Legends when dried leaves from an overhanging wild

    
Legends report tea, also called Camellia sinensis, from which black,
green, oolong and white tea is derived, emerged in southern China, 2737 B.C., when
Divine Farmer, herbalist, and scholar, Emperor Shen Yung in 2737 B.C., sat in a
garden in southern China, reading when dried leaves from an overhanging wild
tea tree fell into a cup of boiling water. The Emperor felt a warm feeling as
the tea explored his body. Thus, he called it Ch’a, the Chinese character that
means to investigate. He studied further, revealing medicinal properties,
identifying many varieties of tea. While Shennong’s existence is believed but
unproven, early credible records date tea use to 3rd Century A.D.,
in a medical text written by Hua Tao, who explains that tea was introduced to Portuguese
priests and merchants in 16th Century China. Its first use was in
the regions of southwestern China, Tibet, and Northern India, where Chinese
traders travelled thru, finding people chewing the leaves of medicinal
property. Popularity of tea in China continues today and has become a symbol of
the country’s history, religion, and culture. In the coming centuries, tea
would prove a vital aspect of East Asian culture, and the world.

Originally, tea was consumed as a
vegetable, added to medicines, and used in ritual offerings. In the Sui Dynasty
(518-618) it became a mainstay of medicine. By the end of the Yuan Dynasty, tea
was prepared by steeping in water, as it is now. In the 4th and 5th
Dynasty orange peel, salt, spices, rice, and ginger were added for flavoring. In
the Tang Dynasty, the Classic Age of Tea, tea drinking was popularized by
Buddhist monks who were able to stay up for long hours meditating from it. Its
use became culturally widespread when Buddhist monk, Lu Yu (733-804) composed
the C’ha Ch’ing, or Classic of Tea treatise, The Book of Tea, describing types
of tea, their uses, growth of, utensils used, preparation, and health benefits.
He infused the writing with the spiritual aesthetic of Buddhist, Taoist, and
Confucian popular thought. A written excerpt states: “The best quality tea must
have creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of
a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake
touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like a fine earth newly swept by
rain.” Lu Yu (d. 804) Yu’s teachings centered on the traditional tea ceremony, as
an expressive metaphor of the harmony and simplicity that orders and flows thru
the universe, an integral aspect of dynamic spirituality in Chinese and Asian
culture; where diet and lifestyle, discipline, humility, and grace created a
higher state of being, and a way of life, far beyond beverage consumption. (Liu, Jerry C.Y., 2011) In ancient China, tea tasting
distinguished men of refinement from those of poor taste. Tea represented a
detachment from worldly concerns. Tea tasting, and competitions valued
traditions that formed lasting and influential bonds. It consisted of four
steps, smelling, looking, tasting, and relishing. In China during the Song
Dynasty requirements were drawn for tea tasting, first the leaves must be
freshly picked, second, the water must be from a natural spring, and third, the
server and manner of serving must be exquisite. Additionally, the weather must
be ideal, with gentle breezes and a brilliant sun. Also, the participants must
have refined manners and be agreeable with the host. Stricter rules, were
imposed during the Ming Dynasty, leading to the thirteen Appropriateness’s, and
Seven Taboos of tea tasting. As it progressed further, every minute detail was
specified and made tea drinking law, such as the number of times tea could be
stirred, and what benefits could be derived from different numbers of people in
attendance to drink it. (Li, 1993). Tea preparation and drinking evolved into a
meticulous art form, as multi-dimensional as the facets of a diamond.

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The Chinese government imposed a tax on the beverage, acknowledging Tea
as China’s national drink. This popularity burgeoned into the Romantic Age of
Tea in the Sung Dynasty (960 -1280 A.D.), where writings of poetry, and works
of artist referencing tea spread, influencing politics, religion, art, poetry,
music, martial arts, writing, incense gatherings, gardening, politics, and all things scholarly, as it spread farther
east. Tea itself became an art form. At this time, it was made into bricks or
cakes for ready travel on the Silk Road, used as money. Later, it was ground
into a green powder called Matcha, during the Sung (Song) Dynasty. Up to the
mid-17th century, Chinese tea was only green. As foreign trade grew, growers
found tea leaves could be preserved with fermentation. This black tea held
flavor and aroma longer than delicate green tea leaves and was easier to export.
1500 years ago, tea shifted from food to water in the 24th Century,
during the Ming Dynasty, by the Chinese Emperor. As the sole provider of tea,
China had become powerful and rich by it, along with porcelain and silk, as the
highest of world traded goods. (Liu, Jerry C.Y., 2011)

