We all enjoy sipping on a hot cup of tea – green, black, or fruit, with the morning newspaper or with an evening chat with our best friend. However, how often have we thought about where this delicious beverage draws its roots from or the history behind it?
Let's take a quick look at the origin and history of tea in different countries and how it has gradually made its way into our lives with every sip that we take.
A lot of people are under the common misconception that tea originated in Britain; when in fact, its roots go way back to the Chinese BC era. Tea originally had its roots in China and China was known to be the birthplace of tea. Legend has it that in 2737 BC, the then Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was sitting under a tree along with his servant who was boiling water for his master to drink.
Suddenly some leaves from the tree above blew into the boiling water and the emperor, being well versed in herbalism, wanted to try out this new infusion that was created by accident, and, in fact, thoroughly enjoyed it. The tree he was sitting under was a Camellia Sinensis and the water infused with the leaves of this tree is now what we all know and enjoy as – tea.
Whether this is just a myth or not is difficult to establish, however, tea was popular in china much before it was introduced to the western world. Tea containers have been discovered in tombs during the Han dynasty – 206 BC to 220 AD and tea officially became the national drink of China in the Tang dynasty – 618 to 906 AD. In fact, tea became so famous in China that one writer named Lu Yu wrote the first book ever to be written about tea called Ch’a Ching or Tea Classic.
Shortly after this, tea was introduced in Japan by some Japanese Buddhist monks who had traveled to China to study. It then became a very important and integral part of Japanese culture.
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Tea was slowly introduced in the continent of Europe by Portuguese traders and missionaries. Even though they weren’t involved in the commercial trading of tea, it was the Dutch who began to take over the trading practices of the Portuguese in the late sixteenth century and went on to establish a trading port in the Java island. It was through this trading port in Java that the first batch of tea was transported from China to Holland. After that, it didn’t take very long for tea to become one of the most fashionable and popular drinks among the Dutch people and soon spread to other neighboring countries in the European continent.
The first mention of tea in Britain came in a London newspaper called Mercurius Politicus in September 1658. A small advertisement in this newspaper announced that a particular ‘Chinese drink’ was being offered for sale at a local coffee house in London city, which rose curiosity amongst its readers.
However, the main incident that took place that established the presence of tea in Britain was the marriage of Charles II to a Portuguese Princess named Catherine, who, because of her addiction to tea and innate love for the drink, established tea as a popular drink in courthouses and a fashionable drink amongst the rich upper class of Britain.
So, the next time you take a sip of a hot steaming cup of your favorite tea, you might want to ponder on the origin and fascinating history of this delicious drink.