do it? He worked for them to learn the ropes of the trade, convincing them thanks to him being fluent in French that he was French (which in my opinion, just shows that English people don’t know what a French truly is).
This man was so important that today his mausoleum is part of the Iran’s National Tea Museum.
And, the final result of the trip of this ambassador? It is another interesting story to tell as some people at that time (and some others now) thought that it was just an elaborate scheme to make some money. However, it seems that this public servant tried through a long trip to head back to Persia but lost all the gifts he had received and hearing about a palace revolution killed himself on the way back.