Chinese Tea History


China has been at the forefront of production and consumption of tea. The delicacy has been infused into the Chinese culture. China has a long history, and so is the history of Chinese tea. This article outlines the Chinese Tea History and how its growth and consumption has undergone gradual changes from ancient times to the present time.

Discovery of Chinese Tea

Tea was discovered about 5,000 years ago by Emperor Shen Nung, the father of Chinese Medicine and Agriculture. The emperor discovered the properties of tea accidentally during one of his trips to a distant part of his realm. He believed that hot water had healing properties.

As the servants were boiling water, tea leaves were accidentally blown by the wind into the water. The leaves scented the water. The emperor was intrigued by the feeling which the flavored water introduced to his body. He named the brew ‘Cha’ which means to investigate or check.

Evolution of Chinese Tea

Chinese Tea History

Tea has undoubtedly been an integral part of the Chinese way of life. The past ruling dynasties have shaped the laws governing plantation and culture of consumption.

  • Zhou Dynasty (from 1046BC – 256BC)

During the Zhou Dynasty, tea was used as a beverage. Whole leaves were added into the hot water to extract its hidden benefits. The tea leaves added flavor and scent to the hot water. Most f the tea was growing wildly in the bushes.

  • Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD)

During the era of the Han Dynasty, tea was expensive and reserved for the wealthy and powerful. It was used mainly for its medicinal properties that helped in keeping a person awake for long. Most of the tea was grown in Yunnan and Sichuan and brought to the emperor’s residence.

  • Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 AD)

The widespread use of tea led to the introduction of new methods of consumption. The people consumed tea as a beverage rich in medicinal properties. Tea became a trade commodity.

  • Tang Dynasty (618AD – 907AD)

This was the period which allowed for the growth of tea culture in China. The consumption of tea spread faster. More farmers adopted the cultivation of tea as a cash and food crop. Utensils and wares designed for the preparation of tea during the tea ceremonies were introduced.

  • Song Dynasty (690 AD – 1279AD)

This is considered the golden age of powdered tea in China. The Song Dynasty saw the introduction of new species of tea. Trade intensified, and China developed with the taxes collected. Artists infused tea into their poems and paintings.

  • Ming Dynasty (1368 AD – 1644AD)

More species of tea were introduced into the market. The people of China were allowed to plant tea in their farms freely. The Ming dynasty introduced new methods of processing tea. Compressed tea cakes were replaced by loose-leaf tea. Teapots and bowls were introduced.

  • Qing Dynasty (1644AD – 1912AD)

The Chinese government intensified the volumes of tea exports. The teapots started gaining popularity in China. Tea houses were also put up across the corners of business streets. There was a widespread usage of tea caddies to maintain flavor and fragrance.

  • Present Day

Tea is one of the major beverages in China. China is leading in the exportation of tea across the world. Tea has become embedded an irreplaceable part of the Chinese culture that still stands. New methods of processing tea are continuously introduced in the Chinese tea industry.

Brands of Chinese Tea

tea types

Chinese tea has evolved to produce the following brands.

  • Green Tea

Green tea is the original and the most popular brand of Chinese tea. The tea has the most extended history among the available species. It is still produced in the highest volumes in Zhejiang province, Jiangxi Province, and Anhui Province.

  • Black Tea

The aromatic black tea evolved from green tea. The traders used new methods of processing the tea and led to the production of black tea. It is second in popularity after the green tea. The breed is commonly grown in Anhui, Yunnan, and Hubei.

  • Yellow Tea

When you allow damp tea leaves to dry naturally, the end product is yellow tea. The brand has a flavor close to white and green teas. The tea was formerly designed for the royal family. The tea helps with digestion and metabolization of fats in the consumer’s body.

  • White Tea

Unfermented, and uncured green tea blends to form the white tea. The brand is indigenous to Fujan Province. White tea is the least processed brand but has a distinctive taste and aroma. The main varieties include Gongmei Tea, Shoumei, and White Peony Tea.

  • Pu-erh Tea

The Pu-erh brand, a dark tea, was initially shaped into small cakes of dried leaves. The dark tea originates from Yunnan Province. The tea has the most distinctive features than the other brands. Pu-erh tea is also known as red tea is adapted for long journeys of exportation.

  • Oolong Tea

The Oolong tea brand is commonly known as Wulong tea. It is unfermented but full of unique characteristics. It contains upgraded flavor and aromatic properties of black and green tea. The brick tea has been in production for more than 2,000 years.

Tea as Part of the Chinese Culture

Tea culture has been an integral part of Chinese culture since time immemorial. The Chinese tea ceremony is held annually to identify the importance of tea. Tea has gained popularity and evolved in the idea of consumption. Most people consume tea as a medicinal beverage.

Chinese artists have introduced the idea of tea in their works. Poets, potters, painters, and cooks have promoted the identification of tea as part of the Chinese culture. The consumption of tea has been incorporated into important rituals like marriage ceremonies.

China is a country with rich culture. Tea is part of Chinese culture. Tea culture has gradually spread into the neighboring Asian countries of Japan and Thailand. The culture of tea has spread in the modern world to all countries. More scientific studies are being conducted to uncover more qualities of Chinese tea.