Some biology. All tea comes from a plant species – Camellia Sinensis. The tea plant is a sub-tropical plant that grows best in acidic soil in a warm and humid environment. The best tea grows in high mountains, in areas with large temperature difference between day and night, and with predominantly cloudy skies. The kind of tea depends on where its grown,  when its picked, how its dried and the oxidation it undergoes. Food Science and history is a fascinating subject for me. I always wonder how our ancestors discovered things and how food evolved over time. I have been reading books on Food History, Zen, Tea, etc. Here is a summary of what i have learnt and some interesting stories.

Interesting Facts/stories

Theory of discovery of tea: water bore many harmful microbes and was boiled before drinking for safety. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot—inadvertently brewing the first pot of tea.

Gautama Buddha is said to have discovered tea when a falling tea leaf happened to land in his cup one day as he sat meditating in a garden.

The monks found that tea enhanced their meditations. And over time, small tea plantations sprouted up in secluded monasteries. However, due to the isolation of monasteries, tea did not explode into the mainstream until the thirteenth century.

Tea preparation and service became elevated to an art, an extension of the Zen philosophy’s purity of form. The Japanese tea ceremony or chanoyu (literally, “the hot water for the tea”) evolved, in which the making and serving of tea is carried out through an elaborate set of procedures, each movement learned over years of study and requiring great skill and poise.

China and Japanese teas were originally in the powdered form (matcha). In the 17th century, a Chinese monk traveling in Japan brought the new rolled form of tea that had replaced powdered tea in China.

Tea was one of the first commodities to be traded outside China which opened up the ancient trade routes between China and the rest of the world.

Tea was the primary reason for the Opium Wars which led to modern day Hong Kong.

The original tea bags were hand-made, hand-stitched muslin or silk bags. Patents for tea bags exist as early as 1903.

English high society didn’t dine until 8:30 or 9 p.m. Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, ordered her maid to bring her what we would call a snack—a small meal of bread, butter, cakes and tarts and a pot of tea—at 4 p.m. daily. It was brought secretly to her sitting room, as incremental eating was unseemly for a royal. She soon asked friends to join her—gingerly, unsure of how her extra meal would be perceived. Her friends were just as enthusiastic. When Anna Maria returned to Mayfair in the fall, she sent invitations for friends to join her for tea and a walk, and the small meal between lunch and dinner became popular. Over time, “afternoon tea” became an elaborate social and gustatory affair with sweet and savory delicacies, special “tea cakes,” and even tea gowns to bridge the fashion between casual afternoon and formal evening dress. As tea was expensive, it was kept in a locked chest, and the lady of the house kept the key with her.

Iced tea originated in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. A tea merchant and plantation owner from abroad had intended to provide visitors with free hot tea samples. Due to the unusually hot weather, it was not a big hit.To promote sales, he asked a nearby ice cream vendor for some ice. The American iced tea tradition was born when he dumped the ice into the hot brewed tea.

Disclaimer: Not a historian. Just a tea lover reporting some interesting facts read. Please feel free to correct me if you think something is incorrect.