History of Tea
Tea has its origin in China where it was originally used for medicinal purposes only before it became a staple drink in every household. Although there are many legends about the discovery of tea, one of the better known tells the story of Shen Nung (2737 B.C.), emperor, scholar and herbalist who was sitting beneath a tree one day, boiling his drinking water, when a leaf from the tree dropped into the water, infusing it. Curious Shen Nung tasted the brew and found it not only pleasant tasting, but also very stimulating. The tree under which Shen Nung was sitting was in fact a tea tree.
About 1200 years ago, Buddhist monks brought tea from China to Japan. Zen Buddhism turned the mundane practice of drinking tea into a spiritual practice and formalized tea ceremonies which had a major impact on the spiritual and aesthetic culture of Japan.
Dried and compressed into cakes or bricks, tea was also used as a trade item and traveled across the orient. Tibetans, Mongolians, Arabs and Turkish merchants as well bartered for tea. It was not until the 17th century, though, before tea arrived in the West via land into Russia and via sea to Holland from where it spread quickly throughout Europe. England entered the scene around 1650, when the East India Company brought in its first shipment. Since importing tea from China was an expensive undertaking, in 1820 England began growing tea in its own colony of India and later in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. Whether served hot or iced, it is increasingly gaining in popularity as a healthy everyday drink.