The History of Chinese Tea


Last month, we celebrated the Lunar New Year and with it, the start of the Year of the Pig. Did you know that in Chinese culture pigs are signs of good fortune?  We hope that the first weeks of this Chinese New Year have brought you luck but if you ask us, our greatest fortune remains the discovery of tea in China.

The history of tea dates back to ancient China, almost 5,000 years ago. According to legend, in 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into a pot of water he was boiling in his garden. Finding the flavor enjoyable, he is said to have begun researching the plant. Still, tea was originally enjoyed for its medicinal benefits.

From the 4th to 8th centuries, the popularity of tea in China grew rapidly. No longer used for medicinal properties alone, tea became valued for everyday pleasure and refreshment. As tea plantations spread throughout China, tea merchants became rich and expansive, elegant tea wares became the banner for the wealth and status of their owners.

The Chinese empire tightly controlled the preparation and cultivation of the crop. It was even specified that only young women, presumably because of their purity, were to handle the tea leaves. In fact, these young female handlers were not to eat garlic, onions, or strong spices in case the odor on their fingertips might contaminate the precious tea leaves.

Up to the mid-17th century, all Chinese tea was green tea. As foreign trade increased, though, the Chinese growers discovered that they could preserve the tea leaves with a special oxidation process. This resulted in black tea, which kept its flavor and aroma longer than the more delicate Green teas and was better equipped for the export journeys to other countries.

Tea has remained an integral part of Chinese culture for thousands of years; it was popular before the Egyptians built the great pyramids, and was  traded with Asian countries even before Europe left the dark ages. The importance and popularity of tea in China continues in the modern day and has become a symbol of the country's history, religion, and culture.

While Emperor Shen Nung might have discovered tea in the first place, Sips by is here to help you discover your favorite teas. Click the button below to create a tea profile, take the tea profile quiz, and get a personalized monthly tea box matched to your unique tastes.


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