    
In the 9th Century, Tong Dynasty, a Japanese Buddhist monk Dengyo
Daishi, known as Saicho, introduced the tea plant to Japan after studying in
China, bringing it with him to his monastery. Other monks caught on, as tea plantations
sprouted up at many monasteries. Due to the rural isolation of these
monasteries, the popularity of tea did not spread through-out Japan and the
rest of Asia, and towards Europe, until the early 13th Century. After
the emperor encouraged people to grow it, the Japanese developed their own tea
culture and the elaborate tea ceremony, becoming an integral cultural relic,
which shaped Japanese society, as society shaped it. (Tea Revolution,
2017).

In 14th Century, Merchants
introduced tea to Europe when Dutch traders brought tea in large quantities to
Europe, establishing the Dutch East India Tea Company. Tea then spread to
England in the 1650s, and from there around the world. Queen Catherine of
Borghanza, a Portuguese noblewoman, made tea hugely popular when she married
King Charles II, in 1661, who also came to love and promote tea. By 1700, tea
in Europe sold ten times the price of coffee. As Great Britain was extending
its colonial influence around the world, it was spreading its interest in tea
with it. (Tea Revolution, 2017). Britain wanted in
on tea trade, and began growing tea in India, because the climate was like
China. Britain bought and offered land to anyone willing to grow it there. In
1833, Britain hired botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China, who
dressed as a Chinese man smuggled tea trees and experienced workers out of
China into Darjeeling India. Still, China was the main grower of tea.

    
Britain sought to loosen China’s monopoly over tea, and stopped paying
for it with silver, and began paying for it in Opium, leading to millions of
Chinese people being addicted to Opium, which began a public health crisis. In
1839, a Chinese official ordered Opium shipment destroyed outraging Britain and
beginning the first Opium War. Fighting raged up and down China’s coast until
China conceded the port of Hong Kong to Britain in 1842. China lost 20,000
troops, Britain only 69. China resumed trade with Britain, giving it the
monopoly on tea it desired. The war weakened China’s hold on global economy for
over a century. British colony tea plantations began growing tea and became the
most powerful tea traders for over a hundred years, which then spread to Sri
Lanka in 1867. When a fungus destroyed Sri Lankan coffee grower crops in 1869, they
switched to black tea, imported from China and India, on a trial basis, and
their overseas buyers switched with it. The largest consumer in Europe was the United
Kingdom. Britain began to import tea from Amsterdam in 1750, and tea became Britain’s
favorite and most consumed drink. In 1885, this led to African production of
sugarcane to sweeten the tea Britain loved. Tea drinking in America dropped off
in 13 colonies when it was seen as unpatriotic during the Boston Tea Party and
public massacre of innocents by British troops, and this is why most Americans
drink more coffee today. This pushed the East Indie Company to bankruptcy. Britain
still forced China to buy drugs for tea, but when China resisted, Britain
claimed they broke treaty starting the 2nd opium war in 1856 which
forced China open to further outside influence. Tea fueled the industrial
revolution due to the boost it gave factory workers to work long hours, and
prevented diseases in factories cities due to water boiling, which killed
bacteria. On 1890, Thomas Lipton buys tea estates in Ceylon, to sell tea at a
reasonable price at his growing chain of 300 grocery stores, founding Lipton
Enterprises in 1893. By 1898, Ceylon, Sri Lanka was a leading producer of tea. In
1904, Green tea and Formosan (Taiwanese) tea outsold black tea by five times in
the U.S., and Englishman Richard Blechynden creates iced tea during a heat wave
at the St Louis World Fair. Thomas Sullivan invented tea bags in 1908, shipping
tea in small silk bags that people mistakenly thought were to be put in water
whole, using bags instead of metal strainers saving time and used widely in America.
United Kingdom Tetley began to advertise and took off in 1953 in Britain.  (Tea Revolution,
2017). Over 90 percent of Britain’s tea is still imported from China. India
and china are still leading producers of tea. In 2010, tea use is prolific in
35 countries, with 3 billion cups consumed every day globally. At only 3 cents a
cup to make at home, 4.68 million tons were grown to meet the demand in 2012. (Statista,
2016).

