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The History of Tea

Tea has a rich and wonderful history and it is a must that you explore it!

Tea has the most fascinating history, it has twisted and turned through thousands of years and remarkably is still with us today stronger than ever.
The United Kingdom Currently drinks 165 million cups of tea every day!! This is absolutely incredible considering it is said that the first tea discovered was in 2737 B.C. 

The Legend

So the story starts as we just mentioned in 2737 B.C with the mighty emperor of China, Shen Nung. It is said that he was out on a walk through the forest; he stopped for a rest under a tree and boiled some water.

When he was boiling his water a few leaves fell from the tree and landed in his water unbeknown to Shen Nung. Then when he poured his water into his drinking flask he witnessed an unusual flavour, a flavour that he had never come across before.

He liked the taste and after drinking it he felt energised, refreshed and happy. He immediately rushed back to his empire and told the world. 

This is a myth and one of the many myths however, it is one of the most popular and we love to think it is true! 

First Recorded

206 – 220 AD is when tea was historically documented to be popular through the rule of Han Dynasty in China. Today there are tea trays, tables, decorated cups and early porcelain tea bowls that show evidence of tea being drank widespread.

By the end of the third century AD tea had become a national drink and in AD332 the first record of a manufacture was written by Zhang Yi, explaining how the plants were laid out, pruned and plucked, and how the leaves themselves were processed.

Tea Reaching Europe

Fast forwarding a few centuries tea was documented to reach the European shores. In 1559 an Italian civil servant named Giambattista Ramusio wrote in his diary that he came across a Persian traveller by the name of Hajji Mahommend had explained to him about an herb he had come across called the Chai Catai.

He carried on to say that the people of China use this herb as medicine and also drink for pleasure. 

Landing on UK soil

England was probably one of the last countries to receive tea even though we are probably world famous for it now. Everyone associates us Brits with a good cup of tea.

It was it said that the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza who married King Charles II introduced tea into Britain however, there are some documents of tea being in England 1660 (before her time) however, Catherine of Braganza definitely popularised it and made it a drink of the masses. 

Moving Tea Forward

From 1662 tea washed over England and only grew more popular by the day. The East India Company was the main suppliers to the UK and kept the trade between the Far East and England healthy. 

Tea at the time was an absolute luxury; you could only afford to drink it if you were extremely wealthy or royal. To give you an example if you wanted to buy 100g of tea at this point in history it would set you back £160! Today it would cost you under £5.. 

Tea was used as a status symbol, if you had tea you were definitely rich, that’s why when you look back at aristocracy family portraits of the time they are all holding fine china and drinking tea. It is no coincidence that they are drinking tea they are showing off to the world. 

Tea became fashionable!

Moving forward to the early eighteenth, fashionable Ladies were still receiving social callers in bed. So tea and gossip would be enjoyed while the aristocratic lady of the house reclined elegantly among plumped up pillows, wearing a gown of the finest muslin, silk and lace.

Tea was enjoyed by many ladies and then eventually men as a social and fashionable event, anyone that was anyone was seen drinking tea.

To read more about fashion and tea see here. 

Tea Affordable For All

In 1771 the heavy duty tax was lifted from tea, this was because the government realised that they would make money if they reduced the tax. It would mean that it would stop tea selling on the black market and reap the benefits for themselves. This was a very smart move and is why we can enjoy tea as much as we do today.

If you want to find out who was behind it have a read of The History of Twinings

The Tea Revolution

As soon as the tax was lifted tea became accessible for the masses! Tea pretty much made its way into every household; it turned into the drink of choice and was perfect for any occasion.

Today 160 Million Cups of tea are drank a day in the UK and the number is only rising. Drinking tea is a huge part of our life, it wakes us up, it helps us digest, it lifts our mood, it calms us down and it helps us sleep. We take tea through our whole day and seeing that it all started with the Chinese Emperor in the forest is quite remarkable. So we would like to thank you Shen Nung!! 

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