Word Origin & History
1655, earlier chaa (1598, from Port. cha), from Malay teh and directly from Chinese (Amoy dialect) t'e, in Mandarin ch'a. The distribution of the different forms of the word reflects the spread of use of the beverage. The modern Eng. form, along with Fr. thé, Sp. te, Ger. Tee, etc., derive via
Du. thee from the Amoy form, reflecting the role of the Dutch as the chief importers of the leaves (through the Dutch East India Company, from 1610). First known in Paris 1635, the practice of drinking tea was first introduced to England 1644. The Port. word (attested from 1559) came via Macao; and Rus. chai, Pers. cha, Gk. tsai, Arabic shay, and Turk. çay all came overland from the Mandarin form. Meaning "afternoon meal at which tea is served" is from 1738. Slang meaning "marijuana" (which sometimes was brewed in hot water) is attested from 1935, felt as obsolete by late 1960s. Tea bag first recorded 1940; tea ball is from 1895.