The History Of Tea


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The Waka Life Blog

The History Of Tea

Tea drinking has a long history and heritage spreading across hundreds of years, multiple cultures, and various traditions. We summarized the highlights for you in this article, so let's explore.

Following right behind coffee, tea is one of the most preferred drinks of our time. Whether you are drinking iced tea, hot tea when you are sick, or even afternoon tea, people all over the world are turning their taste buds towards tea. With its many different tastes, flavors, and forms, tea has become one of those things that is a must in every person’s home. Tea can offer different health benefits via its scents and tastes and no wonder it is also used as a cold remedy! It can soothe a sore throat and still be a tasteful liquid to drink. 


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According to Chinese culture, Emperor Shen Nong accidentally discovered tea in 2737 B.C.E. While he was boiling water in his garden, a tea leaf fell into his pot creating the first tea cup. He loved it so much and decided to start further researching the newly discovered drink and its medicinal power.

Yunnan Province in China is accredited with drinking tea as a medicinal drink ever since and the region is now called “the birthplace of tea.” It is believed that the oldest cultivated tea tree resides in this province, estimating it to be about 3,200 years. With a diameter of 1.84 meters (about 6 feet), the tree is also know to be the biggest tea tree in the world, growing at an altitude of 3,245 meters (more than 10,000 feet).

Check out this YouTube video: "Finding The Largest Tea Tree In The World"

From the Yunnan Province, tea made its way to Sichuan where drinking tea became the method of choice. As the legend goes, the people of Sichuan used to boil the leaves to make them into a concentrated liquid. This drink didn’t include the addition of other herbs and leaves but rather strengthening the natural taste of the tea leaves. The new liquid left behind the traditional method of using tea only for medicinal purposes, introducing a new purpose for it; one for pleasure. 

In a separate Indian legend, the founder of Chan Buddhism, Bodhidharma, fell asleep after meditating for 9 years in front of a wall. When he awoke, he was ashamed of his own weakness for falling asleep and cut off his own eyelids as a result. His eyelids fell to the ground and sprung roots of their own, which grew tea bushes. The tea bushes were then cut down and used for medicinal and pleasurable purposes.


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Western traders and missionaries traveling between Europe and Asia first discovered tea on their voyages to China and Japan. You can also see a reference in historical documents for the process of boiling bitter tea leaves in Arab cultures around the 9th century. Later, even Marco Polo writes about his discovery of tea during his travel to the East. In addition, Portuguese missionaries are attributed with bringing tea to Europe while traveling back and forth between Portugal and China.

Tea wasn't commercially traded until Dutch merchants entered the picture in 1610. That year, the first shipments of Japanese and Chinese tea started to arrive to Europe using ships charted by the Dutch East India Company

A number of decades later tea was one of the main reasons for the American Revolution. Tea was used as a protest by the Sons of Liberty against the British Monarch. As a retrograde to the Tea Act of 1773, the American Patriots dumped all of the tea in the Boston Harbor, causing the British thousands of dollars in losses. The Boston Tea Party started a domino effect of events that led to the start of the American Revolution.

Today tea is consumed worldwide by both children and adults. All over the world people are experimenting new ways to drink tea by inventing new brewing methods and adding additional flavors. There are iced teas, herbal teas, flavored teas...and of course the most prominent form of tea, High Tea. High Tea is usually drunk as a part of afternoon tea, and is often served with small sandwiches, scones, and jam. 


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Instant tea originated from the United Kingdom in 1885, where a patent was granted for the ability to make tea into a paste and form a liquid by adding boiling water. Later on a technology was developed that sprayed the tea leaves dry so people could consume the leaves and enjoy its natural flavorings. Producing instant tea is the result of a 6-step process that all lead up to drinking tea.

The 6 steps that are involved in producing instant tea are:

  1. Selecting quality raw materials - selecting tea leaves based on fermentation
  2. Extracting - extracting the tea solids from the tea leaves and concentrating on the extracted solids
  3. Aroma stripping - separating the components from the liquid solution
  4. Tea cream processing - binding the solubilities together
  5. Concentrating - concentrating the solution to 40% solids
  6. Lastly, drying the tea - evaporating the droplets and leaving only solids behind

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According to the World Atlas, most of the world's tea comes from China, with India and Kenya following behind.

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Kenya
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Vietnam 


interesting facts about tea

1. Tea should not be stored near coffee or with other spices

The flavors that are found in tea are very delicate and can be altered very easily. When stored near “competing aromas,” the tea can absorb the flavors of the other substances, which weaken the overall taste of the tea. When storing tea the most important factors to remember are to not store your tea with too much moisture, heat, air, light, or strong flavors. Consider using one of these storage containers for home use.

2. Time plays a crucial role in the perfection of the tea

In terms of making the perfect cup of tea, different teas require different amounts of steeping time. If brewed incorrectly, the tea will not taste as good no matter what kind of tea you bought. When it comes to your tea, there are 5 components that classify whether or not the tea will be good or not. These components include: Water, temperature, time, weight, and equipment. Each of these attributes plays off the other part to give you that perfect cup of tea. 

3. Turkish people consume the most tea year round

On average, Turks consume about 7 pounds of tea per year. Because Turkish people consume so much tea year round, in order to keep up with the citizens’ demands, Turkey must grow 1/5th of the world’s supply of tea. 

4. Herbal tea is not considered tea

Herbal tea does not necessarily contain any tea leaves in it so they are not considered a tea. Although there are no tea leaves in them, but Herbal teas do contain a selection of different herbs, plants, and spices such as mint, hibiscus, and chamomile.

5. Black and Green teas are all made from the same plant

All tea leaves come from a small tree that is native to Asia, called Camellia sinensis. The different types of teas (Black, Green, White, etc.) are all determined by the amount the tea leaves oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs after the leaves are picked. Black tea requires the most oxidation, whereas White tea requires the least.

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