Where does tea come from?
How did it travel from one era to another?
« I am not interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.
Lu Tung « the tea fool ».
Genesis of tea :
The Chinese and Indian myths about the origin of tea leave us perplexed.
If we refer to the Treatise on Herbal Medicine by Shennong Bencao Jing, it is in the year 2737 BC that tea took shape. Leaves fell into a jar full of hot water prepared to quench Emperor Shennong’s thirst.
We can imagine that he drank this water, understanding that he had just made a legendary encounter, for having discovered its aroma, its scents and its antidotal and energizing effects.
And if we refer to the remains of the Han Emperor’s tomb, 200 B.C., we find traces and containers of tea. Originally, the Emperors used tea to scent the water before drinking it.
Already well known, the medicinal virtues of tea were used among the high society as well as among the Thibetans.
In the year 879, tea bricks were used as a currency of exchange against all commercial values, horses, harvesting instruments, precious objects!
Since then, the planting and harvesting of tea has spread throughout the mountains. Tea has become the ingredient of everyday life and has gradually penetrated all strains of society.
Throngs of new recruits have entered the teapots and plantations. This trend has facilitated its penetration into the working class.
Gradually, crowds of tea pickers were seen leaving at dawn for the mountain tops to pick, roast, dry and powder the same day.
The art of imperial tea began to be practiced and the tradition was exported to Japan around the 12th century.
From dynasty to dynasty, we can observe upheavals which augur the place of tea in modern societies and in daily practices.
The Ming dynasty in 1368 saw the first reliefs of the tea tribes at 1% of the harvest.
Porcelain kilns developed, tea services diversified and multiplied.
The Qing dynasty, which ended in 1911, gave birth to the first cups without a handle with a lid. For the first time, tea leaves were infused directly into the hot water.
Tea in Korea
And if we go to the South of Korea, on the slopes of the Mon Chiri, between 668 and 935, it is there that the tea in bricks is sought and used for its medicinal virtues.
From tea to Japan
It is in the 15th century that tea takes on a ceremonial character. This was the birth of the new art of tea, Wabi, known today as the « way of tea ».
Since then, tea has taken on the four fundamental principles of life, harmony, respect, purity and serenity.
This is where we see the first wooden utensils, red and black. As a sign of purity, the cleaning of the tea utensils takes place in the presence of the guests. As soon as the guests leave, tidying and closing the tea room is one of its four symbolic tasks.
Tea in Europe
It was in the middle of the 17th century that tea seduced high society and statesmen in France and England. In 1636, tea reached Paris.
Mazarin consumed it abundantly to prevent himself from gout. Madame de Sévigné announced that she took it every morning as an energizer.
Very quickly, the first tea room in London emerged and it was Thomas Twininnig who was the first to offer dry tea, loose leaf tea and coffee for everyday consumption. This noble product becomes accessible and within the reach of all.
Tea in Russia:
Tea was introduced to Russia at the beginning of the 12th century.
Before the Russians started to drink tea, the monopoly was in Moscow. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that tea became a regular part of the modern citizen’s day.
Indeed, before Russians gathered several times a day around a cup of tea, before tea took on an official and ceremonial character, the real craze was already there in Asia and the East!