The History of Tea in China: From Ancient to Modern Times

China was the first country to discover and utilize the tea tree, and it is known as the motherland of tea. Written records show that our ancestors began cultivating and utilizing the tea tree more than 3,000 years ago.

The issue of the origin of the tea tree has been much debated. A consensus that China is the origin of the tea tree has gradually been reached with the development of examination techniques and new discoveries. It is confirmed that the southwest region of China, including Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan, is the center of the origin of the tea tree. Due to geological changes and man-made cultivation, the tea tree began to spread throughout the country and gradually spread to the rest of the world.


The origin of tea


Because of the discovery of fire for the benefit of mankind, the ancient period of Shennong is called as the Yandi. The story that Shennong tasted a hundred herbs is very familiar to everyone. Shennong is a knowledgeable scholar and an experienced botanist. He has a very high level of health awareness and advocates to drink boiled water. According to legend, one day, Shennong supported the pot to boil water under a tea tree, and a few young leaves floating into the pot, then the pot of water became clear and fresh. After drinking, people refreshed. Tea was discovered.  There is also a legend that Shennong has a crystal stomach, that is, "Shennong owns exquisite jade body and can see his own lungs, liver and five organs". He tasted all kinds of herbs. When he tasted tea, he saw that tea in the stomach checked around.Because the pronunciation of check in Chinese was same as the tea, this herb was called as tea by people.


Another legend is that "Shennong tasted all the herbs, encountered seventy-two poison every day, and tea detoxified". According to legend, Shennong poisoned after eating a grass, fortunately the tea juice saved his life. Since then, the tea has become the antidote. This record is not later than the early years of the Western Han Dynasty. So at that time, our ancestors have recognized the medicinal benefits of tea.


The development of tea


Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou: 3000 years ago, people began to artificially cultivate the tea tree as a vegetable.


Qin Dynasty: 2300 years ago, people began to cook and drink tea. And it’s also as  medicine.


Han Dynasty: As a cultural treasure, tea appeared in the two northern Jin Dynasty. But its origin could be traced back to the Han Dynasty. Hao Yi Xing who was born in the Qing Dynasty pointed out in the "evidence of the common text" : "the way of tea drinking, first seen in the late Han, has sprouted in the former Han.


Western Han Dynasty: 2000 years ago, tea started as a commercial, and Chengdu became the earliest trade center of China's tea.


Eastern Han Dynasty: Around 1500, tea was made into tea cake for transposition.


Tang Dynasty: 1200 years ago, tea was influenced by the economy and culture of the Tang Dynasty and became more and more prosperous. What’s more, climatic conditions were also conducive to the development of the tea industry.


Song Dynasty: 1000 years ago, tea making skills have improved and people pursued high quality of water. The competition of tea making skills obtained.


Yuan Dynasty: 700 years ago, the production of loose tea appeared. The tea is fried again over again and steamed slightly.


Ming Dynasty: 600 years ago, the process of yellow tea, black tea and flower tea were formed.


Qing Dynasty: 300 years ago, Chinese tea was popular all over the world, and it was the only country that exported tea at that time. The process was mainly roasted and fried. Oolong tea, black tea, black tea, flower tea, green tea and white tea were made.


Modern times: 1846-1886 was the period of prosperity of Chinese tea (the area of tea plantations was expanding, tea production was increasing rapidly, which strongly promoted the development of foreign trade); 1886-1947 was the period of decline of Chinese tea production (political, economic aspects, failure of international tea market competition); 1950-1988 was the period of recovery and development of Chinese tea production. Government supported and vigorously restored old tea plantations, established new tea plantations, improved new varieties, promoted scientific tea planting, and moved the tea economy to the path of stable development. As a result, tea production ranked second in the world.


After the founding of New China, our government attached great importance to the tea industry. On November 23, 1949, the China Tea Company, which was specially responsible for the tea industry, was established. Since then, tea has been flourishing in many aspects such as production, processing, trade and culture. There are more knowledge about tea history that you can learn. There are many tea subscription box that you can taste.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.