We know that tea has been around for thousands of years but what we probably don’t know about is its evolution from pure plant to the way we enjoy our tea today. There are several stories regarding the origins of tea, most linked to Buddhism and some a little bizarre. Some state a Chinese emperor was drinking boiled water when a breeze came through and floated leaves into his bowl, he liked the taste and so tea was born. Another, regarding the origins of the tea bush itself, tells the tale of Bodhidarma who was so disgusted when he awoke from a nine year meditation that he cut his eyelids off. They fell to the ground and from them grew the tea bush. Hmmm… Lets stick to the first story.
Tea, which early on was described as ‘the elixir of life’ can be traced back first to the Yunnan Province of China in the 10th Century BC where it was widely used for its medicinal properties. In 59BC the first book was produced instructing people how to prepare and drink tea. Originally tea leaves were plucked from the bush and steamed. The resulting liquid was a little different from what we know as tea today. During the 1200’s tea preparation practices changed and the leaves were roasted and crumbled which led to the brewing of tea and began the origins of modern tea. This also made the export of tea more viable.
Tea as we know it was first introduced to Great Britain in the late 1600’s where it was mainly used for medicinal purposes and consumed for pleasure by the upper classes and aristocracy. Fast forward 100 years and thanks to trading and The British East India Company, tea had become the national drink of Britain. Thanks to the importation of sugar, people now enjoyed their tea sweetened.
I’m not an expert in tea history but I find it rather interesting to know a little more about what I consume.
You can now find multiple varieties of tea just about everywhere you go. It is still the most popular beverage in the UK.
Join me on some tea adventures where I will visit different establishments, discuss tea etiquette, sample a huge array of teas and tell you all about it! Hopefully we will learn something interesting along the way!