The history of tea is fascinating and offers great insight into the history of our world. Tea was first discovered in China, and it has traveled the world conquering the thirsts of virtually every country on the planet. Tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the world as well as one of the healthiest. If you have ever wondered where tea comes from and how we got to the point where tea is served in virtually every corner of the world, then sit back with a hot cup of Teasia tea and explore the history of the tea leaf over the centuries!
One legend claims that the discovery of tea occurred in 2737 BC by the Emperor of China. For several hundred years, people drank tea because of its herbal medicinal qualities. By the time of the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was used as a religious offering. During the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), tea plants were quite limited and only royalty and the rich drank tea not only for their health but also for the taste. As more tea plants were discovered during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), tea drinking became more common among lower classes and the Chinese government supported planting of tea plants and even the building of tea shops so everyone could enjoy tea.
Also during the Tang Dynasty, tea spread to Japan by Japanese priests studying in China. Similar to the Chinese adoption of tea, tea was first consumed by priests and the rich for its medicinal properties. Tea is often associated with Zen Buddhism in Japan because priests drank tea to stay awake and meditate. Soon, the Buddhists developed the Japanese Tea Ceremony for sharing tea in a sacred, spiritual manner. The Emperor of Japan enjoyed tea very much and imported tea seeds from China to be planted in Japan, making tea available to more people.
In 1600, Queen Elizabeth, longing for exotic luxuries, founded the East India Company to procure fine woven cloths, spices, herbs, and other riches from the East. Although it would not be until 1664 before this enterprise would deliver tea to the shore of England, six years after the first documented tea drinker on English soil took a sip, the East India Company held exclusive rights to English-Oriental trade until 1833.
At first, the East India Company's tea shipments were meager and subject to tariffs. Consequently, enterprising merchants of the piratical sort ignored the imposed monopoly and illegally imported tea. These contraband shipments not only increased the supply of tea on mainland England but also stimulated its sale and allure by offering this forbidden tea at a lower price. Thus, tea was no longer reserved for high society England, and by the middle of the eighteenth century had replaced ale as England's national drink.
Accordingly, as tea drinking blossomed in England, so too did it in the English colonies. By the turn of the eighteenth century, tea was publicly available in colonial Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the colonial tea trade was almost exclusively with the Mother country. England soon placed increasingly higher tariffs on tea as a way to recoup the expense of the French and Indian War. These tea Tax prompted the colonists to take action. On December 16, 1773, a band of some sixty outraged colonists, disguised as Indians, gathered at Griffin's Wharf, boarded the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, and tossed hundreds of pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. Known as the Boston Tea Party, this event was a catalyst to the colonists fight for independence.
Whether you embrace these stories or not, tea today is a symbol of: healthy living, serenity, and an open hand. Unquestionably, today's ubiquitous cup of tea continues to be an event maker – bringing each of us closer together.