Sunday, February 3, 2013

The History of Tea: The Invention

The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years.  Although tales exist in regards to the beginnings of tea being used as a beverage, no one is sure of its exact physical and cultural origins. - Wikipedia

All different types of tea except for rooibos, come from the same plant Camellia Sinensis which is said to have originated in Southeast Asia and more specifically somewhere near northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet.  From there the plant was introduced to more than 52 countries.

Few people know that tea is a second most popular beverage on earth, surpassed only by water. It is a very important part of the culture in many countries.

In China for example, according to Chinese saying, tea is one of seven basic daily necessities which are: firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar and tea.  There are also tea houses in most Chinese neighbourhoods and business districts offering many varieties of hot and cold tea beverages and tea friendly snacks.

In Japan there is a cultural activity called Japanese Tea Ceremony or The Way of Tea that involves ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, the Japanese green powdered tea.

In Great Britain and Ireland, tea is not only a name for the beverage but also a name for the meal.

As we can see, tea has swept the world but the question is: where did it come from, when was it discovered and how?

Shen Nong - Unidentified artist, 1800s, Japan
The legend has it that the tea was discovered by accident by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C.

Shen Nong was a scientist and inventor of Chinese medicine as well as agriculture.  He was of firm belief that  water should be boiled before drinking.  One day the Emperor and his servants were travelling when they decided to take a rest.  As servants began boiling water for their ruler, some dried leaves of nearby Camellia Sinensis bush fell into the boiling water changing the color and the taste slightly.  The Emperor took a sip and was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and taste of the resulting concoction.  He also noticed that he felt somewhat refreshed and reinvigorated.  He then proclaimed that this drink is good for health and hence the tea was invented, although at first it was considered a medicinal beverage.  It wasn't until around 3rd century A.D. that tea became an everyday drink in China.

And as to the rest of the world?

Around 12th century Japanese Buddhist monk brought the tea to Japan where the tea ceremony emerged years later.  The tea was introduced to Europe at the start of 17th century and it was around 1650 when the tea was brought by the merchants to New York from where it spread through the rest of the nation.



  1. I love learning about tea. My daughter, Kelly passed away almost 3 years ago of breast cancer and one of the things she loved to treat me and her sister to, was going to tea. Thanks for stopping by and leading me to your blog, XOXO

    1. Oh, I'm so sorry about your daughter Susan, this is heartbreaking... Likewise, thank you for visiting... I really enjoyed your blog. :)