Legends report tea, also called Camellia sinensis, from which black,green, oolong and white tea is derived, emerged in southern China, 2737 B.C.
, whenDivine Farmer, herbalist, and scholar, Emperor Shen Yung in 2737 B.C., sat in agarden in southern China, reading when dried leaves from an overhanging wildtea tree fell into a cup of boiling water. The Emperor felt a warm feeling asthe tea explored his body. Thus, he called it Ch’a, the Chinese character thatmeans to investigate. He studied further, revealing medicinal properties,identifying many varieties of tea.
While Shennong’s existence is believed butunproven, early credible records date tea use to 3rd Century A.D.,in a medical text written by Hua Tao, who explains that tea was introduced to Portuguesepriests and merchants in 16th Century China. Its first use was inthe regions of southwestern China, Tibet, and Northern India, where Chinesetraders travelled thru, finding people chewing the leaves of medicinalproperty. Popularity of tea in China continues today and has become a symbol ofthe country’s history, religion, and culture. In the coming centuries, teawould prove a vital aspect of East Asian culture, and the world.Originally, tea was consumed as avegetable, added to medicines, and used in ritual offerings. In the Sui Dynasty(518-618) it became a mainstay of medicine.
By the end of the Yuan Dynasty, teawas prepared by steeping in water, as it is now. In the 4th and 5thDynasty orange peel, salt, spices, rice, and ginger were added for flavoring. Inthe Tang Dynasty, the Classic Age of Tea, tea drinking was popularized byBuddhist monks who were able to stay up for long hours meditating from it.
Itsuse became culturally widespread when Buddhist monk, Lu Yu (733-804) composedthe C’ha Ch’ing, or Classic of Tea treatise, The Book of Tea, describing typesof tea, their uses, growth of, utensils used, preparation, and health benefits.He infused the writing with the spiritual aesthetic of Buddhist, Taoist, andConfucian popular thought. A written excerpt states: “The best quality tea musthave creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap ofa mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a laketouched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like a fine earth newly swept byrain.” Lu Yu (d. 804) Yu’s teachings centered on the traditional tea ceremony, asan expressive metaphor of the harmony and simplicity that orders and flows thruthe universe, an integral aspect of dynamic spirituality in Chinese and Asianculture; where diet and lifestyle, discipline, humility, and grace created ahigher state of being, and a way of life, far beyond beverage consumption. (Liu, Jerry C.Y.
, 2011) In ancient China, tea tastingdistinguished men of refinement from those of poor taste. Tea represented adetachment from worldly concerns. Tea tasting, and competitions valuedtraditions that formed lasting and influential bonds.
It consisted of foursteps, smelling, looking, tasting, and relishing. In China during the SongDynasty requirements were drawn for tea tasting, first the leaves must befreshly picked, second, the water must be from a natural spring, and third, theserver and manner of serving must be exquisite. Additionally, the weather mustbe ideal, with gentle breezes and a brilliant sun. Also, the participants musthave refined manners and be agreeable with the host.
More stringent rules wereimposed during the Ming Dynasty, leading to the thirteen Appropriateness’s, andSeven Taboos of tea tasting. As it progressed further, every minute detail wasspecified and made tea drinking law, such as the number of times tea could bestirred, and what benefits could be derived from different numbers of people inattendance to drink it. (Li, 1993). Tea preparation and drinking evolved into ameticulous art form, as multi-dimensional as the facets of a diamond.
The Chinese government imposed a tax on the beverage, acknowledging Teaas China’s national drink. This popularity burgeoned into the Romantic Age ofTea in the Sung Dynasty (960 -1280 A.D.), where writings of poetry, and worksof artist referencing tea spread, influencing politics, religion, art, poetry,music, martial arts, writing, incense gatherings, gardening, politics, and all things scholarly, as it spread farthereast. Tea itself became an art form.
At this time, it was made into bricks orcakes for ready travel on the Silk Road, used as money. Later, it was groundinto a green powder called Matcha, during the Sung (Song) Dynasty. Up to themid-17th century, Chinese tea was only green. As foreign trade grew, growersfound tea leaves could be preserved with fermentation. This black tea heldflavor and aroma longer than delicate green tea leaves and was easier to export.1500 years ago, tea shifted from food to water in the 24th Century,during the Ming Dynasty, by the Chinese Emperor. As the sole provider of tea,China had become powerful and rich by it, along with porcelain and silk, as thehighest of world traded goods.
