You Might Be Fascinated About The History Of Tea
Tea drinkers around the world enjoy tea because of the wonderful taste, complexity, aroma, and health benefits. Despite its widespread popularity, not many know the history of tea, or even care. That being said, the history of tea is actually very interesting, and worth a quick read.
Most experts and historical documents trace the origins of tea back to 2700 BC when a Chinese emperor fell asleep underneath a Camellia Sinensis tree (today white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species). As he slept, his servants boiled drinking water, and some of the leaves of that tree fell into the pot due to a gust of wind. When the emperor awoke, he noticed the leaves in the pot of hot water, and being a renowned herbalist, decided to try the accidental brew.
Tea in China was born, and was subsequently enjoyed mostly by royalty or the wealthy upper class until after 600 AD when it was then widely available to the masses. It quickly became cemented as the national drink of China.
Around this time, Japanese monks often traveled to China to study, and were introduced to tea. They brought it back to Japan, and it quickly became an important part of Japanese culture.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that tea drinking was mentioned by Europeans, mostly Portuguese traders and missionaries. However, it was the Dutch that began commercial imports. They established a trading post on the island of Java (the island which also became popular for its coffee exports), and began the first shipments of tea from China to Holland. Soon, drinking tea became popular for the Dutch, and tea drinking started to spread to other countries in Europe. Because of the high prices, however, it was only enjoyed by the very wealthy.
In the mid 1600’s Charles II of Brittan married a Portuguese princess who also happened to have a love of drinking tea. Because of her influence, the wealthy classes recognized it as fashionable, and started drinking it as well. Soon the East India Company began importing tea to Britain, and it became incredibly popular, as it is still to this day. It became so popular that politicians had a difficult time regulating the taxation of tea, and at times almost halted sales because of outrageous taxation.
The incredibly high taxation of tea prevented ordinary Britons from enjoying their now favorite beverage, and they quickly discovered ways to smuggle tea into the country to avoid taxes. It developed into a huge organized crime network. To maximize profits, smugglers would combine tea leaves with leaves from other plants, and add chemicals, and even sheeps dung, to make it look like the real thing.
In 1784, the English prime minister realized that the high taxes were causing more problems than they could handle, and lowered the tax rate from 119% down to 12.5% – which almost immediately ended the illegal smuggling operations.
During the 18th century, tea drinking had become just as popular in the American colonies as it was in Britain itself, however legally, all tea imported to American had to be shipped from Britain. The East India Trading Company was not allowed to ship directly to America. However, because of the recent smuggling activities, demand for tea from the India Trading Company was at an all time low, which had left them with huge stockpiles of tea, and little profits. To avoid bankruptcy, they asked Britain if they could ship directly to America. In 1773, the Tea Act was passed granting tea to be shipped directly to America, but with a tax levied. America’s resistance to that tax is another story….
Today, tea is part of everyday life for people all over the world, and it is fascinating to think about how it all got started, from a simple gust of wind.