The History of Tea
Tea is one of the world’s most popular beverages, but where did it originate? We may never know for sure, but folklore suggests that the answer lies in China.
The Legend of Emperor Shen Nung
The most popular story of how tea came to be is the legend of Emperor Shen Nung. The emperor was known for his love of plants and herbs and was credited as the inventor of agriculture and the founder of Chinese medicine. He spent much of his time wandering, looking for herbal remedies and medicinal plants.
One day, Shen Nung was peacefully boiling water when some leaves from a wild tea tree blew into his pot. After tasting the brew, Shen Nung concluded that it had medicinal qualities and would be a useful remedy. Thus, tea was born.
The Development of Tea
The consumption of tea spread across China during the 8th century. Buddhist monks began to add herbs and spices to tea to give it flavour and medicinal properties. This gave birth to the concept of “Teaism”, an early form of Taoism, which emphasised harmony, balance and moderation.
As popularity of tea spread throughout Asia, new methods of preparing and drinking it developed. In Japan, sencha and powdered matcha were popular, while in India they experimented with a variety of flavours and spices, such as ginger, cloves, cardamom and pepper.
It is likely that the legend of Emperor Shen Nung is just that—a legend—but what is certain is that centuries of innovation and experimentation have turned a herbal brew into one of the world’s most popular beverages.
Today, tea is enjoyed by people all over the world and has become a way of life for many. From matcha lattes to chai spiced teas, the legacy of Shen Nung lives on.