(Liu, Jerry C.Y., 2011) In the 9th Century, Tong Dynasty, a Japanese Buddhist monk DengyoDaishi, known as Saicho, introduced the tea plant to Japan after studying inChina, bringing it with him to his monastery. Other monks caught on, as tea plantationsemerged at many monasteries. Due to the rural isolation of these monasteries,the popularity of tea did not spread through-out Japan and the rest of Asia,and towards Europe, until the early 13th Century. After the emperorencouraged people to grow it, the Japanese developed their own tea culture andthe elaborate tea ceremony, becoming an integral cultural relic, which shaped Japanesesociety, as society shaped it. (Tea Revolution, 2017).
In 14th Century, Merchantsintroduced tea to Europe when Dutch traders brought tea in large quantities toEurope, establishing the Dutch East India Tea Company. Tea then spread toEngland in the 1650s, and from there around the world. Queen Catherine ofBorghanza, a Portuguese noblewoman, made tea hugely popular when she marriedKing Charles II, in 1661, who also came to love and promote tea. By 1700, teain Europe sold ten times the price of coffee.
As Great Britain was extendingits colonial influence around the world, it was spreading its interest in teawith it. (Tea Revolution, 2017). Britain wanted inon tea trade, and began growing tea in India, because the climate was likeChina. Britain bought and offered land to anyone willing to grow it there. In1833, Britain hired botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China, whodressed as a Chinese man smuggled tea trees and experienced workers out ofChina into Darjeeling India. Still, China was the main grower of tea. Britain sought to loosen China’s monopoly over tea, and stopped payingfor it with silver, and began paying for it in Opium, leading to millions ofChinese people being addicted to Opium, which began a public health crisis.
In1839, a Chinese official ordered Opium shipment destroyed outraging Britain andbeginning the first Opium War. Fighting raged up and down China’s coast untilChina conceded the port of Hong Kong to Britain in 1842. China lost 20,000troops, Britain only 69. China resumed trade with Britain, giving it themonopoly on tea it desired.
The war weakened China’s hold on global economy forover a century. British colony tea plantations began growing tea and became themost powerful tea traders for over a hundred years, which then spread to SriLanka in 1867. When a fungus destroyed Sri Lankan coffee grower crops in 1869, theyswitched to black tea, imported from China and India, on a trial basis, andtheir overseas buyers switched with it. The largest consumer in Europe was the UnitedKingdom.
Britain began to import tea from Amsterdam in 1750, and tea became Britain’sfavorite and most consumed drink. In 1885, this led to African production ofsugarcane to sweeten the tea Britain loved. Tea drinking in America dropped offin 13 colonies when it was seen as unpatriotic during the Boston Tea Party andpublic massacre of innocents by British troops, and this is why most Americansdrink more coffee today.
This pushed the East Indie Company to bankruptcy. Britainstill forced China to buy drugs for tea, but when China resisted, Britainclaimed they broke treaty starting the 2nd opium war in 1856 whichforced China open to further outside influence. Tea empowered the industrialrevolution due to the boost it gave factory workers to work long hours, andprevented diseases in factories cities due to water boiling, which killedbacteria. In 1890, Thomas Lipton bought tea estates in Ceylon, to sell tea at areasonable price at his growing chain of 300 grocery stores, founding LiptonEnterprises in 1893.
By 1898, Ceylon, Sri Lanka was a leading producer of tea. In1904, Green tea and Formosan (Taiwanese) tea outsold black tea by five times inthe U.S., and Englishman Richard Blechynden created iced tea during a heat waveat the St Louis World Fair.
Thomas Sullivan invented tea bags in 1908, shippingtea in small silk bags that people mistakenly thought were to be put in waterwhole, using bags instead of metal strainers saving time and used widely in America.United Kingdom Tetley began to advertise and took off in 1953 in Britain. (Tea Revolution,2017). Over 90 percent of Britain’s tea is still imported from China. Indiaand China are still leading producers of tea. In 2010, tea use is prolific in35 countries, with 3 billion cups consumed every day globally.
