The History of Tea

#NationalTeaDay is the perfect excuse to put on a brew and savour its delights – and it’s TODAY.

Tea’s birth story is infused with a blend of myth and fact and colored by ancient concepts of spirituality, and philosophy. According to ancient legend in China, the story of tea began in 2737 B.C. when the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong, a skilled ruler and scientist, accidentally discovered the tea. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot. The Emperor enjoyed drinking the infused water with its unusual and delicious flavor. He felt invigorated and refreshed. As a scientist, this serendipitous event compelled him to further research the plant whereby he found tea to have medicinal properties. And so, the first cup of tea, generated by the mighty leaf, was created by accident.

Traditional Tea Culture in China and Japan

Whatever the legend, tracing tea’s original roots proves difficult. It is probable that the tea plant originated in the region of southwest China, Tibet and Northern India. Chinese traders may have traveled throughout these regions often and encountered people chewing tea leaves. From these journeys, the Chinese learned tea’s use.

Early on, people primarily used tea for medicinal purposes. Not until the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), often referred to as the classic age of tea, did consumption become widespread and characterized as China’s national drink. An imposition of a government imposed tea tax further evidences the beverage’s growing popularity. During that time, compressed bricks of tea leaves were first softened by fire and then grated into boiling water.