While sipping on your relaxing cup of tea, you may not always appreciate the rich culture and history of this intriguing beverage. Many people think of tea as a British staple, which is accurate, but the origins date back much earlier. By exploring the origins of tea and learning more about tea history, you can learn to fully appreciate what makes this beverage so special to so many cultures.
The Origins of Tea
The first historical account of tea is the stuff of legends. As the story goes, Shen Nung, emperor of China in 2737 BC, was relaxing in the shade of a Camellia sinensis tree while his drinking water was being boiled by one of his servants. The wind blew a few leaves from the tree, which accidentally floated into the boiling water. Already a renowned herbalist, Shen Nung was intrigued by the scent of the accidental concoction and decided to sample a drink. The result was a warm and inviting feeling throughout his body, which reminded him of exploration and inspection. The modern name of tea was derived from the Chinese character ch'a, which depicts a man between grass and wooden branches. Shen Nung named his leaf-infused boiled water ch'a because it means to investigate.
Although the story of Shen Nung's tea discovery may be legend, it's no secret that tea is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. It is used for both medicinal purposes and general enjoyment. The popularity of tea in China grew so much that it became the national drink of China during the Tang dynasty. Buddhist monks from Japan often studied in China and brought the tradition back to Japan as early as the 9th century. Due to the religious roots in Japan, tea played an integral role in religious ceremonies and meditation before it settled into the culture of the greater society.
Tea in Europe
Although many people associate tea with England, the Portuguese and Dutch first began importing tea in the early 1600s. The marriage of King Charles II to a Portuguese princess introduced tea to England in 1662. As a new queen, Catherine of Braganza served fine imported Chinese tea to members of the royal court, and it quickly became known as a beverage only those of wealth and class could afford to enjoy. Over time, afternoon and high tea became embedded in the local culture. Afternoon tea takes place as tea service plus other light refreshments to break up the wait for a late evening meal.
Tea in Britain wasn't just an enjoyable way to pass the time; it also became a global phenomenon. Britain chartered the East India Company, which became a global monopoly in the trade of tea. Due to the excess of power given to the East India Company, many colonies were claimed as British territories before competition finally brought the company back into check. These colonies are still under British territory today.
Tea in America
Many customs and traditions of the British were carried over and perpetuated in America. Tea culture remained popular throughout the newly established cities, but the purchase of tea was also affected by the high tax rates imposed by Britain. As tax rates grew higher, the cost of importing tea began to become unsustainable, and the American ports began to rebel. The port workers refused shipments, which led to the Boston Tea Party, a landmark event in American history. Rejecting tea became a symbol of patriotism, and Americans exerted their independence through refusal to pay these excessive taxes.
Americans later enjoyed both tea and coffee as hot beverages, though coffee is now a solid part of American culture. Americans took tea and put their own twist on it, such as freezing tea into cubes and serving it cold as iced tea in the summertime. Later, tea bags were invented after discovering that the loose leaf tea individually wrapped for shipment could be brewed directly in the bags to save time.
Tea Houses and Tea Culture
Drinking tea is still a popular past-time throughout the world and is deeply embedded in the culture of many countries. In America, coffee culture prevails, though many Americans are fascinated with tea culture and the medicinal properties of tea leaves. Tea culture comes with its own set of rules and etiquette, which vary according to the country. For an authentic tea experience, many people visit a tea house or tearoom, where tea is traditionally served and is accompanied by other light refreshments. These tea houses keep tea culture alive, honor the history of tea, and serve as gathering places for social interactions.
Quality Teas at Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea
To truly experience the variety of flavors and unique qualities tea has to offer, you have to find a company that has searched the world for quality teas with the right combinations. Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea has flavorful and enticing teas available from strong tea-producing areas of the world. Our team personally visits many of our tea suppliers before selecting the finest quality leaves offered to bring to our customers. Whether you choose your tea for a specific flavor or enjoy the relaxing benefits of settling down with a freshly-brewed cup, Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea has something for everyone to enjoy. For more information about tea trends, to learn more about the source of the teas, or to ask for any advice about the perfect coffee or tea for your needs, contact Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea today.
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