The earliest mention of tea —as “chaw”—by an Englishman is the famous Wickham letter of 1615.
The letter was found in a set of old records entitled Japan Miscellanies, consisting of copies of letters from Richard Wickham, the East India Company’s factor at Hirado (Japan’s only port of trade to the world located in Nagasaki Prefecture).
Wickham went first to the Indies as a factor aboard the Union in 1608. At Zanzibar, he was captured by the natives and handed over to the Portuguese who carried him to Goa where he met the traveler Francoise Pyard. In 1610, Wickham, with other European captives, was sent to Portugal before finding his way back to England. Ever the adventurous soul, he offered his services to Captain John Saris and soon made his way back to Hirado.
His letter book during a portion of his service there, 1614-16, is still preserved among the India Office records. Wickham left Japan in 1618 for Bantam, later going to Jakarta where he died.