Once upon a time, centuries ago in China – if legend is to be believed, in 2737 BC (around 5000 years ago), the Chinese emperor Shen Nung stopped his entourage and sat beneath a tree while his servant set about boiling some water. It is said the fire dried out a few leaves from the tree and a sudden gust of wind blew some leaves from it. They drifted down into the boiling water, the servant showed some laziness and didn’t fish them out but served the emperor a cup of the now leaf infused water.
Shen Nung, was known as a renowned herbalist, and decided to try the brew that his servant had accidentally created. The emperor was delighted by the scent and delicious taste. Being immediately aware of the refreshing and invigorating effect, the emperor let out the sound "T'sa", meaning godlike so that, until today, "cha" is the name for tea in Chinese. The leaves that so fortuitously floated down into the boiling water came from the Camellia sinensis plant.
There are still tea experts who continue to dispute the origin of tea. These debates are mainly concentrated on the exact area where tea was first grown in China. It varies from the Sichuan province, to the Yunnan province in south China, to regions where Tibet, Indo-Burma, and Southwest China meet.
However, most agree that the practice of drinking tea as a medicine likely began in Yunnan, during the reign of the Shang Dynasty (1500 BC–1046 BCE) where they used it as a medicated and restorative drink. As a medicinal drink, tea leaves were boiled with different herbs, seeds, and other plant parts, and this concoction was served to a patient.
Later people living in Sichuan (during the Zhou dynasty reign ~1122 to 256 BCE) are thought to have first discovered the art of making tea, by simply brewing tea leaves in hot water, without adding any medicinal herbs.
Containers for tea have been found in tombs dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) but it was under the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), that tea is thought to have become firmly established as the national drink of China. Lu Yu (760-762 CE), a Buddhist monk first eulogized this drink a in a book titled as ‘Ch'a Ching’ or ‘Tea Classic’, under the patronage of the Tangs, and is considered the first known monograph on tea.
Lu Yu began researching the uses of tea and its health benefits, coming up with good tea brewing and consuming techniques. Owing to his role in the Buddhist religion, it was easy for him to integrate tea into many spiritual ceremonies. People started using it to promote Buddhism ideals such as spirituality, harmony and contemplation. People established the idea of tea ceremonies during that time and it became an integral part of Chinese culture, leading the Tang rulers to declare tea as China’s national drink. Tea was then memorialized in art, poetry, politics and religion during the Sung Dynasty, which followed the Tang Dynasty.
It wasn’t that long after, that tea was first introduced to Japan. Saicho, a Japanese monk is said to have discovered tea while studying in China in the 9th century. Saicho, along with other monks, took seeds to Japan for cultivation and in the 13th century, many tea plantations began to emerge in Japan. Tea drinking become a vital part of Japanese culture, as seen in the development of the Tea Ceremony also known as ‘The Way of Tea’, which may be rooted in the rituals described in the Ch'a Ching. It concentrates on the process of tea making and involves aesthetically preparing a bowl of tea from the heart.
Unlike the Chinese who brewed their tea in hot water or chewed the leaves, the Japanese grounded the tea into a fine powder and added it to boiling water using a chawan bowl and bamboo whisk. The name used today for the tea powder is matcha green tea.
The Japanese are also credited with developing “roasted tea”. Legend says that in 1738, Soen Nagatani created the Japanese Sencha or roasted tea, which is an unfermented form of green tea and one of the most popular beverage’s in Japan today.
When you trace the journey of tea, it is incredible to note that such a serendipitous happenstance over 5000 years ago led to the creation of the first cup of tea. Today it has become one of the most loved drink’s in the world. Statistics show that the Americans drink around 80 billion cups of tea each year while the Canadians consume around 10 billion cups each year.
All true tea originate from one evergreen shrub – the Camellia Sinensis. The tea space offers a whopping 3,000 varieties of tea bushes, which grow in mountainous areas in all parts of the world, tea producers then decide on type of tea to create - green, black, white or oolong tea.
This gives tea lovers a significant choice based on their personal tastes and lifestyle. Some enjoy classics, others have their favorites, and some tea lovers enjoy trying different kinds – always open to discovering something new. In which bucket do you fall? We would love for you to get in touch with us and let us know your preferences.
We invite you to explore our teas as we strive to bring the world to you, through them!