History of tea
The origin of tea dates back to five thousand years ago. It is a common fact that tea origin can be traced back to the country of China, however, according to Blofeld, it can be confidently stated that tea was well known in the three dynasties. During the six dynasty period, the practices of tea drinking spread very fast in the Southern parts of China and very slow in the Northern parts. It may be supposed that, the first concoction of tea was prepared during the Christian era, if it was not brewed before (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1555). It was during the Tang dynasty that the art of tea came into being and took its place side by side with the art of painting, poetry composition, martial arts and other pleasures that were related to the scholarly art. Tea plant is a relative of the ornamental garden camellia; however, tea has been known to grow into trees in some parts of China (Benn 45).
Tea was usually transported in the form of compressed bricks (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1556). Chinese legends contend that, wearing of Silk began during the 27th century BC. In later Han dynasty, the Chinese silk was carried by merchants using Camels across the Gobi deserts to Tarim Oases and through central China to Damascus (Mair and Hor 34). Chinese merchants used to ship wool and tea in the East. In the European context, East is used to mean the Middle East, the route that was used was known as the Silk Road (Moxham 65). In Damascus, the Chinese goods were traded in wool, Gold and silver. The recent discoveries of silk strands in Ancient Egyptian Tombs are suggestive that the silk trade could have begun 2000 earlier (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1556).
Tea was a very important trade’s commodity for Chinese. Tea was originally drunk because of its medicinal qualities and had become a very important beverage in the court circles by early Tang times (Mair and Hor 43). The habit of tea drinking spread to all classes of people once it was taken up by the Mongol, Tartar and the Turkish nomads who lived in the North and West of China, tea became a very special component of the Nomad diet; the nomad diet usually consisted of meat plus the dairy products (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567). Tea that was drunk in copious quantity was regarded as a satisfactory remedy for diseases that resulted from lack of vegetables and fruits (Benn 35). The tribute tea was in the form of caked leaves, tea was available to people in four forms loose leaf, powdered and caked leaves, many people were more interested in the caked forms (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1556).
Tea in Europe
When Europe was in the dark ages, China was experiencing the era of the Tang dynasty, the Islamic empires controlled many countries that were located between Spain and India. Silk was transported from the west to the Middle East and Europe for more than one thousand years (Mair and Hor 54). Stolen tea from China was exported north to the Mongols who took it to Russia and the Middle East, Silk, tea, Porcelain are some of the commodities that were transported by using the Silk Road (Mair and Hor 45). These trade goods established a culture in Europe that was unique to the western values in the beginning of Renaissance period observed in Italy. It is during the Late Ming Times that tea found its way into Europe (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1556). Only Wealthy Europeans could be able to afford it, however, its influence was affected when a rumor spread that tea could weaken the vitality of a person. Ships from Europe started arriving at Macao during the 16th century. The Spanish people went to Phillipines later in the century and the Dutch later in the 17th century. It is quite evident that it was the loose leaf tea that reached Europe and Consequently, America (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567).
Tea was brought to America by Dutch colonist; the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was acquired by the English who passed on the tea drinking customers that were common in England. As tea drinking activity spread, there were special water pumps that were installed in natural springs (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567). Presence of water for making tea motivated growth of tea gardens. Boston and Philadelphia were very active in adopting an English style of tea drinking; they utilized fancy silver and porcelain tea products that were used to symbolize their wealth and elite social status (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567). Tea trade between countries colonized by England and England was primarily centered on two cities. Since then, tea parties have created an important impact on American History with inventions of iced tea and tea bags (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1565).
Development of Tea
In the 17th century, the British switched from using coffee as the preferred beverage to tea, this was largely motivated by the fact that coffee from Ethiopia and the Middle East was immensely expensive. As proved by the Boston Tea party that took place during the American Revolution, the habit of drinking party is addictive and one that is very hard to break (Moxham 15). As the popularity of tea spreads throughout land, tea became an important element of entertainment outside homes. Events were marked by tea trays being served, gardens where tea could be served were opened on Sundays and Saturdays for family days.
Tea was served at high points in the afternoons. Tea gardens were very common in London and other towns (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567). Dancing was included to be part of day festivities; therefore, from tea gardens, tea dance was born. Today, tea is grown in the semi tropical bands across the world; it is characterized by sufficient day time heat, cool nights and very heavy rainfall. Though tea originated from China, it has been found to be unanimous in India and Thailand. Today, major tea producing countries in the world include Kenya, Argentina, China, Sri Lanka and Japan (Taniguchi, Kimura and Saba 1567). There are other small scale producers of tea, including Nepal, Thailand plus Vietnam. Tea can also be grown in the U.S and other small climates; however, this cannot be done commercially or on a large scale because of the high labor costs and increased costs of production. Tea is now the second most favorite beverage after water, it is taken in many forms depending on geographical locations of a person, and for example, the Americans prefer to take iced tea. Interest in tea is growing at faster rates.
Benn, James. Tea In China: A Religious and Cultural History. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015.
Mair, Victory and Erling Hor. The True History of Tea. Thames and Hudson: London, 2009.
Moxham, Roy. A Brief History of Tea. New York: Robinson, 2009.
Taniguchi, F, et al. “Worldwide core collection of tea based on SSR markers.” Tree Genetics and Genomes (2014): 1555-1565.