The History of Tea

The History of Tea

For the Love of Tea.

I like the story that I have read in books and articles on the internet, about a man drinking his cup of boiled water, when some leaves from a nearby tree fall  into his  cup changing  the colour of the liquid. Such an incidental  event,  that changed the world and created a beverage that is second only to water and  so began the journey of tea which  we enjoy and drink today.

This event,  according to legend dates back to 2700BC and the man?  Emperor, Shen Nung. The tea tree or plant is called, Camellia Sinensis. The Emperor felt restored after drinking the tea and  it became, initially used for its medicinal qualities and then enjoyed just for the pleasure of the brew.

China  enjoyed  their tea for centuries, prior to the West knowing anything about this delicious drink.  During  the Tang Dynasty ( 618-906 Ad). Tea became established as the traditional drink of the Chinese.

It followed, that it became a part of the Japanese culture, after it was according to history, introduced by travelling Japanese Buddhists monks studying in China.

Well there you are and Europe lagged well behind. The Portuguese, were bringing tea home through their missionaries and traders, but the Dutch, were the ones to really start commercially importing this wonderful brew.

And to England!

What brought it to England?   Well,  in the reign of Charles, the Second,  (I have researched a little more and he was a much loved and popular King and though he had no legitimate children  of his own with his wife Catherine Braganza, he had many illiigiitmate children, many that he recognised as  his own) . He was known as the ‘Merry Monarch’.

His new wife, Princess Braganza, from Portugal,  loved tea!. She arrived with a trunk of it and so it became very fashionable,  in the 1660’s,  to drink a brew of tea!

Mmm… cup of tea

Once countries across the world became aware of this precious commodity, there followed much intrigue and clandestine activities in the desperation of countries across the globe wishing to obtain the seeds and the plants and the tea itself, for themselves and their countries.

Tea was much sort after, people became rich from the earnings of ‘the tea’, but only the rich could afford to sip  this special brew, so it became a symbol of wealth and prestige and privilege.

There were excessively high taxes on the import of tea and of course there ensued a huge industry in smuggling tea, which went on for decades until the tea tax was virtually abolished, making tea  an affordable drink for all.

There are many plantations across the world now, after China,  Japan,  India, Ceylon now known as Sri Lanka,  and followed by,  although perhaps not in numerical order, Indonesia, Kenya, Australia  forgive me,  so many more!

Because  of the diverse regions that are now growing  this beautiful shrub/tree, we  enjoy  a great range, in  depth and  in flavour in  the world of teas.

China: is the largest producer of green and black tea.

Green Tea

India: examples of her tea, Assam and Darjeeling, both well known teas and named after the areas they are grown in. Assam, northern, either side of the Bramputra River and Darjeeling, at the foot of the Himalayas. (At least 70% of their tea is actually consumed by India.)

Indonesia: Java and Sumatra their teas; soft and subtle.

Kenya:  East and West of the Highlands, strong and spicy.

Sri Lanka: the teas can be strong or light, depending on where they are grown.

Well it is the start to my journey, sharing my knowledge as I learn and most of all appreciating, not just the tea but where it came from and the history that travels with it.

To the pleasure of Tea!

Michele

(My sources for above information about tea: Wikipedia and UK Tea & Infusions Association).