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A history lesson in Tea


Tea Timeline
(photo source: Fine Dining Lovers)

It’s painful to imagine a world without tea. Across the globe, people have come to rely on their daily cuppa and the jolt of joy that comes with it. But believe it or not, there was a time before tea-drinking, and we’re going to tell you all about it.

2737 BC: TEA IS DISCOVERED. Legend has it that a green tea leaf fell into Chinese Emperor Shen Nung’s cup of hot water, he decided to drink it and obviously loved it.

551-479 BC: Documents from this time identify Confucious as a tea-drinker (no wonder he was so wise!)

350 AD: Tea, called Erh Ya at this time, is referenced in a Chinese dictionary for the first time.

420-588 AD: A rich guy called Wong Mong is described as being obsessed with tea; when he had guests over, he gave them so much tea that they called it ‘flooding.’

593 AD: Our favourite drink spreads from China and into Japan, where locals lap it up.

725 AD: Tea is finally given its own Chinese character: cha

780 AD: The very first tea tax is imposed in China because the dynasty knows the people will pay anything for their precious tea leaves.

960-1280 AD: Tea sets become increasingly ornate, evolving into the exquisite pieces we see in museums; plus, people start building public tea rooms.

1101-1125 AD: Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung is known as a tea fiend and holds tea-tasting tournaments in his court; legend has it that he was so busy drinking tea, he didn’t notice the Mongols were taking over his empire.

1280-1356 AD: The Mongols have taken over China and they don’t want people to drink tea.

1368-1644 AD: When the Mongols fall, the Ming Dynasty takes over and drinks a lot of tea.

1391 AD: The first teapots begin to appear – people didn’t have to prepare tea one cup at a time!

1559 AD: Venetian diplomat and explorer Giambattista Ramusio writes about Chinese tea and says tea is the reason Asian people lived longer than Europeans.

1610 AD: The Dutch East India Company imports the first shipments of Chinese tea to Western shores, marketing it to rich people as an exotic medicinal drink.

1650 AD: Tea parties become a trendy social event among Western women; men are mad because tea was always considered a man’s drink.

1662 AD: Dutch King Charles II marries Catherine Braganza of Portugal, who is known to be a huge fan of tea; as a result, the UK starts drinking so much tea that alcohol consumption declines.

1664 AD: The English East India Company brings the gift of tea to the British king and queen and not long after, tea-drinking becomes a part of daily life in Britain.

1680 AD: Tea served with milk is mentioned for the first time in letters written by Madam de Sévigné.

1690 AD: The American colonies see their first public sale of tea in Massachusetts.

1706 AD: Thomas Twining (does that last name sound familiar?!) puts tea on the menu at his London coffeehouse.

1765 AD: Tea is ranked as the most popular beverage in the American colonies.

1773 AD: Colonists in North America protest Great Britain’s tea tax by boarding a trading ship in the Boston Bay and dumping all the cargo into the bay – we’ll never know if they were motivated by love for tea or political unrest.

1904 AD: Clever Englishman Richard Blechynden creates iced tea during a heat wave at the St Louis World Fair – people love it.

1908 AD: In a happy accident, New York tea importer Thomas Sullivan invents tea bags when he sends tea to clients in small silk bags; not knowing what to do with the bag, his clients steep the bags whole.

2005 AD: Oriental Teahouse opens its first shop on Chapel Street in Melbourne, Australia, improving the lives of Melburnians with house tea blends and Chinese dim sum!






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