Teas Wonderful History
Tea is among the worlds oldest and most revered beverages. It is
todays most popular beverage in the world, next to water. Tea drinking
has long been an important aspect of Chinese culture. A Chinese saying
identifies the seven basic daily necessities as fuel, rice, oil, salt,
soy sauce, vinegar, and tea. According to Chinese legend, tea was
invented accidentally by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C.
Emperor Shen Nong was a scholar and herbalist, as well as a creative
scientist and patron of the arts. Among other things, the emperor
believed that drinking boiled water contributed to good health. By his
decree, his subjects and servants had to boil their water before
drinking it as a hygiene precaution. On one summer day while he was
visiting a distant region, he and his entourage stopped to rest. The
servants began to boil water for the skilled ruler and his subjects to
drink. Dried leaves from a nearby camellia bush fell into the boiling
water. The emperor was interested in the new liquid because it had a
pleasing aroma in this new brew interested the emperor, so he drank the
infusion and discovered that it was very refreshing and had a delightful
flavor. He declared that tea gives vigor to the body, thus. That was
when tea was invented, but it was considered as a medicinal beverage.
It was around 300 A.D. when, tea became a daily drink.
It was not until the Tang and Song Dynasties when tea showed some
significance in Chinese tradition. During the mid-Tang Dynasty (780
A.D.), a scholar named Lu Yu published the first definitive book, Cha
Ching or The Tea Classic, on tea after he spent over twenty years
studying the subject. This documentation included his knowledge of
planting, processing, tasting, and brewing tea. His research helped to
elevate tea drinking to a high status throughout China. This was when
the art of tea drinking was born.
Later, a Song Dynasty emperor helped the spread of tea consumption
further by indulging in this wonderful custom. He enjoyed tea drinking
so much, that he bestowed tea as gifts only to those who were worthy.
During this e same time, tea was the inspirationinspired many of books,
poems, songs, and paintings. This not only popularized tea, it also
elevated teas value which drew tea-growers to the capital.
Between the Yuan and Qing Dynasties, the technology of tea production
continuously advanced to become more simplified and to improve the
methods of enhancing tea flavor. During this period, tea houses and
other tea-drinking establishments were opening up all over China. By
900 A.D., tea drinking spread from China to Japan where the Japanese Tea
Ceremony or Chanoyu, was created. In Japan, tea was elevated to an art
form which requires years of dedicated studying. Unlike the Japanese
people, the Chinese people tend to view tea drinking as a form of
enjoyment: to have after a meal or to serve when guests visit.
Tea was introduced to Europe in the 1600s; it was introduced to England
in 1669. At that time, the drink was enjoyed only by the aristocracy
because a pound of tea cost an average British laborer the equivalent of
nine months in wages. The British began to import tea in larger
qualities to satisfy the rapidly expanding market. Tea became Britains
most important item of trade from China. All classes were able to drink
tea as the tea trade increased and became less of a luxury. Now, tea is
low in price and readily available.
The word tea was derived from ancient Chinese dialects. Such words as
Tchai, "Cha, and Tay were used to describe the tea leaf as well as
the beverage. The tea plants scientific name is Camellia sinensis
(which is from the The aceae family of the Theales order), and it is
indigenous to China and parts of India. The tea plant is an evergreen
shrub that develops fragrant white, five-petaled flowers, and; it is
related to the magnolia. Tea is made from young leaves and leaf buds
from the tea tree. Two main varieties are cultivated: C. sinensis
sinensis, a Chinese plant with small leaves, and C. sinensis assamica,
an Indian plant with large leaves. Hybrids of these two varieties are
also cultivated. What we call herbal tea is technically not tea
because it does not come from the tea plant but consists a mixture of
flowers, fruit, herbs or spices from other plants.
Today, there are more than 1,500 types of teas to choose from because
over 25 countries cultivate tea as a plantation crop. China is one of
the main producers of tea, and tea remains Chinas national drink.
By L. K. Yee
All The Tea In China by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer:
Britannica Online: tea,, by Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
The Chinese Art of Tea Drinking:
The History of Tea, compiled by The Tea Council Limted:
Tea, by The Stash Tea Company:
The Way of Tea, by Sundance Natural Foods, Inc.:
The author #146; listing of the sites above does not constitute an endorsement of these sites by CHCP.
Webmaster's Note: See also The Tea Story at
(this listing does not constitute an endorsement of this commercial site. However, the page has interesting historical information.)