What’s The History of Tea?

Who first started using tea? Depending on whom you ask, you might get a few very different answers. The history of tea is diverse and has many viewpoints.

The history of tea is rich and complex. Tea is multicultural and has roots in almost every culture around the word.

This article will detail the history of tea before the worldwide boom in popularity during the 17th century.

The general consensus is that tea most likely originated in Southeast Asia. Not only did they have the perfect climate for the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) to grow, documented records show tea drinking dates back to the 3rd century AD. Recently, there was a discovery in the mausoleum (tomb) of Emperor Jing of Han that indicates Han Dynasty emperors were drinking tea in the 2nd century BC!

With a lot of research, botanists have concluded that the Yunnan province is the birthplace of tea. The Yunnan province in China is believed to be home to the world’s oldest tea tree, which is over 32000 years old.

tea benefitsTea folklore

There different stories in Chinese folklore about the origins of tea. One popular story claims the origin of tea to be an accident. One day a well renowned herbalist was about to enjoy his cup of plain steaming hot water when some leaves from a tea tree blew into the cup. He decided to drink the substance and discovered a new drink that would soon gain popularity.


There are many other similar stories’ that are passed down as folklore in Chinese culture. It’s impossible to tell which story is most accurate, but it’s certain that tea has ancient roots in China.

Tea has roots in all cultures ranging from Indian, Japanese, and Korean to Greek, Portuguese and Iranian.  The early adopters of tea were well aware of the health benefits, and took advantage of it medicinally.  Tea is a powerful antioxidant and different types of teas have their own health specialities. For example, the benefits of green tea include better brain health, balancing blood sugar and clearing arteries in addition to being powerful antioxidant.  

Global expansion of tea

Tea started to become known in Europe and surrounding areas in the early 17th century. The Dutch East India company is credited with bringing the first shipment of green tea leaves from China to Amsterdam. Tea enjoyed brief stints of popularity in different sections of Europe such as France and Russia before catching on as a staple.

The first efforts at commercial production of tea occurred in India. The British saw India as the perfect market to introduce themselves in to break China’s monopoly on tea production. They started to use Chinese seeds and planting techniques to launch their tea industry. Pieces of land were exchanged with Europeans who were willing to grow tea for export.

Posted by DME Library

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