Tea: From Social to Medicinal Beverage

Posted on Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

teaTea is the most popular beverage in the world as well as one of the healthiest.

The history of tea is fascinating and offers great insight into the history of our world.

Ever since tea was first discovered in China, it has traveled the world, conquering the thirsts of virtually every country on the planet.

According to Chinese mythology, the origins of tea date back to a day in 2737 BC. Emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water. When a leaf dropped into the water, Shen Nung, a scholar and herbalist, decided to taste the brew. The tree was the Camellia sinensis.

For several hundred years, people drank tea because of its herbal medicinal qualities. By the time of the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was used as a religious offering. During the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), tea plants were quite limited and only royalty and the rich drank tea not only for their health but also for the taste. As more tea plants were discovered during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), tea drinking became more common among lower classes and the Chinese government supported planting of tea plants and even the building of tea shops so everyone could enjoy tea.

Also during the Tang Dynasty, tea spread to Japan by Japanese priests studying in China. Similar to the Chinese adoption of tea, tea was first consumed by priests and the rich for its medicinal properties. Tea is often associated with Zen Buddhism in Japan because priests drank tea to stay awake and meditate. Soon, the Buddhists developed the Japanese Tea Ceremony for sharing tea in a sacred, spiritual manner. The Emperor of Japan enjoyed tea very much and imported tea seeds from China to be planted in Japan, making tea available to more people.

After obtaining coffee seedlings, Holland, England, and France were able to trade coffee and broke the monopoly exercised by the Arabs. Soon coffee trees were growing in the colonies of India, Java, and the West Indies. Coffee became one of the world’s most profitable export crops in the 18thcentury. Since then, coffee has been cultivated in many tropical locales and has especially prospered in South America. Today 50 percent of the world’s coffee is from Brazil, 25 percent from other Latin American countries, and nearly 20 percent from Africa.

Tea finally arrived in England during the 17th century when King Charles II married a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. The Queen made tea the drink of royalty and soon tea became a popular import to Britain via the East India Company. Afternoon tea or tea parties became a common way for aristocratic society to drink tea. Though tea was regularly imported to Britain, the taxes were so high that smugglers would get and sell tea illegally for those that could not afford it. In attempts to turn profits during the tea smuggling period, the East India Company began exporting the tea to America. The American tea was also taxed heavily and contributed to the cause of the Boston Tea Party.

Our Homestudy Course , The Mysteries of Coffee and Tea, explores the origins of coffee and tea and both the positive and negative effects that it can have on the human body. Some research also suggests that caffeine may impact cholesterol levels, the menstrual cycle and even dental health. Caffeine may also lower risk for some cancers. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Even one cup of coffee may affect their sleep duration and quality, while others can get plenty of shut-eye even after downing several lattés. So whatever is your choice, grab a cup and get ready to study!

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