A Brief History of Tea
‘Tea’ is the term given to a beverage made by steeping leaves and in hot water. In the strictest sense only drinks made from Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to Asia, count as tea. However, the popular tradition of steeping ingredients in hot water to make a tea-like drink have spread to include popular herbal varieties such as Rooibos, Chamomile, and Peppermint in modern day tea drinking, alongside fruit infusions using the likes of berries and apples.
History and Traditions
Tea and tea-making culture originates from Ancient China. Legend says it was ‘invented’ by Shennong, the God of Agriculture, in 2737 BC. Biological tests suggest the Camellia sinensis tea plant originated in an area which covers northern Burma, and the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China, with written records indicating tea drinking may have begun in the Yunnan province during the Shang Dynasty. It was originally used for medicinal purposes, both for treating individual conditions alongside being used as a general health tonic to promote a long and healthy life. Even today green teas and pu-erh teas are prescribed for various complaints in traditional Chinese medicine, backed in part by modern research. From the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, tea drinking for enjoyment became increasingly popular among the poor as well as the rich, with traditional teahouses popping up all over the land.
With the advent of teahouses, people of all ages would come at all different times of day to drink tea and enjoy one another’s company. Tea drinking became a social ritual and key tradition that continues today and has spread to many other countries. In the 6th Century AD, tea drinking spread from China to Japan. While the Chinese first started the tradition of tea drinking ceremonies, Japan is perceived as having perfected this and the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, is a more renowned entity today. [Learn more about Japanese tea ceremonies and how to recreate your own here] [link]
As the centuries unfolded, tea drinking spread through East Asia reaching Korea and Vietnam. Each region that adopted tea-drinking created their own rituals and practices, alongside trying new processing techniques and ingredients.
Tea was first introduced to Europe by an Italian traveller named, Giovanni Battista Ramusio, in the 16th Century. Tea drinking became popular in many countries across Europe and has spread to most of the world. In the United Kingdom and Turkey, it remains the most popular drink today. British colonialists introduced commercial tea production to India in the 1800s, in an effort to break China’s monopoly on a global industry. At first, they used Chinese seeds, before discovering India had its own tea plants growing naturally in the Assam region bordering Burma.
Origin Teas to Try at Home
Orange Oolong Supreme: Oolong means ‘Black Dragon’ in Chinese. It’s the second most popular tea in China after green tea. Oolong is semi-oxidised giving it a mixture of characteristics reminiscent of both green and black teas. Oolong Tea is known for its excellent health benefits and unique complex flavour that can alter dramatically between Oolong varieties. This Orange Oolong Supreme Tea has the distinct earthy notes of Oolong, with a light citrus finish.
Mighty Matcha: Matcha is the tea most readily used in the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, due to its pure simplicity. Matcha is pure green tea ground to a fine powder, which is whisked with hot water to create the drink. By using a powder rather than tea leaves which are steeped and discarded, this tea has more health benefits than any other, deemed the ‘superfood’ of the drink world. Our Mighty Matcha Tea is made with fine ground Sencha green tea. Nothing added, nothing lost.
Borengajuli FBOP Assam: Assam, a state in northeast India, is one of the most reputed tea growing regions in the world. The Borengajuli Estate produces this 2nd flush Assam black tea. Assam is one of the richest tasting black teas, popular with those who like their tea strong and flavoursome.