Archaeologists discover world’s oldest tea buried with Chinese emperor

There’s now evidence that Chinese royals have been sipping on tea since the middle of the second century. Archaeologists’ recent excavation of the tomb of Han Dynasty Emperor Jing Di, who died in 141 BC, has turned up what archaeologists say is the world’s oldest known tea. Up until this discovery, the only evidence of tea’s existence in China that long ago was a single ancient text that claimed China was exporting tea leaves to Tibet.
Archaeologists found the ancient tea leaves buried in a wooden box with the emperor in his tomb, presumably so he could use them in the next life. Though the site, located in what is now modern-day Xian, was previously excavated in the 1990s, a previous search had not turned up the tea leaves.
The use of mass spectrometry by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has since confirmed that the leaves are, indeed, tea — but not your average tea. The Independent reports that the tea found is believed to be of “the finest quality” because it contains only tea buds and not “ordinary tea leaves.”
“The discovery shows how modern science can reveal important previously unknown details about ancient Chinese culture,” Dorian Fuller, Director of the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology in London, said. “The identification of the tea found in the emperor’s tomb complex gives us a rare glimpse into very ancient traditions which shed light on the origins of one of the world’s favorite beverages.” Becca Stanek


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