A Brief History of Tea

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Tea is indeed a very important drink in our daily lives. Tea has been in existence for many decades now. However, many of us do not know the origin of tea, how this delicious beverage became a part of our culture. Tea has always been linked to have originated from Britain, and some say it dates back to the 16th century. But the true origin of tea dates back as far as 2737BC. So, if you really want to find out the true origin of tea, then we invite you to take a walk with us down the memory lane.

Sometimes inventions and discoveries come by chance, others through continuous research. According to legend, the discovery of tea began all the way in China, in 2737BC by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung. It was gathered that the emperor was taking his rest under a Camellia Sinensis tree (Tea Tree), and his servant was helping him boil a drinking water. Then coincidentally some leaves fell into the boiling water. Shen Nung, who was a renowned herbalist decided to have a taste of the water. One would have thought that he would have asked his servant to pour the water away, but being an adventurous herbalist Shen Nung decided to taste the water. And that idea and act resulted into what we now have today as tea.

Emporer Shen Nung under the Camelia Sinensis tree. <Image from: theerieagency.com>

Tea drinking has been in existence for many centuries in China before it was even heard of in the west. It was discovered that some containers used for conveying were found in tombs dating to the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) but it was during the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), that tea became firmly established as the national drink of China. Tea became the national drink of China which prompted The Sage of Tea Lu Yu to write his monumental book known as the Ch'a Ching, or Tea Classic. It was some years after the release of the book that a Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study took tea back to Japan and Japan also began to drink tea. Today, Japan has made tea drinking an important part of their culture.

The Spreading of tea to Europe

Tea drinking began much later into the second half of 16th century in Europe. The early set of Europeans that adopted the tradition of tea drinking were the Portuguese who were mostly traders and missionaries. But although the first set of Europeans to start importation of tea were the Dutch, who in the last years of the 16th century began to encroach on Portuguese trading routes in the East. And it was through Java that in 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland. The other parts of Europeans began importation of tea with the help of the Dutch and in no time Tea Drinking was adopted in every part of Europe. Today, tea is a beverage enjoyed by many countries, with China, the UK, Ireland and Turkey being the world’s biggest tea drinker!

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