Tea and Roses – History of Rose Petal Tea

Jan 29, 2013

History of Rose Petal Tea

Why do we offer so many rose petal tea blends for Valentine’s Day?  Because roses, throughout history, have been considered symbols of love, romance and beauty.  And because these rose combinations are aromatic and delicious!  Fossil evidence shows that roses have been around for 35 million years, so it’s no surprise that roses are popular themes in paintings, poetry, music, and rose petal tea (of course!).

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
–  William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Roses began their recorded history in Greek mythology.  Aphrodite, the goddess of love, (and her Roman counterpart, Venus) is associated with the rose and is credited with bestowing on the rose certain attributes such as beauty, joy, and radiance.

During the opulence of the Roman Empire, the wealthy were said to have forced laborers to plow under their food crops in order to grow roses.  These roses were used to scent baths and were sprinkled on the ground for the emperors to sit on during their feasts.  They were also used for cosmetics and for medicinal purposes, although the poor growers benefited little from these wonderful benefits.

Cleopatra is also said to have employed the aromatic properties of roses as a powerful tool.  It is reputed that she covered her floors with thousands of rose petals in order to perfume the air and aid in her seduction of Mark Antony.

In the Victorian-era a popular method of communication was through flowers.  Each color and variety of rose has different meanings.  The red rose symbolizes true love and passion; the pink rose for desire, passion, joy and friendship; the yellow rose indicates friendship, jealousy or hope; and the white rose denotes innocence, purity and virtue. The one most often associated with Valentine’s Day, and the one most used in tea blends, is the red rose.

Cultivation of roses is alleged to have started 5000 years ago in China.  Today roses of all colors and varieties can be found around the globe.  While there is no specific evidence of when the first rose petal tea was blended, suffice it to say that this aromatic combination has been imbibed for many years.  Here at Simpson & Vail we offer a traditional Rose Congou black tea as well as a variety of teas that unite roses with other aromatic herbs. Some blends also contain added flavors, but for the most part the heady aroma of roses is most predominant. To view all of our floral favorites visit the Jasmine & Floral Teas section.

The next time you have a cup of tea with rose petals, close your eyes, savor the taste and aroma, and reflect on the journey of the rose throughout history.

“My love is like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June”. – Robert Burns

Simpson & Vail Victorian Earl Grey

Simpson & Vail’s Victorian Earl Grey Blend


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