The practice of drinking tea is one that has deep roots and also a rather long history in China, and though the English come off as the tea-masters in the world we live in today, tea is actually an even bigger deal to the Chinese than you may have imagined.
And we’ll tell you all about it right here!
History Of Tea In China
The long history of tea starts with the Divine Farmer, Shennong, who is also regarded as Ancient Chinese’s Father of Agriculture. Shennong is believed to have discovered tea.
Legend has it that on one fine afternoon in fall, Shennong, while resting under the camellia tree, boiled some water to drink. He picked dried leaves from the camellia tree as they floated down in the pot of boiling water, and the leaves infused the water, in the process, making his first pot of tea, and also marking the very first ever leaf tea infusion. Shennong was intrigued by the tea’s very delightful fragrance. After taking the first sip, which he found to be rather refreshing, tea slowly became a thing. And since its discovery, tea is now one of the biggest traditions that are enjoyed across the world.
It’s worth noting, however, that in the beginning, tea was mostly used in many of the ritual openings, and the tea leaves were eaten as vegetables or even used as medicine. But until the rule of the Han Dynasty, which was at least 2,000 years ago, tea was just one of the new drinks. Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that tea was used for medicinal purposes during the Han Dynasty’s reign: 206BCE to 220CE. But it wasn’t until the reign of the Tang dynasty that tea became very popular as the go-to everyday beverage.
Later on, during the reign of the Sui Dynasty between 581 and 618, tea was largely drunk because of its medicinal properties. Then later in the 4th and the 5thcenturies, tea had additional ingredients infused in it, including ginger, rice, salt, orange peels, and ginger, among other ingredients. And during the reign of the Tang Dynasty between 618 and 907, tea-drinking turned into a famous art form where tea was enjoyed by essentially all the social classes. Later, as Buddhism spread, tea was one of the most popular drinks for the Buddhists, and the monasteries were known for serving tea, especially as caffeine proved effective in keeping the monks away during the long hours spent in meditation. This discovery also led to the big farms in which the monasteries cultivated tea. The Book of Tea by Lu Yu was inspired by the tea-drinking tradition and farms in the monastery.
The classic tales of tea documented in the book titled The Classic of Tea that was written by Lu Yu in 760CE, also tell more about tea during the reign of the Tang Dynasty. The book gives a detailed account of the tea culture during the Tang Dynasty. It also gives an explanation for the growing, as well as the preparation of tea.
The book gives an account of how, in the time of the Tang dynasty, tea was often made into tea bricks, and it was also used as a form of currency. And when drinking tea, the rea bricks would be ground to form a powder and then mixed with water to make a rather frothy beverage. The powdered tea concoction is, however, no longer a common type of tea in China. But it was introduced to Japan from China at the same time as the Tang Dynasty, and it is what we now know as the Japanese Matcha tea.
Who Discovered Tea?
Tea is believed to have been discovered by a man known as Shennong, who is also known as the mythical father of Chinese medicine.
What Dynasty Was Tea Invented?
The Han Dynasty is believed to have invented tea, as proven by the earliest archaeological evidence uncovered. At the time of its discovery, tea was only used in rituals, and later, it was used as a form of medicine that was mainly used by the elite. The Chinese Buddhist monks would later popularize tea after they discovered that the caffeine in the tea helped to keep the monks up for longer, especially because the effects of the tea would allow them to meditate for even longer. The caffeine also improved their concentration during prayer.
When Did Tea Come To India?
Tea was first introduced in India in the 1820s and 1830s, with the very first tea estates in India established in the state of Assam using the tea plants that were introduced in India from China.
However, some accounts note that the first experimental tea plants were tried in India in 1780. But it was only after the 1820s that the tea plantations started to thrive.
When Did Tea First Come To Europe?
Tea, coffee, and cocoa were introduced to Europe many years ago. Cocoa was introduced first in 1528 by the Spanish, and this was followed by the tea that was introduced in Europe by the Dutch in 1610. However, the earliest mentions of tea in European literature is from 1559, where it’s mentioned as Chai Catai or the Tea of China as covered in mention by a Venetian Council. This account notes that the Chai Catai was grown in the Cathay district of Szechwan or Cacian-Fu.
Importance Of Tea In Chinese Culture
For starters, tea was initially and culturally taken as a form of medicine. This was after the discovery that the tea leaves and tea incorporated in the diet and with food served as a great source of nutrition. Tea was largely used for its medicinal benefits as it aided in digestion.
The Chinese also preferred drinking their tea after meals, and it not only aided in the digestion of the food but also aided to alleviate and help heal or manage different forms of nervous disorders.
Others drink a great deal of tea because it is believed to have the power to expunge nicotine from one’s system with great ease and speediness.
The medicinal benefits of tea notwithstanding, tea is also considered an important social component, and it brought the Chinese people together. It was, therefore, a common addition to the food eaten and drinks enjoyed during Chinese festivities.
Why Chinese Drink Tea?
- The Chinese drink tea as an important part of their ritual practices.
- They also drink the tea for their medicinal properties
- And also, it’s an important part of most festivities.
What Does Tea Symbolize In Chinese Culture?
Tea to the Chinese people and the ancient Chinese lore about tea are essential aspects of the Chinese culture in terms of the tea’s effects on the spirit and how they create light. Tea is an embodiment of the spirit of truthfulness, joy, respect, and clearness.
Chinese Tea Types
There are six main types of Chinese teas – green tea, yellow tea, red tea, white tea, dark tea or puerh, and oolong teas,
- Green tea – this is the most common type of Chinese tea, and it often goes through the most tender forms of processing. This beverage’s chemical composition is a lot like that of the growing tea, and it’s not only refreshing but also gives strength and vivacity to the body.
- Yellow Tea – this tea is much like green tea, save for the fact that the tea goes through a heaping procedure. Which, in comparison to green tea, is less irritating to the stomach. It also has a peculiar and laborious production process, which is rare to find.
- Red Tea – this is also known as black tea, and it is known for being warming and comforting with the energy of the fire. Red tea enhances the function of the immune system and also invigorates the body.
- White tea – this is the least processed form of tea that is used as anti-cancer tea besides being a delicious beverage
- Dark tea – this is a very special form of tea with a special taste and odor.
- Oolong Tea – this is the other type of tea that is made through a rather complex process with the use of floral aromas and bright fruits. It is versatile and tasty; now one of the most popular types of tea for weight loss thanks to the high polyphenols concentration.
Famous Chinese Tea Brands
- Xinyang Maojian
- Duyun Maojian
- Junshan Yinzhen
- Huangshan Maofeng
- West Lake Longjing
- Keemun Black Tea
- Wuyi Rock Tea
Chinese Tea Art
Chinese tea art also called Cha Dao or also the Dao of Tea, is defined as the harmony of tea, the environment, utensils, the preparation environment, as well as the conversations that create the perfect moments – moments that last hours.
In other words, Chinese tea art is a tradition that involves the preparation of tea, often through boiling or steeping. It is a comprehensive art form that was practiced in ancient China and propagated through poetry and other processes, resulting in more relaxed and pleasurable social events.