History of green tea

It’s important to look at the history as it gives us the gist of what took place in the past, so that we can relate it to the present and pass that history on to the future. Learning about the history of something, is like riding in a time machine, allowing you to travel through time, taking you back to the times of yore.

Green tea is gaining so much popularity today because of the never-ending breakthrough about its potential benefits to mankind and it is but proper to give credits to those who made the discovery of green tea possible. One way of showing them our appreciation is by studying their history. We will be able to study the specific contribution of each person in the past and what lead them to find the one of the most nourishing and scrumptious beverage serve in almost everyone’s cup; the green tea.

The consumption of green tea has been popular in the ancient times, because even without the use of sophisticated instruments, chemicals and materials in the laboratory, they were able to recognize the efficacy of green tea in the treatment of various diseases. Its taste was also well liked, especially that it was processed in a way that would bring out its natural and distinct taste. The use of green tea could be traced back through Chinese account particularly during the Qin dynasty, over 5,000 years ago; where they used green tea as an infusion in order to maintain their physical and mental health well being. There were two tales that suggest who discovered the distinctive taste in green tea and started to spread good news of its edibility and medicinal property. The first is the story of an ordinary man named, Shien Non Shei and the other one is the legend of a person who holds the highest position in the Chinese dynasty at that era, Emperor Shen Nung. Shien Non Shei discovered the amazing flavour of green tea when he was passing by a place where a plant with Latin name, Camelia sinensis was sowed. Chinese people called this plant in their language as pinyin: Cháhuā, which literally means “tea flower”. He picked up a leaf or maybe a leaf bud and accidentally tasted the different taste of juice from that shrub. He also thought that juice from the plant was potentially therapeutic, so he concocted a potion by boiling the leaves with water, leading to conception of what is now known as a tea. Another legend proposed that Emperor Shen Nung first discovered the tea when Cháhuā, fell into his cup of hot water, inadvertently. You can just imagine how the tea blossom brought out a great flavour as it was mixed with hot water.  Whichever of these tales were true, the person involved truly made a very significant discovery in the history and we should be grateful for the contribution he made. Although China was recognized as the origin of tea drinking, tea plants are native to other areas in Asia, like India and Burma.

During the Tang Dynasty, the art and tradition of tea drinking was brought to the neighbouring countries, like Japan and Korea. It was also this time, where a very important record “Tea Classic” or “Cha Jing” was written by a writer named Lu Yu. The book discussed about, how and where one should enjoy a best tasting green tea. The writing was dated around 600-900 AD.

Green tea conquered Japan at around 800 and it was at that era when they developed the renowned Japanese Teas, Sencha, Matcha as well as Bancha. It was recorded that Japanese Emperors gave powdered tea as a form of present for the Buddhist priest.

During 1600 AD, there was an evolution of green tea as other types of tea was discovered and introduced to people. They found out that there could be other ways to prepare a tea rather than just applying heat to the fresh leaves immediately after picking, by steaming it or dry cooking it in hot pans. This method retains so much antioxidant contained in the leaves and this substance is responsible for providing much of the benefits from drinking green tea. Times were so hard during that period and upon noticing that green tea eliminates, even their most needed body fat, they devised different ways of preparing a tea; so it gave way to the discovery of what is now known as black and red tea. Black tea was prepared by fermentation, a chemical process of converting carbohydrates from the tea leaves, to an alcohol or acid. This is the same process utilized in making other drinks such as beer and wine. Red tea or Oolong tea was produced through partial fermentation, making it eliminate most of the oxidizing agent in tea leaves, which why it was preferred by the starving workers at that time. Oolong remains one of the most popular types of tea in modern China, particularly in the South.

Tea was considered as a lavish commodity in ancient China. Only the members of elite Chinese society and bureaucrats were privileged to include tea drinking into their dining habits. Green tea was so important at that time, that it was even made as a form of currency. It was only during the collapse of Mongolian Empire in 1368 After Christ, which subsequently is, the latter part of Ming Dynasty where the cultivation, production and trade of tea was increased, making tea available to the greater population.

Tea was exported to Europe and United States during the 16th century and it became well known all over the world during the 19th century. The tea consumption was once exclusively for the elite members of the society and tea drinking was reserved for special occasions only, not only in China, but also in Europe. In the west, tea drinking sessions became a past time for the rich and the famous. Sophisticated tea ceremonies were conceived and beautiful China tea sets and tea making equipment became a part of the green tea trade. Tea houses as well as tea connoisseur also blossomed. Tea drinking undoubtly became a trend.

It was only on the late 19th century, when tea was made available to everyone, that it may now be consumed as a daily beverage, even by ordinary families. Nowadays, green tea products were mass produced and commercialized in order to allow everyone, from different parts of the globe, to have a taste of the ancient beverage, the green tea and it continue to write its history up to the present as it conquers and influence the whole world.


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