Tea is the second most popular and most consumed beverage in the world, after water. It’s no surprise then that its history is vast, spreading across multiple cultures and thousands of years.
Two legends exist of the discovery of tea.
Shen Nong discovered tea in 2737 BC was boiling water by a tree. With a light breeze, a few leaves from a nearby tree fell into his water. The tree was a wild tea plant. Upon tasting the delicate concoction, the Emperor found it to be delicious… and tea was born.
Bodhidharma was determined to meditate for hours, but unfortunately, he fell asleep. After walking up, he was so angry with himself that he sliced off his eyelids and threw them on the ground from which the first tea bush grew.
Tea was first largely confused for medical purposes. During the Tang Dynasty, however, it became a more a popular pastime. By 723-804 AD, Lu Yu created the first treatise on tea which standardized preparation methods.
Tea was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 7th century. Sen No Rikyu (1522-1591), known as the first grand tea master, transformed tea into a religion, art and philosophy. Two philosophies in the Japanese tea ceremony are Ichigo Ichie and Wabi. Ichigo Ichie states that each meeting is a unique treasure and will never be repeated in the same manner again. Wabi focus on finding beauty in the imperfection and accepting transience.
Since Portuguese had an advanced navy, they were the first to discover tea through first access to trade with China. As a result, first tea chests arrived in Portugal in 1606. From there, it was transported to other areas of Europe. Even though tea is extremely popular in England, it was actually the last European country to embrace tea- around 1652.
Tea was introduced to America by English and Dutch settlers. England placed a tax on tea that was sent to America as a payment for having fought in the French Indian War, which lead to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Americans entered the tea/opinion trade with China because of faster ships and making payments in gold.