All the Tea in China

 Feb 20, 2016 |  Written by Anupa Mueller

Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung was strolling through his garden, drinking his usual cup of boiled water, when a leaf from a nearby bush fell into this cup.  This was in 2737 B.C.  He was not only pleased with its taste but with early knowledge of herbal medicine, soon declared it to be medicinal drink.

In the sixteenth century B.C., the Taoist philosopher Lao-tzu also mentions tea in his great travels.  It is a fact that by 500 B.C., the people of Asia were drinking tea.  The first tea practices were primitive - boiling raw green leaves in water - resulting, no doubt in a bitter, nasty tasting drink.  Although some historians credit Confucius as the father of tea, it is probably more accurate to say that he furthered hygiene and prevented the spread of disease by advocating the virtues of tea when steeped in boiled water.

Soon, however, the Chinese began cultivating the tea plant, stripping the leaves without killing the entire plant, and produced a pleasant tasting product.  Decades went by until the next innovation - pressing the leaves into cakes, which were then roasted, pounded and finally broken into small pieces for infusion.  This led naturally to the production of bricks of tea, which were used as currency.  Tea commerce had now begun.

In 780 A.D., the Chinese began taxing tea, thus creating a revenue base.  Over the next several centuries, tea was celebrated in the Song Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty and black, green and oolong teas became popular with royalty and commoners alike. The Chinese character for Tea was created around the 8th century.

At the dawn of the 17th century, tea was introduced in the West.  Chinese tea (bought in Japan), was carried by Dutch East India Company trade ships to Europe.  This began the great expansion of tea into the new world.  Today, China remains one of the largest producers of tea in the world, producing a remarkable variety of teas - black, green, oolong, jasmine, smoked, bricks and flowering teas.  Welcome to all the Teas in China.

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