IELTS Academic Reading Sample 78 – Tea Times


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

A. The chances are that you have already drunk a cup or glass of tea today, Perhaps, you are sipping one as you read this. Tea, now an everyday beverage in many parts of the world, has over the centuries been an important part of rituals of hospitality both in the home and in wider society.

B. Tea originated in China, and in Eastern Asia, tea making and drinking ceremonies have been popular for centuries. Tea was first shipped to North-Western Europe by English and Dutch maritime traders in the sixteenth century. At about the same time, a land route from the Far East, via Moscow, to Europe was opened up. Tea also figured in America’s bid for independence from British rule – the Boston Tea Party.

C. As, over the last four hundred years, tea-leaves became available throughout much of Asia and Europe, the ways in which tea was drunk changed. The Chinese considered the quality of the leaves and the ways in which they were cured all important. People in other cultures added new ingredients besides tea-leaves and hot water. They drank tea with milk, sugar, spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and herbs such as mint or sage. The variations are endless. For example, in Western Sudan on the edge of the Sahara Desert, sesame oil is added to milky tea on cold mornings. In England tea, unlike coffee, acquired a reputation as a therapeutic drink that promoted health. Indeed, in European and Arab countries as well as In Persia and Russia, tea was praised for its restorative and health-giving properties. One Dutch physician, Cornelius Blankaart, advised that to maintain health a minimum of eight to ten cups a day should be drunk and that up to 50 to 100 daily cups could be consumed with safety.

D. While European coffee houses were frequented by men discussing politics and closing business deals, respectable middle-class women stayed at home and held tea parties. When the price of tea fell in the nineteenth century poor people took up the drink with enthusiasm. Different grades and blends of tea were sold to suit every pocket.

E. Throughout the world today, few religious groups object to tea drinking. In Islamic cultures, where drinking of alcohol is forbidden, tea and coffee consumption is an important part of social life. However, Seventh-Day Adventists, recognising the beverage as a drug containing the stimulant caffeine, frown upon the drinking of tea.

F. Nomadic Bedouin are well known for the traditions of hospitality in the desert. According to Middle Eastern tradition, guests are served both tea and coffee from pots kept ready on the fires of guest tents where men of the family and male visitors gather. Cups of “bitter” cardamom coffee and glasses of sugared tea should be constantly refilled by the host.

G. For over a thousand years, Arab traders have been bringing Islamic culture, including tea drinking, to northern and western Africa. Techniques of tea preparation have been adapted. In West African countries, such as Senegal and The Gambia, it is fashionable for young men to gather in small groups to brew Chinese “gun-powder” tea. The tea is boiled with large amounts of sugar for a long time.

H. Tea drinking in India remains an important part of daily life. There, tea made entirely with milk is popular. “Chai” is made by boiling milk and adding tea, sugar and some spices. This form of tea making has crossed the Indian Ocean and is also popular in East Africa, where tea is considered best when it is either very milky or made with water only. Curiously, this “milk or water” formula has been carried over to the preparation of instant coffee, which is served in cafes as either black or sprinkled on a cup of hot milk.

I. In Britain, coffee drinking, particularly in the informal atmosphere of coffee shops, is currently in vogue. Yet, the convention of afternoon tea lingers. At conferences, it remains common practice to serve coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. Contemporary China, too, remains true to its long tradition. Delegates at conferences and seminars are served tea in cups with lids to keep the infusion hot. The cups are topped up throughout the proceedings. There are as yet no signs of coffee on such occasions.

Questions 1-8

Reading Passage 1 has 9 paragraphs (A-I).

Choose the most suitable heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

Write the appropriate numbers (I-xiii) in Boxes 1-8 on your answer sheet.

One of the headings has been done for you as an example.

There are more headings than paragraphs, so you will not use all of them.

