ccording to Chinese legend, tea was born in 2727 BC when leaves from a tea tree fell into the water cup of Emperor Shen Nong, who was astounded at the resulting color and flavor. Appreciated in China for its medicinal properties, tea soon spread around the globe and has an important place in a variety of countries and cultures. Here are a few fun facts about tea around the world:
- In Chinese history, tea has been used for everything from medicine, courtship rituals, gift giving, and even imperial tribute taxes.
- Although China is considered the birthplace of tea, India is actually the world’s largest tea exporter. Many varieties, including Darjeeling and chai, hail from the Indian subcontinent.
- Tea drinking in Japan began among monks and other cultured classes, then quickly spread to society as a whole. Green tea is most commonly associated with Japan, with an emphasis placed on color and delicacy of flavor.
- Tea spread from China to Russia along the Silk Road, where black tea quickly became a favorite. Russia’s most popular variety is black tea, frequently sweetened with sugar, fruit, or preserves.
- Muslim nations are some of the world’s leading consumers of tea, with a rich variety of tea rituals and ceremonies for both informal and formal occasions.
- Although we tend to associate France with wine, cheese, and pastries, the French also love their tea! In fact, urban tearooms are booming across France, with teas for any occasion…and to accompany any pastry.
- No survey of tea tradition would be complete without a visit to the United Kingdom, where tea time is practically synonymous with the culture there. The tradition began in the late nineteenth century, where a late-afternoon tea ritual known as “low tea” or “afternoon tea” bridged the gap between breakfast and dinner for the upper classes. A slightly later tea time, or high tea, was observed by middle and lower classes, usually as a more substantial, dinner-type meal. What’s more, the names were determined by the height of the tables at which these teas were served.
- Tea played an important part in the birth of the United States, as patriots protested taxes on tea by throwing three shiploads of tea overboard in the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773. Although green tea was America’s most-consumed tea during the early years, the WWII era saw a surge in the popularity of black tea. The USA has also contributed iced tea to the global tea landscape.