Tea: Discovery of the palatable liquid gold
The history of tea spreads across multiple cultures over thousands of years and its roots are deeply tied to ancient Chinese culture
No matter what the season is, tea is considered as one of the tastiest and most beneficial beverages. There is something uniquely comforting about cosying up with a fragrant, steaming mug of tea. It is the liquid gold that ran through our veins, over which we shared stories and laughter.
Tea has been widely used for many purposes since it was discovered. The curative benefits of tea are beyond imaginable which has been used to remove tiredness, refresh the spirit, fight off illness, cure depression or boost up energy.
The history of tea spreads across multiple cultures over thousands of years. Its roots are deeply tied to ancient Chinese culture. However, according to different sources, tea drinking began as early as 1500 BC in the Yunnan Province of China. All the while, there are a lot of legends and myths stating that tea was first discovered in 2737 BC.
Ancient legend and China
Ancient legend suggests that mythological farmer or ruler Shennong accidentally poisoned himself 72 times in prehistoric China.
But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it revived him, and that is how we discovered tea. Tea doesn't actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture, highlights tea's importance in ancient China.
Archaeological evidence suggests that tea was first cultivated in China as early as 6,000 years ago. That original Chinese tea plant is the same type that's grown around the world today.
1,500 years ago people realized that a combination of heat and moisture could create a complex and varied taste out of the leafy green. And that's when tea became a beverage.
Tea was first brought to Japan in the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty by a Japanese monk. Eventually, the Japanese developed their own unique rituals around tea, creating the Japanese tea ceremony.
History of tea in Europe
In the 14th century, during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese emperor started to make loose leaf tea. Tea drinking spread around the world at that time. In the early 1600s, Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in large quantities.
Queen Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese woman, is credited to make tea popular with the English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661.
By 1700, tea sold for ten times the price of coffee in Europe and the plant was still only grown in China. On the other hand, The British East India company also wanted to be able to grow tea themselves and have control in the lucrative market.
Subsequently, they commissioned botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China. The botanist disguised himself and took a dangerous journey through China's mountainous tea regions, and smuggled tea trees into Darjeeling, India.
From there, the plant spread further still, helping drive tea's rapid growth as an everyday commodity.
Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world.
Tea growing countries
China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya are the top four countries representing almost 75 percent of the world's tea production.
China is the largest consumer of tea with some 1.6 billion pounds a year. India, Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka count among the most important tea growing countries.
Types of Tea
This is a drink that many people in the world wake up with while some people take it after a meal, and others take a cup of tea after reaching home from outside.
There are around 20,000 different teas in the world, according to Mary Lou and Robert J Heiss in the tea enthusiast's handbook: A guide to the world's best teas.
According to the International Tea Committee, tea production increases three percent year-on-year.
Generally, teas fall into one of four types: White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea and Black tea.
There are many different types of tea; some people like Darjeeling and Chinese greens, having a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different profiles which include sweet, nutty, floral, or grassy notes.
Tea has a stimulating effect in humans. There is plenty of research that shows drinking tea can actually improve health.