The Chinese Tea History
Tea has long been part of the Chinese culture. For the Chinese, tea is one of the seven necessities to begin a day.
Well, China is obviously the homeland of tea. According to some Chinese tea history resources, it was in the southwest part of the country that the tea was first found.
Legend has it that the God of Agriculture (GoA) was said to be the one who found the tea. He was one of the prehistoric representatives of Chinese people. It was stated in the GoA’s Book of Herbs that GoA personally tasted hundreds of herb. In the single day, he was hit by 72 poisons. But, he discovered the tea tree and used the tea leaves to neutralize all poisons. For many people, this is probably the earliest record of tea among the Chinese.
As often noted in some Chinese tea history resources, the Chinese tea has been around for thousands of years, approximately 4,000 years. It was first discovered and used as a medicine, and then it evolved into a beverage, and later became a major part of the Chinese culture.
Chinese Tea’s Infancy
Prior to 8th century B.C., the Chinese tea was used primarily as a medicine. Chinese tea history books noted that during the Chun Qiu Period (770 BC – 476 BC), the Chinese people chewed tea leaves and enjoyed the taste of tea juicy itself.
Tea Evolved into Food and Beverage
From 8th century onwards, the Chinese realized that the tea can be used as food and beverage. So, they started to cook tea like a soup. The tea leaves were eaten along with the soup. The Chinese teas were even blended with food. Ancient Chinese tea history books documented that the tea during that time was even eaten and used with other spices for cooking.
Then, During the Qin, Han Dynasty (221 BC – 8 AD), simple processing of the Chinese tea began. It was further documented in some of the Chinese tea history books that the tea leaves were that time pressed into ball shapes, dried and stored. When served, the tea balls are crushed and mixed with green onion, ginger and other spices, and then blended in teapots. Note that this is actually the point where the Chinese tea turned from a medicine into a beverage. This period also marked the beginning of Chinese tea being used to treat guests.
As Part of the Chinese Culture
During the Jin Dynasty and Nan Bei Zhao (265 AD – 589 AD), the Chinese tea evolved from a palace treat to a common beverage. Later, during the Tang Dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD), tea trading had become extremely busy. Lots of famous teas were then developed.
According to some Chinese tea history books, the tea was processed and circulated in the form of tea cakes in the Tang era. People started to get serious about making tea, and specialized tea tools emerged and tea books were published. The art of Chinese tea then started to take shape.
In the dawn of Song Dynasty, the tea was kept in the shape of balls and cakes. When served, it was crushed and boiled with seasoning material. However, as the drinkers became more particular, they paid more respect to the original color, taste and shape of the leaves. Seasoning then faded out and loose leaf tea began to take the center stage.
From the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) onward, the tea completed the process of moving from boiling to brewing. And, after Ming Dynasty, numerous types were invented. From then on, the art of Chinese tea is perfected continuously, until today.