Project Description

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The word tea


Camellia_sinensis-TeaThe Dutch call it ‘thee’, French say ‘thé’, Spanish ‘te’, Germans ‘Tee’, and the British say ‘tea’. All these words originate from the Hokkien word ‘te’. Starting in 1610, the ships of the Dutch East India Company would carry both the product and its name from the Hokkien port of Amoy (Xiamen) to western Europe.

The Russian word chai, Persian cha, Greek tsai, Arabic shay, and Turkish çay on the other hand, all come from the Mandarin ‘cha’. The reason for the different etymological sources is that the tea in the latter places had all been transported from China over land along the famous Silk Road, where the Chinese traders spoke a different dialect than the Hokkien that is spoken in Amoy.

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