Before Chai, There Was Cha

A tale on the origin of tea as a beverage, what made it the popular drink that it is today.

Perceived as the essential British drink, tea is has been around for centuries. A regular Indian’s day does not start without a piping hot cup of chai and biscuit. Though it is not easy to trace the roots to the first cup of tea, popular belief is that tea has been to Chinese culture. According to legends, tea was made by the Emperor of China – Shen Nung, who chanced upon the plant around 2737 BC. A few leaves carried by the wind and fell into a pot of boiling water, that was set up by the Emperor’s troops when they were taking refuge. This was the first time tea was tasted.

Another belief is that tea originated in 1500 BC in China by the Shang Dynasty, who used it as a medicinal drink. Whether these might be true or not, tea has a significant role in Asian culture and has almost become a staple beverage and taken over the world.

Once discovered, Tea’s consumption increased, and it began being cultivated, to keep up with rising demands. It was only in 1368 BC that roasting of tea leaves became popular. It soon became a staple in 1636 when various species like oolong, green, white, dark, black and yellow tea became popular. This also brought trade and commerce to China, where tea was the go-to beverage. Around the 8th century, Chinese began trading the leaves with Tibetans, Arabs, Turks and nomads in the Himalayas which followed the silk road and reached India. Only in the 16th century, did tea finally reach European soil, where it became a massive rage and was considered a status symbol.

After it reached European soil, tea became the crux of trade and commerce, and even smuggling wars for nearly 100 years! This only ended around the time when East India Company came to be, following which it used its colonies to cultivate Tea, making space for a new industry altogether.

Apart from being the go-to beverage for heating up the chilly monsoons, tea has come a long way and is also consumed to fight off illnesses, boost energy and relieve stress. Whether had alone, or in the company of others, tea has become a habit in itself, penetrating into cultures over all the continents, and has fast become one of the most loved beverages worldwide.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published