History Of Tea

The history of tea . . . where did it come from?

The true origin of tea as a beverage is unknown believe it or not. It is believed however that tea drinking began about 5,000 years ago in China, where the tea plant, "Camellia sinensis," is native.

Because there isn't verifiable proof of the the history of tea, a number of legends have sprung up around the world about the creation of tea as a beverage.

History of Tea Stories

The World's First Tea Drinker:

One of the more popular legends of how tea drinking began center around "Shennong," who was believed to be an ancient Chinese emperor, herbalist and farmer (in fact, his name means the Divine Farmer).

Shennong was fairly knowledgeable about science in his day and he believed water should be boiled in order to make it safe enough for drinking. While on a journey around 2737 B.C., he stopped briefly to rest. His servants gathered twigs, including those from a tea plant, to make a fire to boil his water.

A few of the tea leaves from the burning twigs floated in the heat from the fire and landed into the pot of boiling water. His curiosity piqued by the discoloration of the boiling water caused by the tea leaves. Shennong decided to try the accidental brew. He apparently enjoyed it, and thus tea the beverage was born. No word on whether Shennong took his tea with sugar and milk.


Wan Tu Drink Some Tea:

A variation of the Shennong tea legend has an evil, cruel man by the name of "Wan Tu" as the discoverer of tea. Because of his despotic temperament, the way this variation goes is that Wan Tu was banished to the southern areas of China. While there, he too falls prey to falling tea leaves in his pot of boiling water. Wan Tu drinks the tea and, as legend has it, he finds tea so refreshing he becomes a kinder, gentler man.

Instant Tea:

There is another Chinese legend about the history of tea, albeit with a twist of Buddhism. This particular legend has it that "Bodhidharma," an Indian Buddhist monk famous as the founder of Zen Buddhism, traveled to China. While there, he became so angry at his drowsiness during meditation, he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. His eyelids sprang into tea bushes immediately, thus creating instant tea, in a manner of speaking.

Funny how stories change over time. What stories have you heard about how tea was discovered?

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