  1. Paragraph A
  2. Paragraph B
  3. Paragraph C
  4. Paragraph D
  5. Paragraph E
 6. Example: Paragraph F  Answer: xiii

7. Paragraph G

8. Paragraph H

9. Paragraph I

List of Headings

i. Diverse drinking methods

ii. Limited objections to drinking tea

iii. Today’s continuing tradition – In Britain and China

iv. Tea – a beverage of hospitality

v. An important addition – tea with milk

vi. Tea and alcohol

vii. The everyday beverage in all parts of the world

viii. Tea on the move

ix. African tea

x. The fall in the cost of tea

xi. The value of tea

xii. Tea-drinking in Africa

xiii. Hospitality among the Bedouin

Questions 9-14

Complete the sentences below.

Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage to complete each blank space.

9. For centuries, both at home and In society, tea has had an important role in______

10. Falling tea prices in the nineteenth century meant that people could choose the________ of tea they could afford.

11. Because it______ Seventh-Day Adventists do not approve of the drinking

12. In the desert, one group that is well known for Its traditions of hospitality is the_______

13. In India, _______, as well as tea, are added to boiling milk to make “chai”.

14. In Britain, while coffee is in fashion, afternoon tea is still a________


Question 1-8

1. Answer: iv. The paragraph is about the link between tea and hospitality. The answer is not iii, because the paragraph is about the continuing tradition of the past; it is not limited to Britain and China, It is tempting to put as the answer, but, If you look at the text, you will see that the Information relating to this heading is between com¬mas. It is additional information and can easily be removed. You can compare it to a non-defining relative clause. So it is not central to the meaning of the whole paragraph, Moreover, the passage states In many parts of the world, not in all, For more information on paragraph headings, see A book for JELTS by McCarter, Easton & Ash.

2. Answer: viii. The heading hero should be fairly obvious.

3. Answer: i. The paragraph deals with the various ways In which tea has been drunk. The answer is not v; see paragraph H, where the whole paragraph deals with milk In relation to tea drinking. Compare the answer to Paragraph A for background/fore¬ground information.

4. Answer: x. The paragraph is about the cost of tea, in financial terms, The paragraph sets the scene, showing that tea is for the middle classes, but when the price falls the poor start drinking it. The answer Is not xi, as value has a different meaning,

5. Answer: ii. The theme of the paragraph is the fact that most religious groups do not object to tea drinking, i.e. few do. The answer is not vi, as this does not reflect the theme of the paragraph. It is again subsidiary or background information. So It is important for you to see how the pieces of information in a paragraph relate to each other. A plan of the paragraph is as follows:

Foreground        Background

Pew objections to tea drinking

In Islamic cultures, no objection Teal coffee versus alcohol Seventh-Day Adventists/caffeine frowned upon

Note how the points in italics give background Information to the main point in the text. It is sometimes difficult for students to make a distinction between these two types of information. The example of the Islamic cultures supports the point of there being no objections. The second piece of background information develops this further by comparing tea/coffee with alcohol. The paragraph then comes back to the central issue of there being few objections, by giving the example of a group who object to tea. Use this mechanism to look at the other paragraphs here and elsewhere.

6. Answer: xii. This paragraph focuses on tea drinking in Africa, The answer Is not ix, as the origin of the tea itself is not said to be African.

7. Answer: v. The paragraph is about the importance of the addition of milk to tea in many parts of the world. Compare paragraph C. Heading xii would not be right here, as it describes only part of the paragraph,

8. Answer: iii. See the answer to paragraph A.

Question 9-14

9. Answer: rituals of hospitality/hospitality. The answer is In paragraph A. The first phrase is probably the better of the two.

10. Answer: grade(s) and blend(s)/dlfferent grades/different blonds. The answer is In the last sentence of paragraph D.

11. Answer: contains caffeine. The answer is In paragraph E. Because of the word limit and the grammar of the sentence in the exercise, the words the stimulant cannot be included,

12. Answer: nomadic Bedouin/Bedouin/Bedouins/nomadic Bedouins. The answer Is in paragraph P.

13. Answer: sugar and spices. The answer Is in paragraph H. Because of the word limit, the word some has to be excluded from the phrase.

14. Answer: lingering convention/convention. The answer is in the second sentence in the last paragraph.

Source: IELTS Materials.