    
Britain alone consumes 150 million cups of a day, and drink it all day
and night. Tea became a widely used named for British evening meal time, called
tea time, between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m., and dinner called the midday meal.
This was due to tea’s influence over the culture, but became something else
entirely when tea was used to referred to food, and lunch breaks, when biscuits
were dipped in tea, coffee, or milk, and this daily ritualistic break, along
with tea, developed its own vast array of crumpets, cakes, and complimentary
sandwiches. Tea Rooms became the focal point of civic engagement, and mean much
more than tea now, although tea is most certainly drunken there. Tea rooms
attendance is for rare occasions by Brits, more often frequented by and popular
among, foreign tourists there. (Matthew, 2016).

    
Interestingly, the small tea cups and saucers used to serve tea were
influenced by European use, and did not originate in china. “When tea was
introduced from China to Europe in the 17th century, teacups and teapots were
imported with the tea itself. Chinese porcelains, such as sugar bowls from the
Yixing kilns and bowls from Jingdezhen, as well as Japanese porcelains, have
been excavated in great numbers in Holland. At the end of the 17th century,
sets of small teacups without handles and saucers were popular, becoming the
norm in Europe as tea sets. There were no examples of porcelain cup and saucer
sets in China and Japan at that time. The production and use of such sets could
be found in China from the 18th century. The Dutch East Indies Company shows
that these tea sets, including designs and shapes, were produced to fill
orders. It can be concluded that production orders from Europe stimulated the
use and form of porcelains that became standard in China. This can be said to
account for the cups with handles that appeared after the 1730s. In England
there was a tradition of transferring tea from cup to saucer, and then drinking
directly from the saucer.  18th century
paintings and illustrations in the works of Charles Dickens depict this
practice. The custom continued throughout England and Europe into the 20th
century. The practice of drinking from saucers later disappeared, coinciding
with the development of table manners. The custom is still found in Pakistan
and Bangladesh today. The first mention of using milk in tea was by the head
cook of the Dutch emissaries dispatched to China from the Dutch East Indies
Company. This led to the theory that the practice had become widespread in
Europe by the late 17th century. From this it can be concluded that current
tea-drinking manners and tea sets first appeared in Europe at the beginning of
the 18th century. (Heaton, J., Hino, Y. 2010).

    
Tea was introduced and proliferated in India primarily by British
production, but also by travelling monks who went and returned from China,
before use and production there became widespread. Tea was considered a
valuable tool that spread with religion through many parts of Asia, including
India. Although believed native to China, later native tea plants were found in
Burma and other parts of India, dispelling the notion that tea only grew in
China, although the native plants were not known to have been found in other
countries. Tea became the State Drink of Assam and was recognized as a national
drink of India, in 2013. Tea was widely used historically in kitchens across
India, particularly for medicinal benefits made, mixed, and flavored with
various Ayurvedic spices, herbs, and other plants such as holy basil, cardamom,
black pepper, anise, licorice, ginger, and others. This formed a favorite
Indian beverage known as Chai Tea consumption in India is recorded in the
Ramayana (750-500 BCE), although no written record is found after that.
Mythological references report the use of ‘soma’ in ancient India, and experts’
belief this substance was tea. It is also believed that cultivation and
consumption occurred for thousands of years, although commercial production
didn’t begin until the British East India Tea Company brought tea plants in,
using large masses of land to grow and produce it. Primarily Chinese versions
of tea are grown there. Today, India is one of the world’s largest tea
producers, world famous brands such as Assam and Darjeeling, being produced
only in India. 70% of the tea produced in India, is drank there, 837,000 tons
of tea a year. (Sanchari,2016). Future prospect for tea is promising in Kenya,
the third largest producer of tea leaves behind India and China. Talks recently
convened in New York with investment firms, in hopes of exciting new securities
in tea production. This can offer promise to the Kenyan economy, and stabile
markets of steady income for growers who agree to produce it. Tea, the most
beloved drink worldwide, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural
Organization (FAO). (Washtell,2016) An enduring cultural object from China the
world over, tea is expected to continue to endure the test of time, as a
globally loved healthy, peaceful, fun-loving global beverage on tables
everywhere.

                                                                          

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