- Tea Basics
- Types of Tea
- Tea Tips
- Fun Facts
The Origins of Tea
According to a common legend, tea was said to have been discovered by China's mythical second emperor, Shennong, who accidentally brewed tea one day after a dead leaf from a wild tea plant fell into his cup of boiled water, turning it a brownish color. The emperor drank the tea and found he enjoyed the taste. Tea was born.
During the early ages, tea was processed and prepared differently than it is commonly done today. The tea leaves were steamed and ground and compressed into "teacakes" or bricks of tea. The teacake was then ground in a stone mortar into a powder and cooked in hot water. These tea cakes were later used for border trade bargains with the Mongolians, and Tibetans during the Tang Dynasty, often in exchange for horses.
Tea drinking methods gradually evolved from the tea cake cooking method to the ever more popular process of steeping loose tea throughout the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During this time, the Japanese assisted in elevating tea's status to a true art form, when Buddhist monks brought tea to Japan because they found the stimulant properties useful in their meditations.
"Tea Comes to the New World"
Europeans, in particular the British, began to learn about tea through the travels of Dutch explorers who also introduced American colonists to organic tea in the mid-1600s. The British brought tea bushes (some would say they "stole the secret of tea" from the Chinese) to India, in the early 1800s. Starting in Assam, in the northeast of India, tea began to flourish. From Assam, English planters ("Britishers" as they were called in India) moved tea down the coast to Nilgiri and, most famously, to Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas.