Origin and History of Tea />

Origin and History of Tea

Origin and History Of Tea

By:International Tea Importers -17/08/2021

Tea has become so ingrained into our daily lives that many of us don’t think about where it came from and how it became a beloved beverage that is now enjoyed around the world. There are hardly any traditions from the Prehistoric Period that we still take part in today, but one of them is the preparation and enjoyment of tea. 
People have been drinking tea for thousands of years, but where does it come from? We will break down the origin of tea and how it spread around the globe.

Legend Of Shennong 

It’s difficult to know for sure, but the most widely accepted origin of tea comes from the legend of the Chinese emperor named Shennong that lived around the year 2800 BC. One version of thelegendstates that as a servant was purifying water to drink by boiling it over a fire, a tea leaf fell into the water.
The tea leaf caused the water to change its colour and aroma, which intrigued Shennong as hewas also said to have been an Herbalist. Shennong took a sip of the liquid and was immediatelydelighted by the taste and feeling of rejuvenation. He is also allegedly the person to give theChinese a name for tea, calling it “cha”, which originally meant “to investigate”.
Another version of the Shennong legend says that as an Herbalist, he liked to try out the effects of herbs on his body. Some of them ended up being poisonous, and when he tried tea for the first time, it healed him from the poison. It has been believed throughout history that tea has medicinal properties, and can still be found to have benefits in the modern day.
We may never know if the legend is historical or a myth as it predates written language, but other evidence of China’s early history with tea includes finding containers of tea in tombs that are dated to the Han dynasty between 206 BC and 220 AD. A few centuries later in the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), tea became the national beverage of China. 
It was also in the Tang dynasty that a man named Lu Yu wrote the first book about tea, titled Cha Ching, or The Classic of Tea. Not long after, the tradition of tea drinking was passed to Japan by Japanese Buddhist monks that had traveled to China for their studies. Both in China and Japan, tea became popular among the Buddhist monks as the caffeine helped to keep them awake during long hours of meditation.
During the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), China began to export their tea to neighbouring countries such as Russia and Nepal. In these early years of trade, the main payment in exchange for Chinese tea was horses. In Tibet, tea became so popular that pressed tea leaves were once used as a form of currency

Bringing Tea To Europe

Asia had already been enjoying drinking tea for thousands of years when the Portuguese sailed to Guangdong, China in the early 16th century. Tea was described by the Portuguese missionaries as a red-coloured medicinal drink called “cha” that was served to guests by wealthy Chinese people. 
As the first European country to make contact with China, the Portuguese began to import varieties of black and green tea into their colonies such as Macau. However, it was the Dutch through the East India Trading company that are credited with bringing tea into Europe in 1610. 
Tea immediately became popular among the Dutch upper class, and remained a luxury product until more tea was imported and allowed the price to drop enough for other people to enjoy it. You may have believed that the British were the ones who thought of the idea to add milk to tea, but the Dutch were the first ones to do it.
Consumption of tea continued to spread throughout Europe and finally was introduced to England when Catherine of Braganza from Portugal married Charles II and brought over large amounts of Chinese tea. In England, it also was a drink primarily reserved for the wealthy due to royal influence until the prices also dropped enough for commoners to try it. 

Modern Influence Of Tea

Arguably compared to the rest of Europe, the British Isles quickly found a passion for tea that is now enjoyed daily by a majority of the population. Although the tea itself came from China, a new tea drinking custom was created in Great Britain in the 19th century that became known as afternoon tea.
The custom of having afternoon tea quickly spread throughout Europe, but there’s no doubt that it remains most strongly within the British Isles in the modern day. 
Most of Europe’s experience with tea is black tea with one of the most popular flavours being Earl Grey, which is a black tea that is enhanced with bergamot and sometimes jasmine. As with the Dutch, British people also took a liking to adding not only milk to their tea, but also sugar which is a deviation from how many cultures in Asia enjoy their tea.

Of course, one of the most famous historical events related to tea was the “Boston Tea Party” in 1773 where Massachusetts colonists raided British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor in protest of the Tea Act that would have given a monopoly to British imports.

Finally, tea then made its way across the Atlantic to North America on Dutch ships in the mid-17th century. It was first brought to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (now known as New York) before spreading throughout the continent. 
Coming into the 20th century, the United States contributed their own creations to the world of tea. Iced tea was created in 1904 by Richard Blechynden for the St. Louis World Fair, and tea bags were first made of silk by Thomas Sullivan in 1908. 
No matter what kind of tea is your favourite or whether you enjoy it iced, hot, with milk, or without milk, it’s a simple thing that brings many of us together under one fascinating origin. Tea is an important part of human history and has made an impact on many cultures around the world. 
What tea is your favourite?

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