The Evolution of Tea


The History of Chinese Tea

The first harvesting of tea in China

Do you know how tea was discovered, and by whom? I have been researching, asking, and googling, and I think I have all the information, or at least most of the essential information.

No matter where you are, the name James Norwood Pratt should certainly sound familiar. He is widely respected and considered to be the world’s best tea educator. He is truly an expert when it comes to the history of tea and received a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at the 2015 World Tea Expo.

James Norwood Pratt has written on the discovery of tea. His history is accurate and educational. I took some of his histories and created this blog so you can understand the story.

The Emperor Shen Nong

#1. Who discovered tea?

China is where it was discovered. The history of the tea timeline is 2737 BCE. It was Emperor Shen Nong. He was known as the “Divine Emperor” who unveiled the first plant known as “tea“.

He was quite interested in exploring potential ideas for cures. He suffered from an unusual malady, which he was determined to find an elixir.

#2 Eisai brought the first seeds to Japan

How did tea manage to enter so many South Asian countries at that time? The answer is a monk by the name of Esai.  He was a scholar a Tendai, the absolute best school that taught Buddhism.

#3 The origin of tea

He travelled to Mount Tiantai (Tendai in Japanese) in China to further his studies. He first planted seeds in Mount Sefuri, on the border of Fukuoka and Saga prefectures as he felt it was a suitable place to grow this small plant. This was the beginning of a plantation in Uji.

Boston Harbour where the tea was dumped overboard

#4 How did Boston get involved?

A group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships, Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.

The colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, a Patriot leader Samual Adams organized the “Tea Party” with about 60 members of a group known as the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. It sounds incredible, but the British dumped tea in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16. It was valued at some $18,000. That was an astonishing amount of tea!

The aristocracy was furious that their beloved, imported tea was now in the ocean. The British government responded viciously, and the episode escalated into the American Revolution!

#4 Opium trafficking began

Trade relations between England and China had curdled. The British introduced opium trafficking to China. The intent of the British was to create a dependency among the Chinese and get them to exchange opium for tea. It was a tactic the British had planned because it was solely a financial benefit for the Brits. They knew the tea industry was plentiful and China could use a guaranteed source of funding, no matter what the cost was.

Tea garden in Assam

#5 Robert Bruce discovered the amazing wild tea plants

The year was 1823, Robert Bruce was a Scottish trader and explorer. He journeyed to Rangpur, the capital of the Ahom Kingdon in Upper Assam. On this particular excursion, Robert met with Bessa Gaum, the chief of the well-known indigenous tribes of the Indian northeast region. Robert wanted to learn about the indigenous plants that grew in the jungle area.

Robert created a wonderful and long-term relationship with the Singhpo tribe, and by doing so, he was able to collect samples of tea plants and seeds. He discovered that if the tea was good, a planting industry could be developed in Assam to rival that of China, making him a fortune while drastically boosting Britain’s economy. He did, and that is how Assam became the top tea-producing region in India.

#6 Introduction to the sensational fermentation process

Fermentation is a process that can start with green tea. They are harvested, partially oxidized, and allowed to undergo microbial fermentation.

The fermentation procedure can be stopped by either pan-frying or steaming before they are completely dried.

Green tea leaves are considered to be a very light fermented tea. Green tea leaves are susceptible.

Semi-fermented tea such as Oolong is a green tea, that is allowed to undergo 10% to 80% fermentation. Fermentation creates a stronger flavor, and a darker color once steeped.

#7 Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

The wedding ceremony is a traditional event. The colours red and gold are the main colour for the bride and wedding party. The colour red is associated with many traits such as success, loyalty, honour, fertility and love.

A tea ceremony is a Chinese tradition where the bride and groom serve tea to their respective families, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other esteemed elders. 

The couple receives well wishes and gifts, and it’s an act of welcoming either the bride or the groom so that it unifies both families. 

The final word on tea from out tea detective

  1. Tea is one of the top drinks consumed in the world

2. 6.3 billion kilograms of tea was consumed in 2020

3. It is healthy magic for your body and mind in a teacup

4. You can enjoy this awesome drink hot or cold

5. It is guilt-free, calorie-free, vegan, and organic

6. It is a great way to cool down with iced tea

About the Author:

NancyNancy Prokosh  Hi there, I am the owner and president of Tealicious Tea Company, and I have been in his industry for 20 years and consider myself to be a tea expert. I am close to many tea growers worldwide and LOVE keeping up with tea farming, and changes to the industry. I  practice Tai Chi, am an avid skier, continue in the education field and make some pretty good meals. I love sharing my business information and tips with others. 

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