The culture of drinking tea dates back to 5000 years ago, when the first tea was enjoyed in Ancient China. Legend has it, an emperor discovered it as the wind blew a tea leaf to his pot of boiling water. The smell was so invigorating and intriguing that he decided to try and drink it. He loved the warm feeling the concoction induced, hence our modern concept of tea was born.
Through out history, tea has played an important part of different cultures all over the world. It has become a staple for many modern societies today.
It started off as a part of traditional Chinese medicine, tea slowly made its way to mainstream culture as a form of refreshment best enjoyed with company. Tea ceremony, or the art of making, smelling, drinking and appreciating tea reflects ancient Chinese philosophy of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. It has been known to strengthen virtue, etiquette, and interpersonal relationships when enjoyed together. It is believed that the ceremony clears the mind and refreshes the spirit.
Today, tea has become a symbol of China’s culture, religion and history. And it’s influence spread all over the world for thousands of years. Some ancient legends about tea are still very much ingrained in Chinese culture. Tie Guan Yin tea, translated as the “Iron Goddess” was named after the Chinese goddess of mercy, who was believed to have given a poor farmer the idea to cultivate tea. Da Hong Pao tea or the Big Red Rope is considered sacred and valuable because legend has it, this tea has cured an emperor’s ailing mother.
Chinese influence on tea spread to Japan, and since then became an important part of Japanese monastery life. Tea ceremony in Japan values the principles of Zen Buddhism that highlights the importance of harmony, tranquility, purity, and respect.
In modern day Japan, tea has become so ingrained in their culture, they have developed varieties of tea that differ in terms of how they are grown, produced, manufactured, and served. Tea is always served with every meal in Japan.
In the18th century, the price of tea has become so exorbitant, it has become a status symbol for the rich and affluent who can afford it. Nowadays, “high tea”, drank with a full dinner, and “afternoon tea”, enjoyed with some light refreshments, are part of everyday British life.
After tea was brought to the Americas during European occupation, drinking tea has also become an elegant practice for some time. Until after the Boston Tea Party, when Americans started boycotting tea as an act of rebellion against the British. Since then, tea was slowly becoming a bigger part of American culture. Today, Americans recognize the health benefits of tea and more and more people are adding tea into their diets to replace coffee or soda.