When we learn about the history of tea, we also receive an education in the rest of the world. Because tea was discovered for the first time in China, it then traveled throughout the rest of the planet in order to conquer thirsts in just about every country. In addition to being on the most popular beverages, tea is also one of the healthiest in the world. For those who have wondered what the origin of tea is and how we arrived to the point of tea being served in so many areas of the world, it is time to explore its history a bit further.
One of the earliest legends claims that the Emperor of China discovered tea in 2737 BC. People would drink tea for several hundred years mainly for its herbal medicinal benefits. Tea became a religious offering by the Western Zhou Dynasty came about. Tea plants were limited during the Han Dynasty (202 – 220 AD), therefore tea was only drank by rich or by royalty for its taste as well as for its health benefits. During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), more tea plants were discovered, therefore tea drinking became a more common occurrence throughout the lower classes. The Chinese government supported the building of teashops and planting tea plants so more people could enjoy this beverage.
The Spread to Japan
When Japanese priests were studying in China during the Tang Dynasty, they brought tea back to Japan with them. Just as the Chinese consumption of tea, the rich and priests first consumed tea for its medicinal benefits. Priests used to drink tea to keep them awake through meditation; therefore, tea is often associated with Japan’s Zen Buddhism. The Buddhists soon developed the Japanese Tea Ceremony where tea was shared in a spiritual and sacred manner. Tea was enjoyed by the Emperor of Japan very much and imported tea seeds were planted in Japan from China, therefore more could enjoy the tea.
The Arrival in England
It was not until the 17th century that tea arrived in England when a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, married Charles II. The drink of royalty was established by the Queen and soon became an import that was popular from an East India Company to Britain. Aristocratic society took afternoon tea parties as a common way to drink tea. Even though tea was commonly consumed in Britain, the taxes were high causing smugglers to obtain and sell tea illegally for people who could not afford this luxury.