Saturday, September 28, 2019

Tea Timeline


2737 BC               

According to legend, Emperor Shen Nung was sitting under a tree (Camellia Sinensis), while his servant boiled some drinking water. Dried leaves from the tree fell into the pot and infused with the water, creating the first tea infusion which the emperor enjoyed.


206 BC – 220 AD              

Containers of tea found in tombs dating from the Han Dynasty.


618 – 906            

Tang Dynasty: tea became firmly established as the national drink of China.

Tea became a popular drink in Buddhist monasteries, because caffeine kept the monks awake during long hours of meditation.


Late 8th Century             

Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Cha Jing or The Classic of Tea. Lu Yu was an orphan raised and educated in a monastery. This inspired him to write the book on tea.

Japanese monks who visited China to study took this tea plant back with them to Japan, resulting in the beginnings of the Japanese tea culture.


960 – 1279          

Whipped powdered tea became fashionable during the Song Dynasty, but disappeared after the Yuan Dynasty.


1279 – 1368       

Chinese people become accustomed to drinking steeped tea leaves.


Later half of the 16th Century    There is brief mention of tea as a drink among Europeans, mostly from Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries.


1606      

The first to ship tea back to Europe commercially were the Dutch and not the Portuguese. The first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland via Java.

Tea soon became a fashionable drink among the Dutch and from there spread to other countries in Western Europe. Due to its high price, it remained a drink for the wealthy.


September 1658              

First references to tea in Britain; an advert in a London newspaper announced its availability in a coffee house, referred to as the “China drink” known as Tcha, Tay or Tee.


1664      

The East India Company began to import tea into Britain with a first order of 100 lbs of China Tea, shipped from Java.

In Britain, the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess who was a tea addict, was a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. Her love for tea established it as a fashionable beverage, first at court and then among the wealthy.


Late 17th Century           

High taxes on tea and its popularity brought about the smuggling and adulteration of tea in Britain as the masses could not afford.


Late 18th Century           

Tea was adulterated with leaves from other plants or leaves which had already been brewed and then dried. Sometimes the adulterated tea colour was not real enough so anything from sheep dung to poisonous copper carbonate were added to make it look more like the original tea. Smuggled and adulterated tea weighed 7 million pounds while legally imported tea was only 5 million pounds.  


Dec 1773             

The Boston Tea Party: a protest against tea duties, that sparked off the American War of Independence, which eventually led to the USA becoming an independent nation instead of a group of British colonies.


By 1784                

The British government slashed taxes, making tea more affordable and this put an end to the smuggling.


1834      

The end of the East India Company’s monopoly on tea trade with China brought about by the growth of tea plantations in the British colonies like India and Sri Lanka. Shipping time to Britain was reduced significantly and tea became more affordable.


Circa 1908           

Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant started to send samples of tea to his customers in small silken bags. Some customers assumed that these tea bags were to be used in the same way as metal infusers and put the whole bag into the hot water pot. Thence, the unintentional creation of the tea bag. Based on customer feedback, Sullivan developed the first tea bags out of gauze.


1920’s  

Tea bags were developed for commercial production, initially from gauze and then later from paper.


1929      

The first tea plantation was established in Malaya during the British administration, in Cameron Highlands.


Today   

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. China, India and Kenya are the top 3 tea producing countries.

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