History of the Chinese Tea
“When we rise in the morning, we ready our daily firewood, rice, cooking oil, salt, soy, vinegar, and
TEA.” – Old Chinese Adage
In the popular Chinese legend, a mythical divine farmer named Shennong (Emperor Shen Nung for other references) has the first taste of the tea. As he was lying under a Camellia Tree
(Camellia Sinensis), he boiled water. Leaves from the tree went into the pot as the wind blew. He was mesmerized with the aroma he smelled. He decided to taste it, and it was refreshing. It was propagated later in the 3rd century as a medicinal drink (Camellia Sinensis was already used as herbal medicine).
Emperors in the 4th to 8th century, specifically the Tang Dynasty, have been drinking this tea and introduced it to visiting traders like the Portuguese. These Portuguese then brought the tea to Europe, where it became a fashion statement more than the traditions. The first concrete evidence of drinking tea in China was discovered by Emperor Jing of the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC). In the mausoleum, a book was found that entrusting the
‘youth’ to the task of boiling tea. These leaves were picked from a genus of the Camellia tree. During these ancient Chinese times, green tea dominated the Chinese market, until the growers paid attention to some variation like the Black Tea. Compared to the delicate green tea, black tea is more effective in preservation. So, its export rate is better. It can survive long
sea travel. In the book of Ling Wang entitled Tea and Chinese Culture, Sun Hao of the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), ordered his ministers to drink liquors whenever he entertained them and loved seeing them jolly out of their drunkenness. Wei Yao, a minister who cannot drink, was secretly given tea. That was the beginning of giving tea to the gentry and elite in the gatherings or meetings. In 420 to 589, Buddhism rose to prominence. Monks started to drink tea as their means to invigorate and refresh themselves after meditation. They also included a sophisticated study on tea, which paved the way to its widespread popularity throughout the countryside. This study also cultivated the aesthetic integration of tea in Buddhism.
Integration in Arts and Culture during the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
Scholars and philosophers made their presence felt during the liberal and pro art and culture Tang Dynasty. Arts like poems, songs, paintings, stories, and other inspired properties have tea as their central theme. Since tea stimulates the brain, its introduction to these
influential people and their works expanded. Tea growers also started to catch up by growing their production exponentially. Lu Yu (733 – 804) elaborated on these tea ritual experiences in his book, The Book of Tea. It is considered the first book that showcased the rich tea culture of China. It vividly narrated the cultivation, the preparation and the process of producing tea. Tea in the Modern World Tea is considered as the cheapest liquid to drink, next to the water. From its delicate and sophisticated nature, everyone around the world now enjoys a cup anytime they want it. With the expansion of its market value in the four continents, it has now several variations. Teabags and other powdered teas are present in every teahouse. However, nothing beats the brewing method used thousands of years ago.
Today, this ancient beverage not only shaped empires after empires but also sculpting the world’s economy. Despite the massive producers around the globe, the demand for tea is still growing. As projected in 2024, the trading price would reach 2.83 USD per kilogram. Still, this is considered cheap compared to other traded food and commodities.