«TEA». Where does this word come from and what does it mean for us? With the word «tea» we usually mean both a drink (a cup of tea), and dry tea (a packet or tea hank), and the tea plant itself (tea bush).
In China tea has hundreds of names, but the most commonly used is «cha», which means «young leaf». People in different provinces pronounce this word differently, you hear it as «ch’ha» and«tsha», or as «tschya» or«tya», however the indicative hieroglyph of the tea is the same on the all territory of China. It is one of the oldest hieroglyphs, created in the V century, when the term itself, the word “tea”, originated.
All other nations of the world have borrowed their names of tea from the Chinese. Of course, they slightly distorted the Chinese name, because they heard and pronounced it in their own way. In addition, it was also important, from which part of China the tea was brought to a particular country.
In Russia and Ukraine tea for centuries have come from Northern China – either from Hankow, or through Hankow, and therefore the Russian and Ukrainian word «tea» is closest to the Northern Chinese, Metropolitan, or the so-called Mandarin pronunciation.
In Central Asia, when earlier the tea was called «ha», now commonly used is «chai» or«choi». The Mongols, who got acquainted with the tea in Tibet, call it «tsai»; Kalmyks, who learned about tea from the Mongols, say «tsya»; and the Arabs, who bought tea in Xingjian, – «shai».
English and Dutch explorers first established their contacts with China through the ports of South-Eastern part of the country, due to what the Chinese teas, exported from there in Europe, received the names of Cantonese or Amoysky (by the name of the port).
Among the African peoples there are very common Arabic, English, French or Portuguese versions of the names of tea – each in direct relation to the country, which was first to bring it to another African country.
Quite apart is the name of tea of the Poles– «herbata». The word is not Polish, but slightly modified Latin «herba», which means «grass». The matter is that tea was for a long time used in Poland exclusively as a drug; it has not received a distribution as beverage, and was sold only in pharmacies. These were pharmacists, who gave such name to tea, believing that the tea leaves are made from a special type of «Chinese grass».
Here is how our contemporaries call tea in different countries: