It's a universal phenomenon the millions of people around the world who drink tea. Tea drinking has become such a core daily ritual, that it would be unimaginable to be without this verdant evergreen. Although its’ discovery dates back over 5000 years, and has greatly benefited much of the Eastern world since that time, tea is considered relatively new to the West, introduced only 400 years ago.
Discovered in China, tea has exerted a profound influence on societies and cultures throughout all nations. To the extent, that there are unique ceremonies performed in various cultures. In most parts of the world, there are social etiquettes and customs in the way tea is prepared and consumed. Many myths, legends, poetry and proverbs surround tea and its mystique. Tea continues to accompany and influence the unfolding of key historical events and maintains its presence whenever economic, technological or cultural developments take place. Today, tea is accredited an unparalleled and enduring popularity with its culture and roots deeply woven in the journey and evolution of Mankind.
The Chinese originally called it “Kia”. As far as is known, it was during the 6th century AD that the name evolved into "Cha". On its arrival in the West it became Té, and remains the name in many countries.
Legend has it that tea was discovered in 2737 B.C. by the Chinese Emperor, Shan Nong. The Emperor had a habit of boiling his drinking water. While in his garden one day, several tea leaves fell into his boiling water and released a rich, alluring aroma. Upon drinking this brew, The Emperor discovered it to be refreshing and energizing. He immediately gave command to have tea bushes planted in the gardens of his palace, thus the custom of brewing fresh tea leaves in hot water began and quickly spread. From this discovery, the tradition of brewing fresh tea leaves in boiling water, firmly entrenched in China.
Until the 5th century A.D., tea was primarily used as a remedy, due to the medicinal benefits attributed to it. From this time onward, China's upper class adopted the fashion of presenting packages of tea as highly esteemed gifts, along with its drinking pleasure at social and private events. It was during the same time period when the Chinese tea ceremony developed and the tidings of tea also spread and reached Japan.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the rise in tea consumption resulted from the invention of tea bags by Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant. As custom practice, he sent tea samples in white silk bags to his customers who became intrigued by the ground-breaking product. Upon the introduction of the newly invented tea bags, the price of tea also lowered. Special brewing utensils were no longer required which ultimately made tea conducive for mass consumption, turning it into the most prevalent hot beverage in the world.
Tea crops quickly spread across the globe, from Japan to Africa and South America. Towards the end of the 20th century, the demand for tea had risen in the western world, and even more evidently, the demand for quality tea.
3 primary reasons for the rise in tea consumption in the Occidents:
The back-to-nature trend and an aspiration to lead a healthy, simple life. Tea, as a natural drink with evident health benefits, fits in perfectly with this lifestyle.
Increased Asian population in the West. Asians disseminated their deeply rooted tea cultures in the Western countries.
Western travelers in the east, who brought back tidings of tea upon their return.
Today, tea is grown and produced in more than 40 countries worldwide. 2.5 million tons of tea is grown and produced annually, most of it in Asian countries.