At only 3 cents acup to make at home, 4.68 million tons were grown to meet the demand in 2012. (Statista,2016). Britain alone consumes 150 million cups of a day, and drink it all dayand night. Tea became a widely used named for British evening meal time, calledtea time, between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m.
, and dinner called the midday meal.This was due to tea’s influence over the culture, but became something elseentirely when tea was used to referred to food, and lunch breaks, when biscuitswere dipped in tea, coffee, or milk, and this daily ritualistic break, alongwith tea, developed its own vast array of crumpets, cakes, and complimentarysandwiches. Tea Rooms became the focal point of civic engagement, and mean muchmore than tea now, although tea is most certainly drunken there.
Tea roomsattendance is for rare occasions by Brits, more often frequented by and popularamong, foreign tourists there. (Matthew, 2016). Interestingly, the small tea cups and saucers used to serve tea wereinfluenced by European use, and did not originate in china. “When tea wasintroduced from China to Europe in the 17th century, teacups and teapots wereimported with the tea itself. Chinese porcelains, such as sugar bowls from theYixing kilns and bowls from Jingdezhen, as well as Japanese porcelains, havebeen excavated in great numbers in Holland. At the end of the 17th century,sets of small teacups without handles and saucers were popular, becoming thenorm in Europe as tea sets.
There were no examples of porcelain cup and saucersets in China and Japan at that time. The production and use of such sets couldbe found in China from the 18th century. The Dutch East Indies Company showsthat these tea sets, including designs and shapes, were produced to fillorders. It can be concluded that production orders from Europe stimulated theuse and form of porcelains that became standard in China. This can be said toaccount for the cups with handles that appeared after the 1730s. In Englandthere was a tradition of transferring tea from cup to saucer, and then drinkingdirectly from the saucer. 18th centurypaintings and illustrations in the works of Charles Dickens depict thispractice. The custom continued throughout England and Europe into the 20thcentury.
The practice of drinking from saucers later disappeared, coincidingwith the development of table manners. The custom is still found in Pakistanand Bangladesh today. The first mention of using milk in tea was by the chiefcook of the Dutch emissaries deployed to China from the Dutch East IndiesCompany. This led to the theory that the practice had become prevalent inEurope by the late 17th century. From this it can be concluded that currenttea-drinking manners and tea sets first appeared in Europe at the beginning ofthe 18th century. (Heaton, J.
, Hino, Y. 2010). Tea was introduced and proliferated in India primarily by Britishproduction, but also by travelling monks who went and returned from China,before use and production there became widespread. Tea was viewed as a valuabletool that spread with religion through many parts of Asia, including India.Although believed native to China, later native tea plants were found in Burmaand other parts of India, dispelling the notion that tea only grew in China,although the native plants were not known to have been found in othercountries. Tea became the State Drink of Assam and was recognized as a nationaldrink of India, in 2013. Tea was widely used historically in kitchens acrossIndia, particularly for medicinal benefits made, mixed, and flavored with a myriadof Ayurvedic spices, herbs, and other plants such as holy basil, cardamom,black pepper, anise, licorice, ginger, and others. This formed a favoriteIndian beverage known as Chai Tea consumption in India is recorded in theRamayana (750-500 BCE), although no written record is found after that.
Mythological references report the use of ‘soma’ in ancient India, and experts’belief this substance was tea. It is also believed that cultivation andconsumption occurred for thousands of years, although commercial productiondidn’t begin until the British East India Tea Company brought tea plants in,using large masses of land to grow and produce it. Primarily Chinese versionsof tea are grown there.
Today, India is one of the world’s largest teaproducers, world famous brands such as Assam and Darjeeling, being producedonly in India. 70% of the tea produced in India, is drank there, 837,000 tonsof tea a year. (Sanchari,2016). Future prospect for tea is promising in Kenya,the third largest producer of tea leaves behind India and China. Talks recentlyconvened in New York with investment firms, in hopes of exciting new securitiesin tea production. This can offer promise to the Kenyan economy, and stabilemarkets of steady income for growers who agree to produce it.
Tea, the mostbeloved drink worldwide, according to the United Nations Food and AgriculturalOrganization (FAO). (Washtell,2016) An enduring cultural object from China theworld over, tea is expected to continue to endure the test of time, as aglobally loved healthy, peaceful, fun-loving global beverage on tableseverywhere.