A Timeline of Tea History

Sorry I didn’t post Tuesday or Wednesday this week, my computer (with all my files) was teaching me patience and gratitude. Enjoy and have a wonderful #ThirstyThursday!!!

We’ve explained before the semantics of the naming of OG’s Red Tea product. While in the West we generally refer to the color of the tea leaves, and thus call it “black tea” — in China, Korea and Japan, the name refers to the color of the infused drink itself. So, that’s why what some people in Western countries think of as “black tea” is dubbed “red tea” at Rae’s Cafe.

Tea is believed to have been discovered completely by accident, way back in 2737 BC. It is said that Shen Nung, the second emperor of China, discovered tea when some leaves from a Camellia sinensis plant (the plant that all traditional teas are made from) blew into his pot of boiling water. The habit of drinking tea leaves steeped in a tea pot didn’t become popular until during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Here’s a timeline that traces the long and storied history of the beverage that is so popular today — from that first accidental leaf right through to the first tea bag.

2737 B.C.

According to legend, the second emperor of China, Shen Nung, discovers tea when tea leaves blow into his boiling water.

A.D. 350

A Chinese dictionary cites tea for the first time as Erh Ya.

400

Demand for tea as a medicinal drink rises in China, and it is begun to be cultivated and processed.

479

Turkish traders begin to trade for tea from Mongolia.

593

Japanese priests studying in China carry tea seeds and leaves back to Japan. It is rare and expensive and is consumed mostly by high priests and the aristocracy.

725

The Chinese give tea its own character, ch’a.

780

The first book of tea, titled Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea), is written. It discusses ancient tea cultivation and preparation techniques.

1280

After the Mongols take over China, tea loses its aristocratic status and becomes more popular among the masses.

1368-1644

After the fall of the Ming Dynasty with the Mongol takeover, all teas (black, green, and oolong) are easily accessible in China. Steeping whole tea leaves in cups or teapots becomes more popular.

1422-1502

Zen priest Murata Shuko creates the Japanese tea ceremony and calls it cha-no-yu (hot water tea). It celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life. Tea becomes more than just an art form and almost a religion.

1589

Europeans are exposed to tea when a Venetian author claims that Asians live so long because of their tea consumption.

1597

Tea appears for the first time in an English translation of Dutch explorer Jan Hugo van Linschoten’s papers. He refers to tea as chaa.

1610

The Dutch bring back green tea from Japan (though some scholars say it was actually from China). The Dutch East India Company markets tea as a medicinal drink, though only the very rich can afford it.

1618

Chinese ambassadors present the Russian Czar Alexis with chests of tea. He refuses it as being useless.

1657

The first tea is sold in London, England, at Garraway’s Coffee House, as a health beverage.

1662

England’s King Charles II’s new bride, Catherine Braganza of Portugal, is an avid tea drinker and helps make tea more popular and accessible.

1690

The first tea is sold publicly in Massachusetts.

1717

Thomas Twining transforms Tom’s Coffee House into the “Golden Lyon, the first tea shop in England.

1773

In what is known as the Boston Tea Party, a group of Massachusetts colonists dumped several hundred chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes on tea.

1840

Anna the Duchess of Bedford introduces afternoon tea.

1856

Tea is planted in and around Darjeeling, India.

1876

Thomas Johnstone Lipton opens his first shop in Glasgow, Scotland.

1904

Englishman Richard Blechynden invents iced tea during a heat wave at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

1908

New Yorker Thomas Sullivan invents tea bags when he sends tea to clients in small silk bags and they mistakenly steep the whole bag.

Rae's Red Tea

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