#FAQ: What is the history of tea?

De geschiedenis van thee

If you are reading this blog, I bet you love to drink tea as much as we do. A fair question to ask is how was this medical drink first discovered and became popular across the world? Continue reading and you will find out some fun facts about the history of tea.

Where does tea come from originally?

The answer is obvious, China. Though there are many tea-producing regions across the world, it is believed the first tea plant was discovered and cultivated in China. The ancient legend in China tells about Shen Nong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture discovered tea during his searching of eatable greens and herbs. After being poisoned countless of times, Shen Nong was lucky enough to survive and chewed on a megical leaf which revived him and that is how his discovered tea.

Archaeological evidence suggests tea was first cultivated in China dates back to the 6000 years ago or longer. It might surprise you that the tea plant grown around the world today is still the same type that was original cultivated in China.

Thee komt uit ChinaCultivating tea leaves and let them dry

Tea leaf wasn’t used for drinking at the beginning!

Tea was originally consumed very differently, it was eaten as a vegetable or used as a medicine. It was only shifted from food to drink about 1500 years ago. The Chinese realised that a combination of heat and moisture could create a complex and special taste out of the tea leaf. 

After hundreds of years of evolution of preparing methods of tea, the standard of preparing tea become more unified. Back then, the common method was to first heat the tea, then pack it into portable cakes and grinded into powder. When drinking it, mixing this powder with hot water and there you have “Mo Cha”, or later became more famous through the Japanese variant: MatchaMatcha was the cappuccino of the time. 
Tea cake
A tea cake with compressed tea leaves.

Matcha became so popular that a distinct Chinese tea culture emerged. It was the subject of books and poetry. From the emperor to the artists, tea was their hype drink. It even developed to withdrawal extravagant pictures in the form of tea, very much like the espresso cart you might see in cafes today. In the ninth century during the Tang dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first tea plant to Japan. The Japanese eventually developed their own unique rituals around tea. leading to the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Matcha foamThe foam of Matcha.

How did tea come to Europe?

In the fourteenth century during the Ming dynasty the Chinese emperor shifted the standard from packed tea cakes into loose leaf tea. At that point China still held a virtual monopoly on the world's tea trading. This gives China a great deal of power and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world. That's spread began in earnest around early 16 hundreds when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in large quantities. During that period, drinking tea became popular among the nobles in Europe.
“Afternoon Tea” (George Goodwin Kilburne, 1897)
“Afternoon Tea” (George Goodwin Kilburne, 1897)

What happens after the European picks up the trending of drinking tea?

As tea became popular among the European nobles, the West Europe was also expanding its colonial influence across the world. As the colony empires grew, the interest of tea was also spread around the world. By 1700, tea in Europe sold for 10 times the price of coffee! The tea was so lucrative that many European trading companies are building faster and faster boats to compete on the speed of bringing tea from China to Europe.

In order to become less dependent on the tea supply from China and increase the control of tea production, the British East India Company managed to got the tea tree from China and began to grow tea in the Darjeeling region of India. From there, the plants spread further and making India and Siri Lanka another major tea growing region in the world.
Darjeering theeTea pickers in Sri Lanka.

Today tea is one of the top three most consumed beverage in the world. More and more variants of tea and methods of drinking tea are introduced in different regions of world.

As the tea specialist in Earl Orange, we tried to introduced different authentic tea flavours and ways of drinking tea to our customers. Next to this, we also keep an open mind and stay curious to new tea trends and hypes.

Curious about our tea flavours? Shop around in our shop or simply get surprised by our Surprise Box.



Read more (Some in Dutch):

Lees hier alles over China Dragon Well thee

Bubble Tea maken? Lees hier het Bubble Tea recept

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