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Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water, and it can be found in the cupboards of approximately 80% of homes in the US. Enjoyed steaming hot, iced, or blended into a cocktail, tea is known for its earthy flavor and many varieties have a host of health benefits, helping boost the immune system, battle inflammation, and stave off cancer and heart disease. If tea plays an important role in your daily life, you may be fascinated to know that it has a rich history that hails back some 5,000 years. Read on to learn more about how it came to be one of the best-loved drinks across the globe.

Tapping into the Tantalizing History of Tea

China – the Birthplace of Tea

Legend has it that a Chinese Emperor called Shen Nung, who reigned in the late third century, discovered tea when leaves from a tree blew into his pot of boiling water. Intrigued by the earthy aroma of this concoction, the Emperor gave it a sip and was surprised by the warm, invigorating sensation it brought. He named his chance discovery ‘ch’a’, the Chinese character that means ‘to investigate’. Between the fourth and eighth centuries the popularity of tea grew immensely, and it became a daily drink that was valued for its refreshing qualities. Accompanying this trend was the growth of the teaware industry, which the Chinese are renowned for to this day. Up until the 17th century, the Chinese drank green tea leaves. It was not until foreign demand grew that tea sellers realized they could extend the lifespan of leaves by fermenting them. The result was black tea—a more intense beverage that also had a stronger aroma.

The Exportation of Tea

The international tea trade began as early as the seventh century and it explains why, today, countries such as Nepal, Japan, Korea, are well known for their own tea types and blends. Such is the wide variety of varieties available that many tea lovers are joining forums and clubs and taking out subscriptions to try new teas on a monthly basis. The rich Japanese tea tradition actually began in the early night century, when Japanese visitors to China took to the unique flavor and aroma of this beverage. Buddhist monk Dengyo Daishi, is said to have been the first person to bring tea seeds to Japan. The beverage soon began to play an important role in a sacred ceremony called ‘Chanoyu’ (which stipulates very specific means of preparing and enjoying tea). The Japanese also experimented with new forms of tea preparation, grinding green tea leaves to make the now hugely popular ‘matcha’.

The Tea Trade Today

Today, tea is grown in a plethora of continents and countries across the globe, including Africa, the area surrounding the Black and Caspian Seas, and Asia. Approximately 75% of leaves are grown in four countries: Kenya, China, India, and Sri Lanka. There are five main types of teas that are regularly consumed: black, white, green, oolong, and pu’er. Some of the top-selling tea types include Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Matcha, Earl Grey, Chamomile, Jasmine, Oolong, Yerba Mate, Rooibos, and Mint.

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world after water. Its history can be traced back to the late third century, when it began to be cultivated in China. Tea quickly became popular across the globe and today, it is an industry worth tens of millions of dollars. Its value is predicted to grow to an impressive $68,950 million by 2027.