Although many allude to the eruption of tea drinking to the United Kingdom, as a British beverage, we have been drinking tea for more than a thousand years.
The Beginning of Tea
The tea story has its deepest roots in China. According to Chinese legend, in 2737 B.C. the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, was sitting underneath the tree, waiting while his servants boiled him water to drink. Then some leaves from the tree he was sitting under blew into his water. Since he was a renowned herbalist, Shen Nung decided to taste the infusion that had been accidentally created. It is interesting to note that the tree was a Camllia sinensis, whose leaves we now call tea leaves.
Of course it is impossible to know if there is any truth to this legend, but what we do know is that tea drinking started in China long before it became heard of in the west. This can be clearly known by the unearthing tea containers found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty (206 b.c-22 a.d.). However, it wasn’t until the Tang dynasty (618-906 b.c.) that tea became firmly establish as a national drink of china. Since tea had become such a national favorite, a late eight century writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching or Tea Classic.
After this book circulated, Japanese Buddhist monks who traveled to china for study, introduced tea to Japan. The Japanese loved tea so much they eventually developed the tea ceremony, which may have evolved from the rituals described in the Ch’a Ching.
Tea Growth in Europe
At this point, Europe was behind in the tea discovery. Although there were mentions of tea during the later half of the sixteenth century, they were scant and mostly from foreign Portuguese who were traders or missionaries stationed in England. Though some of these foreigners may have brought samples back to their mother country, it wasn’t the Portuguese who were the first to ship back ta as a commercial import. This was done by the Dutch. At this time they had began to copy the Portuguese trading. By the turn of the century, the island of Java had become an established trading route for the Dutch, and it was this route that in 1606, the first consignment of tea shipped from China to Holland. Within time, tea have become a fashionable drink among the Dutch, and spread to other European countries. However, because of the high price, tea remained a drink for the wealthy.
Tea Roots in Britain
Before the sixteenth century, tea in Britain was largely unheard of. During this century, most middle and upper classes drank coffee. Coffee then was the national beverage of Great Britain. Although there were still mentions of this curious beverage of China, it wasn’t until the marriage of Charles 11 to Catherine of Braganza, that became the turning point in tea history. As she was a Portuguese princess, she was naturally accustomed to tea. As such, her love of tea established the beverage as a fashionable drink among the court and then to the nobles and upper classes. It is not surprising that the British East India Company began to import tea for the first time to Britain during this time.
Because of this, tea became widely establish in trade and consumption.
Well, there you have it, the History of Tea. Tea has come a long way, especially since this time in Britain. Now everyone has a chance to enjoy this refreshing beverage and its healing properties. I hope you enjoyed this post and will see you soon.
Until next time,