The Origin of Tea

Posted by Stephanie Edwards on

How Did Tea Come To Be?

 

Once a status symbol, today an inevitable part of every household, tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world. Whether you drink Lipton in the comfort of your home or a Chai Latte from Starbucks on your way to work, you are a part of the widely spread tea culture.

 

But, how did tea come to be such an integral part of our lives? Continue reading for a deeper look into the history of the beverage that is adored all over the world.

 

History of Tea

 

I say tea, you say - England? While some may believe one of the world’s oldest surviving monarchies is home to one of the world’s most beloved warm beverages, the history of tea is more exciting than consuming it with a scone at 4pm sharp. The birthplace of tea is China or, more precisely, the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. The people of China  consumed tea hundreds of years before it was finally discovered by European explorers.

 

When Was the Tea First Discovered?

 

Some time around 2737 BC, Shennong, an unpopular Emperor of China, was chilling under a tree when the wind blew few leaves into his bowl of warm water. The water had changed colour and, after only a sip, the emperor had discovered its new, pleasant flavor. He had also discovered the tea’s therapeutic properties after it had cured him of his stomach ache. Many researchers have questioned the accuracy of this tale over the years, but the origin story still remains.

 

A Cultural Symbol

 

Tea may be almost as popular as water today, but, once upon a time it used to be a status symbol that was rooted deeply into Asian culture. Historically, tea was a rare commodity consumed strictly by royalty. The Tang Dynasty  popularised tea consumption after the discovery of different types of tea plants. During this dynasty, tea became available to lower classes.

 

Global Expansion

 

Tea quickly spread to other parts of Asia, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. However, it  surfaced in Europe in 1555 when it was imported by an Italian traveller under the  name “Chai Catai”.

 

Portuguese Princess Catherine Braganza, upon her marriage to King Charles II, introduced the tea drinking habit to the Court of England. Tea quickly became the beverage of choice in high society.  Later on, tea made its debut publicly in coffeehouses.  Therefore, a foreign princess is responsible for the popularity of tea in England. Interesting stuff!

 

Later on, the tea was introduced to British colonies in America, India and elsewhere.

 

Afternoon Tea

 

Have you ever wondered how tea time became a social event? The popular afternoon tea was introduced by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. Anna was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria in 1840. The Duchess  frequently became hungry around 4 o’clock. Normally, she would ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake to be brought to her room. Soon, this became a habit of hers and she started inviting friends to join her.   This is how ‘tea time’ was born.

 

Types of Tea

 

The three most popular types of tea are - black, green and oolong tea.

 

Black tea is allowed to wither completely before the process of oxidation is applied. When brewed appropriately, black tea has more caffeine than other types of tea. It has a tenacious flavor and is regularly consumed with milk and sugar.

Green tea is allowed to wither only a small amount. The process of oxidation is stopped by putting the leaves over fire. This type of tea has less caffeine and a more subtle flavor. 

Oolong tea is more complex to create and falls somewhere between black and green tea. This type of tea has a rich floral or fruity flavor.

 

White, pu’er, and yellow tea play an important role in the history of tea, so these types are relevant as well. White tea is delicate,mostly unprocessed tea. Yellow tea is rare and is only produced in China, same as its mysterious sister - pu’er tea. Pu’er tea, China’s closely guarded state secret, is a work of art of deep and rich flavor.

 

Today, Asia remains the largest tea producer, supplying 80 - 90% of all tea. Tea is exported mainly from China, India, Sri-Lanka and Indonesia. Indian tea companies have acquired a number of iconic foreign tea brands like Lipton, Tetley, Twinings and Typhoo.

 

No matter the type of tea they favor, various countries have their own unique history connected to tea consumption. How do you take your tea? Let us know below. No matter what flavor you favor, Miss Missy’s Tea and Sundries is happy to provide you a high-quality supply.


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