A History of Tea in about 3 minutes
Consider this when you are drinking your morning cuppa. We are drinking history: empires have been forged and countries lost based on this great drink. From China to Japan, then the empires created by the Europeans and then onto the USA (and back to China?) - tea has had its say in all of this.
The 1st Infusion? 2737 BC Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was boiling water out in the countryside as he believed in sterilizing his drinking water. Leaves from a Camellia Sinensis plant fell into his pot of boiling water and the first infusion was born.
The 3rd Century BC & word spreads: Initially, fresh tea leaves were merely boiled in water. Then the process began to get scaled up with drying, sorting and processing of the tea leaves. The tea became a sought after possession and a lot of value was attached to it. Tea consumption began to spread across all of China.
350 AD by Chinese scholar Kuo Po wrote about the medicinal benefits of tea
780 AD first Review of of Tea was written by Lu Yu, "The Book of Tea". It too him 20 years to write and he is known as the "Tea Saint".
803 AD Japanese Buddhist Monk Saicho, whilst studying, takes tea from China to Japan and the formalised tea (green & powdered) making ceremony was initiated.
Tea goes European: 1515 AD Fr. Jaspar de Cruz a Portuguese missionary was the 1st European to discover tea. Portugal, the strongest navy at the time, brings it back to Europe. Portugal are strongly allied with the Netherlands who start to comercialise it on a European-wide basis.
1660's AD - A Marriage that seals British fate and ties it to tea: Charles II married, while in exile, the Portuguese Infanta Princess Catherine of Braganza the daughter of King John IV of Portugal. She was married to Charles in 1662 as part of an alliance between England and Portugal. Charles II had also spent some time in Holland and was accustomed to talking tea. This marriage, and his knowledge and love of tea, effectively initiated the tea drinking craze in the British Isles.
Black tea replaces green tea coming from China as the Chinese prefer green. Around this time it was widely acknowledged that Green Tea can help to control weight. Also, black tea is easier to ship and withstand the long journey to Europe and the colonies. Black tea is the oxidised version of Green Tea so the long journey probably helped to oxidise the green tea more (heat and stirring!).
Boston Tea Party: 1767 AD British Parliament passed the act imposing a tax on the tea exported to North America. On December 16th, 1773 men disguised as Native Indians attacked the three British ships in Boston Harbor and dumped over 40 tons of black tea into the harbor and other similar acts erupted around the colonies all leading to the Revolutionary War and US Independence. Britain returns to drinking even more tea and US becomes a coffee drinking nation.
1908 AD: Thomas Sullivan sent out his tea as samples in silk bags. One of his clients accidentlally dropped the bag hot water and the tea bag was born.