Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink

Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink

Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink

Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink


Tea is one of the world's most popular beverages after water, and the birthplace of tea is China. Until the 1830s, China was the only producer of tea, and today it remains the world's greatest producer and consumer. Tea in China is a history of China's national drink, where it came from, how it was drunk, and the place it has occupied in Chinese society from prehistory to the present. Along the way, Evans looks at the myths surrounding the development of tea. The preferences of the various dynasties are examined, as are changes within the industry as well as the place of tea within Chinese society.


Piercing China's secrets has never been easy, even for Chinese historians. Forgotten millennia shroud China's proud past in mystery. Tea is among the world's oldest beverages and, like most Chinese discoveries, its invention is so ancient that the original discovery can no longer be traced. Even the ancient Chinese had lost track of tea's true advent and were forced to imagine its beginnings.

The first Chinese were awed by the physical world surrounding them that so totally escaped their control. They spent hours pondering their universe, passing on to their descendents an overpowering urge to explain the existence of things. Attempts to account for events beyond their understanding gave rise to elaborate creation stories that became an integral part of early man's religion. These are our myths and legends.

Voices speaking from ages past, myths and legends have been handed down from generation to generation. Although they are inadmissible as historical evidence, myths and legends do have historical importance because they provide the only account of tea's origin. Because they form part of our cultural heritage, it is our duty to pass them on to future generations.

Once upon a time King Shen Nong, known as the father of agriculture and medicine, decreed that for health reasons his subjects must boil water before drinking it. One day as Shen Nong sat in the shade of a tea tree boiling water, a light breeze blew some of the tea leaves into the kettle of boiling water; when he drank the infusion he marveled at its delicious taste and at once felt invigorated. Tea had been invented. King Shen Nong is . . .

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