Tea Part 1: The History of Tea

History of Tea

I love tea, and I drink it every day, so it is a natural topic for me to write about.  When I first started putting together this article, I was thinking one article, and then I realized that there is just too much information I would like to share with you to make it just one article, so I decided to do a series of articles.  Then, there was the question of where to start?  So, I decided to start at the beginning:  the history of tea.

If you think about it, almost (maybe every) culture drinks tea, but they all do it a little differently – from Asian green tea without adornment to British tea with milk and sugar to cold, sweet, iced tea in the southern United States.  We may all have our different ways of drinking it, but everyone drinks tea.

Tea has quite a history.  As you may know, it originated in China, but you may not know the legend behind it.  It is said that drinking tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shan Nong in 2737 B.C.  Apparently, he boiled his water, possibly for health reasons, and first drank tea after some tea leaves accidentally fell into his cup.  Supposedly the aroma of the tea enticed him to taste it, and we have been people have been drinking tea ever since.  Tea arrived in Europe through trade with China in the 1600’s where it quickly became popular.  And finally, tea marked the beginning of the American Revolution when colonial Americans protested the British tea tax by throwing the tea from a ship bringing tea into the Boston harbor overboard in what in now know as the Boston Tea Party.

In the early 1900’s tea went through two big changes that increased its popularity significantly.  First, at the 1904 World’s Fair, tea vendor Richard Blechynden put ice in tea hoping to increase sales due to the summer heat.  To this day, iced tea, especially the sweetened variety is probably the most popular beverage in the southern United States.  Though, I will say that I am living proof that southerners still enjoy hot tea as you will find me with a cup almost every morning and evening.  Then in 1908, tea bags were accidentally developed by Thomas Sullivan who began sending tea samples in individually wrapped bags.  Only later, did he find out that his customers were brewing the tea without removing it from the bags.  Unfortunately, tea bags quickly evolved into an inferior product that used crushed tea or even tea leftover from processing.  However, now you can purchase your own tea bags to brew your own high quality tea and many manufacturers are now producing higher quality pre-filled bags.

This was a really quick overview of the history of tea.  If you would like a more detailed history, please visit my sources below.


Wissotzky Tea

Bigalow Tea

United Kingdom Tea Council


Bigalow Tea

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