History of Chinese Tea
According to Chinese legend, tea was an accidental discovery. In 2737 BC, Emperor Shen Nong was sitting down to a break with his army when leaves from a wild tree landed in his cup of boiled water unnoticed. The emperor drank the mixture. Intrigued by this pleasant, new substance, he named it “cha” for the warm feeling he investigated ran through his body as he drank the tea. Later in the Han Dynasty, the emperor penned down “cha” as a character constructed from wooden branches, a man, and grass to symbolize the balance it brought between mankind and nature.
During the Han dynasty, tea began as a herb used for medicinal purposes. In the Tang dynasty, the classic age of tea, tea began making appearances in social occasions as a beverage drunk for pleasure and relaxation. At this time, tea leaves were compressed into teacakes and prepared with the addition of hot water. Then came the Song dynasty, a milestone era for tea. The process growing and brewing tea leaves became more refined physically and culturally. More varieties of tea appeared in abundance in poetry, paintings, and literature. From there, it entered the Silk Road trading routes and spread to Arabia, Africa, and later Europe. Tea went east to Japan first in the 9th century and onwards throughout Asia. In the Sung dynasty, people began steaming tea rather than boiling the teacakes. This method then evolved into the modern method of roasting tea by the 13th century, accompanied by fermented tea leaves in the 17th century.
Modern Chinese Tea
Tea is still a predominant part of Chinese culture. It is drinken casually, around the dinner table with family, enjoyed at tea houses, and presented as gifts at formal gatherings. The principal Chinese tea-making ceremony Gongfu cha, Kung fu tea, requires a Yixing clay teapot, tweezers, and several additional tools to perform. The essence of the name, and thus objective of the process, is the input of effort to achieve a high quality pot of tea (comparable to hand-crafted cup of artisanal coffee).
Types of Chinese Tea
The six types of Chinese tea, from least oxidized to the most oxidized, are white, yellow, green, oolong, red, and pu-erh. During oxidation, a chemical reaction occurs involving oxygen that turns the leaves brown and introduces new flavors into the leaves. Unless they are of the floral/herbal variety, all tea is derived from the plant Camellia Sinensis. which originated in China. It is known to contain essential oils, polyphenols, phytonutrients, enzymes, and methylxanthines. These contribute to both tea’s naturally profound flavor profile and powerful, health-giving factors.
A Few Health Benefits
Chinese tea comes with an enormous list of health benefits that vary slightly depending on the variety and quality of tea leaf.
- Tea has been found to contain over 300 chemical substances that function as antioxidants, relaxants, and diuretics.
- Studies have linked drinking tea to weight loss, preventing tooth decay, reducing high blood pressure, regulating cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, aiding digestion, reducing stress, and much more.
*These statements are for educational purposes only. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.