A historical point of view

There are many lengthy, fascinating and insightful studies on the history of tea, some of which I will blog about. But for a brief version here, I start with the legend of the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung.

Emperor Shen Nung was a renowned herbalist and scholar, who in 2737 BCE was sitting beneath a Camellia Sinensis tree, while his servant boiled drinking water. Some leaves from the tree blew into the water, Emperor Shen Nung decided to try it, and the first cup of tea was created.

Whether this story is true or not, it is universally agreed that tea originated in China.

Commercial tea plantations began emerging during the Chinese Han Dynasty (206–220 CE). By the end of the third century CE, tea was China’s number one beverage. And by the eighth century CE China was trading tea along the Silk Road to Tibet, the Himalayas, the Middle East, Turkey, and into India.

Tea reached Europe in the sixteenth century CE, but initially was not so popular, as it often spoiled in the long sea voyages.

To remedy this, a new production method was devised.

Until this time all tea was green, which is its natural colour. To ensure non-spoilage in the long sea voyages, tea crafters allowed the delicate green leaves to naturally oxidise before drying, thus resulting in black tea. Black tea travelled much better and lasted much longer than the delicate green, and it wasn’t long before black tea had taken Europe by storm.

As the world’s number one beverage after water, tea is now more popular than it has ever been. Nearly every culture has developed a ceremony or ritual around the making, serving and enjoyment of tea.

Black, green, white and oolong tea, all come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis. It is only the harvesting and processing that changes the colour.

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