Tea has had a very rich history. It has been around for more than five thousand years. During this time it has influenced various cultures, world leaders and even a couple of wars. Tea is thought to be more than a favorite beverage. It is thought to have great healing and medicinal uses.
Tea’s history began nearly five thousand years ago in Ancient China. The story of tea is thought to have begun in Early China with the Emperor Shen Nung. Shen Nung was not only the Emperor of China but also a scientist. He was said to have required that all of his drinking water be boiled as a way to cleanse it before it was consumed. His obsession with hygienic precautions lead to the discovery of tea. While on a road trip to a distant realm of China he and his caravan stopped for a rest. While the water was being boiled for the caravan dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the water causing the water to become brown in color. The emperor tried the beverage even though it had turned brown and right away fell in love with this new found beverage, thus the world obsession with tea was born.
Tea quickly spread to all aspects of the Chinese culture. By 800 A.D the first book of tea was written by Lu Yu, Ch’a Ching. The Ch’a Ching, detailed the cultivation and different uses for the tea bush. It is said to have been the beginning of the Zen Buddhist form of tea service. As tea became part of the religious culture it lead the way for the introduction of tea to other parts of the world. Tea was first introduced to Japan by the Buddhist Priest Yeisei. He saw the value that tea possessed in enhancing his religious meditation. Because of this religious influence tea was accepted by not only the imperial and royal courts but also other parts of Japanese society.
The introduction of tea in Japan lead to it becoming an art form. Tea in the Japanese culture became more than just a beverage. An art to tea service was created here. Special buildings were erected to be used to perform this elaborate and deeply religious ceremony. Years of training were required to perform this special tea service. In fact women known as Geisha’s were trained to perform this art form of serving tea. It became so popular that the religious aspects became lost and society began holding tea tournaments where elaborate prizes could be won. The tea service would return to it original roots with the help of three Zen Priest beginning in the 14 century.
Tea would not be introduced to the rest of the world until 1560, although word of this delightful beverage had been carried back by caravaner’s to Europe long before this time. Father Jasper de Cruz was the first European to bring first hand knowledge of this beverage to Europe. It was the Portuguese who first brought tea to the European countries. Later Holland would also begin trades with East Asia. Holland first introduced Tea to the America’s. It was introduced in 1650 to the colonist of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (modern day New York). Tea was not introduced to England for two more years, making them the last of the major nations of the time to partake in this highly popular beverage.
England would have a huge influence over tea, resulting in several wars including the American Revolution. The infamous Boston Tea Party was the result of the taxation of tea by the English on the American Colonist. The American Colonist especially the women had favored tea as their beverage of choice. When England began putting heavy taxes on this staple the colonist began getting contraband tea from other nations to avoid the taxes. The American Revolution was begun not only over tea but the American coloniest freedom to acquire tea from where ever they wanted.
Tea today has become just as popular. Tea houses and little girl tea parties have sent the tea industry into a booming business. The consumption of tea is only second to the consumption of water. This is a profitable highly sought after product. It is still mainly grown in the Eastern part of the world. It has easily out beaten the consumption of coffee and even popular beverages such as sodas. The health benefits associated with the consumption of tea will promise to only push this delightful beverage further into the history books as a great beverage that is also great for you.