The History of Tea
The History of Tea

The History of Tea

Let’s find out where and how tea

came to be a drink so many of us enjoy :




2737 BC According to legend, Emperor Shen Nung was sitting under a tree ( Camellia Sinensis ), while his servant boiled some drinking water. Dried leaves from the tree fell into the pot and infused with the water, creating the first tea infusion which the emperor enjoyed.
206 BC – 220 AD Containers of tea found in tombs dating from the Han Dynasty.
618 – 906 Tang Dynasty : tea became firmly established as the national drink of China.
Tea became a popular drink in Buddhist monasteries, because caffeine kept the monks awake during long hours of meditation.
Late 8th Century Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Cha Jing or The Classic of Tea.Lu Yu was an orphan raised and educated in a monastery. This inspired him to write the book on tea.
Japanese monks who visited China to study took this tea plant back with them to Japan, resulting in the beginnings of the Japanese tea culture.
960 – 1279 Whipped powdered tea became fashionable during the Song Dynasty, but disappeared after the Yuan Dynasty.
1279 – 1368 Chinese people become accustomed to drinking steeped tea leaves.
Later half of the 16th Century There is brief mention of tea as a drink among Europeans, mostly from Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries.
1606 The first to ship back tea to Europe as a commercial import however, were the Dutch not the Portuguese.The first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland via Java.
Tea soon became a fashionable drink among the Dutch and from there spread to other countries in Western Europe.Due to its high price, it remained a drink for the wealthy.
September 1658 First references to tea in Britain ; an advert in a London newspaper announced its availability in a coffee house, referred to as the “China drink” known as Tcha, Tay or Tee.
1664 The East India Company began to import tea into Britain with a first order of 100 lbs of China Tea, shipped from Java.
In Britain, the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess who was a tea addict, was a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. Her love for tea established it as a fashionable beverage, first at court and then among the wealthy classes.
Late 17th Century High taxes on tea brought about the smuggling and adulteration of tea in Britain due to popular demand by the masses who could not afford the expensive prices.
Late 18th Century Tea smuggling and adulteration involved a higher volume of tea than the legally imported amount. 7 million lbs vs 5 million lbs.With the adulterated tea, leaves from other plants, or leaves which had already been brewed and then dried were added to tea leaves. Sometime the resulting colour was not convincing enough so anything from sheep dung to poisonous copper carbonate was added to make it look more like tea.
Dec 1773 The Boston Tea Party : a protest against tea duties, that sparked off the American War of Independence, which eventually led to the USA becoming an independent nation instead of a group of British colonies.
By 1784 The British government slashed taxes, making tea more affordable and this put an end to the smuggling.
1834 The end of East india Company’s monopoly on trade with China brought about the growth of tea in British colonies such as India and Sri Lanka. This was a more cost efficient option, as shipping time to Britain was reduced significantly.
Circa 1908 Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant started to send samples of tea to his customers in small silken bags. Some customers assumed these bags were to be used the same way as metal infusers, and put the whole bag in the pot. Hence, the unintentional creation of the tea bag. Based on customer feedback, Sullivan developed the first tea bags out of gauze.
1920’s Tea bags were developed for commercial production, initially from gauze and then later from paper.
1929 The first tea plantation was established in Malaysia during the British colonisation, in Cameron Highlands.
Today Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. China, India and Kenya are the top 3 tea producing countries.
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