The History Of Tea - A Snapshot Through Time
As the most popular drink in the world after water, tea has had an enormous impact on our collective history, culture, and economics. Tea was popular before the Egyptians built the great pyramids and was traded among Asian countries even before Europe left the dark ages.
|2737 BC:||Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea after the wind blew leaves from nearby shrub into boiling water.
Tea was initially used in China as a medicine to treat a variety of ailments and to increase concentration and alertness. However, due to its refreshing and restorative properties, tea quickly became part of everyday life.
|8th Century:||Tea began to spread outside of China Tea's popularity in Tibet and the surrounding kingdoms led to its use as a form of currency. Pressed bricks or even coins made from dried and powdered tea could be used to buy anything and workmen and servants were routinely paid in this method.|
|9th century:||Buddhist monks introduced tea to Japan.
For centuries following, tea was an integral part of Japanese monastery life and monks used tea to help them stay alert during long hours of meditation. By the early 1300's tea gained popularity throughout Japanese society.
Based on the philosophies of Zen Buddhism, the Japanese Tea Ceremony places supreme importance on respecting the act of making and drinking tea. It captures the essential elements of Japanese philosophy and interweaves four principals: harmony (with nature and people), purity (of heart and mind), respect (for others) and tranquility. The tea ceremony was considered such an important part of Japanese society that special tea rooms were built in backyard gardens and women were required to master the art of the tea ceremony before allowing to marry.
|1610:||Through Portuguese influence, The Dutch introduced Europe to Green tea for the first time.
The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was the Portuguese Jesuit missionary, Father Jasper de Cruz in 1560. Portugal, with her technologically advanced navy, had opened up the sea routes to China, as early as 1515.
The Portuguese developed a trade route by which they shipped their tea to Lisbon, and then Dutch ships transported it to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries. Dutch sailors on the ships encouraged Dutch merchants to enter the tea trade.
|1618:||Tea was introduced to Russia.
Chinese presented a gift of tea to Tsar Alexis of Russia. Tea quickly gained popularity. A camel caravan trade route (covering 11,000 miles of difficult terrain) emerged to transport tea into the country. To keep up with the demand, nearly 6,000 camels (carrying 600 lbs of tea each) entered Russia each yea -- 3.5 million pounds of tea. The camel caravan ended with the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1903--cutting the journeys length from 1 ½ years to just a few weeks.
|1662:||Tea gained popularity in England.
King Charles II married the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. Britain's new queen had always loved tea and brought with her, as part of her dowry, a chest of Chinese tea. She began serving the tea to her aristocratic friends at Court, and word of the exotic beverage spread quickly.
As an imported luxury, only the wealthy could afford to drink tea. Tea consumption became highly fashionable and elitist. According to a London magazine in the 1740's, it cost more to maintain a fashionable tea table with tea and accessories than to support 2 children and a nurse. Being able to serve and drink tea with elegance and skill marked social status and indicated good breeding and intellect.
|Mid 1600:||To stop Teas from spoiling in long journeys to Europe, the Chinese devised methods of oxidation to make black tea.|
|1765:||Tea ranked among the most popular beverage in the American colonies.|
|1773:||Boston Tea Party. Outraged by tea prohibitive tea prices 343 chests of tea were thrown overboard. This was the catalyst that sparked the American Revolution.|
|1837:||First tea plantation was established in Assam by the East India Company using an indigenous shrub.
Increased demand for tea in England and rising trade tension between China and Britain triggered the British East India Company to begin large-scale production of tea in Assam, India. in 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region, run by indentured servitude of the local inhabitants. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world.
Today India is listed as the world's leading producer, its 715,000 tons well ahead of China's 540,000 tons, and of course, the teas of, Ceylon (from the island nation known as Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous. However, because Indians average half a cup daily on per capita basis, fully 70 percent of India's immense crop is consumed locally."
|1904:||Englishman Richards Blechynden invented Ice Tea at World Fair in St. Louis.
As a tea merchant and plantation owner, Blechynden was handing out free samples of his hot tea at the 1904 World Fair. However, St Louis was experiencing a blistering heat wave that summer and no one seemed interested in a hot beverage. It is said that Blechynded poured ice in his samples and the beverage became an instant hit at the fair.
|1908:||Tea merchant Tom Sullivan sent sample silk tea bags to customers. Customers mistakenly steeped the bags and tea bag is born.|