The History of Chinese Tea

Before becoming one of the most popular beverage as we know today, Chinese Tea was discovered and used as medicine by our ancestors. Since it has been around for more than a thousand years, some people especially Chinese made tea as a part of their culture.

In The Beginning

Around 771 BC – 476 BC the Chinese tea is used for medicinal purposes.

This period also known as the “Spring and Autumn Period”, it is where Chinese people first enjoyed the juice extracted from the tea leaves that they chewed.

As Food & Beverage

After being used as a medicine, ancient Chinese books wrote that the Chinese Tea was being mixed with food and other spices, then cooked and eaten together with a soup.

Around 221BC – 8AD (Qin/Han Dynasty), there is a simple tea processing that has been introduced.

This process involves, tea leaves being pressed in a ball-like shape, then being dried and stored afterwards.

Upon serving, these tea balls where being crushed, it will be boiled into a teapot along with ginger, green onion and other seasoning.

At this period of time, Chinese tea which is used for medicinal purposes only evolve into a drink that is being used to serve guests.

As Part of Chinese Culture

During the “southern and northern dynasties” (Jin and Nan Bei Chao Dynasty) around 265 AD and 589 AD, Chinese tea which is considered to be a palace treat has become a common beverage for people. It was during 618 AD – 907 AD (Tang dynasty) that Chinese tea trading started booming.

  • Tang dynasty – The advancement of processing and tea plantation methods in this time period is in a rapid state that led to the development of some of the famous teas that we know today. During this era, Chinese people become more indulge and serious in tea making, tools that are used exclusively for tea has been developed and used thus tea cakes immerge. Additionally, during Tang dynasty the famed “The Classic of Tea by Lu Yu” and other books about tea had been published and the art of Chinese Tea is slowly taking shape.
  • Song dynasty – Though the Chinese tea culture started and become known during the Tang dynasty it is during the Song dynasty (960-1279) that it prospered. At the start of the era, Chinese tea was kept in a cake and ball-like shape, upon serving it is crushed and mixed with other seasoning then boiled. But as the time goes by and the number of tea drinkers had increased, they tend to pay more respect to the tea leaves original color, shape and taste.
  • Ming dynasty – Around 1368-1644 (Ming dynasty) to the present, gone are the days that seasoning materials are mixed into the tea leaves and boiled. It is also in this time, that brewing tea started and tea tools such as Yixing teapots become popular.

Chinese Tea Today

It is just after Ming Dynasty that the amount of Chinese tea developed had greatly increased.

The art of Chinese tea from preparing, brewing to serving is perfected.

So if you are drinking tea, do not think of it is one of those drinks to quench your thirst. Remember that aside from the taste and health benefits, there is a thousand years of history and culture involved in a single cup of tea that you are drinking today.