The history of tea dates back thousands of years and spans across various cultures. But it all started during the Shang Dynasty in China.
Did you know that it was first used as a medicinal drink? Hua Tuo provided a huge collection of records going as far back as 3rd century AD. Portugese priests and merchants were the first to try drinking tea in the 16th century. The Brits followed a century after and eventually, the rest of the world did too.
According to a popular legend in China, the legendary Emperor Shennong was drinking boiled water when a few leaves from a nearby tree were blown into his drink. He drank the brew and was surprised by its flavor.
In another myth, the Emperor was said to have used tea as antidote for some poisonous herbs. He was testing different types of herbs for their medicinal properties, when he found out some of these herbs were poisonous. He used tea to rid of himself of the poison.
Lu Yu, a famous Sage of Tea, also mentioned Emperor Shennong in his early works. According to the myth, Shennong, who was also known as the god of agriculture, would chew tea leaves to counteract any poison during his search for medicinal herbs.
It is said that you’ll find the world’s oldest cultivated tea tree at Fengqing County, Lincang City Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Drinking tea as a stimulating drink and not as a medicinal concoction spread from there to Sichuan.
In Japan, drinking tea started during the 6th Century AD, Japanese priests and envoys visited China to learn about the drink. A priest named Saicho was said to be the first one to bring home tea seeds.
Tea was only initially available for the royals when Emperor Saga encouraged the cultivation of tea plants. Eventually, green tea became a staple among cultured Japanese. It was during the Meiji period when Japan started the machine production of green tea.
Tea arrived in the west in the 16th century through a Portuguese missionary who brought tea from China. It was in the mid 1600s when Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutchman, settled in New Amsterdam (now called New York) and brought tea to North America.
In the past, preparing tea meant compressing the tea leaves into bricks. It was in the Ming Dynasty when people started steeping tea leaves in water like how we do it today. In Japan, Nagatani Soen, a tea merchant invented the Japanese version of preparing team called Sencha. With this method, green tea was steamed, dried, and rolled.
Today, tea is one of the most popular drinks across the globe. On your next tea time, stop for a moment and be amazed at how far tea has come.