Have you ever wondered about the Origin of Tea?
Whether you drink it in the morning to give you an energy boost or at night to quiet your mind as a treatment for insomnia, do you know the story that lies behind the tea inside your cup?
Who was the first person to drink a cup of tea?
And why drink tea?
As you hold the cup of this scented brew in your hands, inhale that magical fragrance that is unique to tea.
Delight yourself with the powerful health benefits of tea and embark on this adventure as we find out more about the times and places when tea was first brewed.
Let’s start our journey by travelling 5,000 years back in time to ancient China.
The first to taste tea...
In 2737 BC, Emperor Shen Nung, who was a scientist and a man of vision, ordered that all drinking water ought to be boiled in order to avoid the spreading of diseases.
One day, the Emperor and his servants were walking in the fields. As he sat beneath a tree, intending to have a drink, some tea leaves fell into the pot of boiling water. Intrigued by the colour and aroma, the emperor tried this new beverage and found it very refreshing.
The leaves were from the tea plant Camellia Sinensis and they easily became known and appreciated around China.
The first to write about tea...
As we move forward in time we find Lu Yu, a Chinese scholar who wrote in 760-780 AD the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching, also known as The Classic of Tea, where he meticulously described the different methods of tea cultivation and its preparation.
He offered us every detail about this magical world, explaining each term related to the art of drinking tea.
Centuries after Lu Yu’s work, tea consumption was deeply rooted into Chinese culture and became a part of the everyday life of the Chinese people. Tea was suddenly a subject for books and poems, it was used as a birthday or grateful gift and the first tea houses started to emerge.
Chinese tea today...
Have a look at some Chinese black teas to better understand the beauty and magic of this world. Tibetan tea will introduce you to the famous tea brick, while Lapsang Souchong tea will offer you a peculiar smoky taste.
Chinese green tea is also available, for example, in Gunpowder Tea. There is even Chinese Oolong Tea, and to learn more about it, read Wu Yi Tea.
Now let’s travel to the world of Japanese teas and understand the origin of tea in Japan.
The first to taste tea...
The discovery of tea was made by a Buddhist priest, Eisai (1141 – 1215 AD), during a trip to China. He was intrigued and surprised with the amazing health benefits tea could offer, especially with its ability to enhance religious meditation due to the caffeine in tea and its relaxing properties.
Therefore, in 1191, this Buddhist priest brought with him back to Japan, powdered tea and some tea seeds which were planted at the Kozanji temple in Kyoto.
This was the origin of tea in Japan. However, keep in mind that the Japanese took tea to another level. They elevated tea to an art form; they gave it a royal character by creating the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Japanese tea today...
While today, black teas enjoy a higher reputation in China, the Japanese are best know for producing the finest green tea. Read about Gyokuro tea, a great Japanese green tea of exquisite quality.
Let’s continue unveiling the story behind the origin of tea. It is time for us to go to India.
The first to taste tea...
It is not very clear when and how tea emerged in India, but the first recorded reference to tea in India was made in the ancient epic Ramayana. This epic describes how Hanuman, a Hindu deity, had to travel to the Himalayas to get the Sanjeevani tea plant for medicinal use.
Some legends go as far back as to Bodhidharma, the founder of Ch’an Budhism, or to Gautama Buddha in other versions of this story. Legend has it that while trying to meditate under a tree, he kept falling asleep. Angry at this sign of weakness, he cut off his eyelids to keep them from closing.
On the very spot where the lids fell grew a tea bush. This is perhaps an allusion to the fact that tea contains caffeine, helping you to stay awake and focused.
Tea cultivation and consumption in India has been a part of everyday life for thousands of years, but it was only with the arrival of the British East India Company, created in the 17th century, that tea was taken to a commercial level.
Indian tea today...
Nowadays, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world and the most consumed tea is indeed Indian black tea. A favourite around the world is Darjeeling Black tea.
This tea has a distinctive flavour and aroma and every sip you take you are also welcoming the benefits of black tea!
And this is merely the beginning, tea made history around the world and had a role to play over the centuries in many civilizations.
Tea was a spark for revolutions and wars, it changed countries and cultures, from the higher classes to the lower ones, creating rituals and ceremonies everywhere.
Be it green, black, white or oolong tea, whenever you take a sip and whether you are drinking Chinese tea, Japanese tea or Indian tea, remind yourself of the many centuries of history, of legends and myths that lie behind each tea leaf!
Now that you know about the first cup of tea, it is time to return to the present and begin tasting the different Types of Tea that have evolved through time.
Each is special, each with its own flavor and color, each with its own history.
Two leaves and a bud
and the world would never be the same again!
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"Thank God for Tea! What would the world do without tea? -- how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea." - Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845), English clergyman and writer
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