A word about tea

Surprisingly, not that much is really known about tea. It’s the most popular drink on our planet. It has developed distinct cultures of consumption in each country and even changed traditions in some. We know that the hieroglyph 茶 (pronounced chá in Mandarin Chinese) appeared in the 5th century.

The plant itself, Camellia sinensis, is an evergreen shrub or small tree, native to the tropical and subtropical mountain forests os South-East Asia, and very unpretentious to climate. Tea is massively cultivated in China, India, Japan and Sri-Lanka. That’s about it.
Today we don’t know who, how or when discovered this incredible drink, but the earliest known legends take us back to China in 5,000-3,000 BC, and to the times of Shennong (the Divine Farmer) – a mysterious person, possibly a sage ruler of prehistoric China or even a deity of medicine who came down to Earth to bring this science to the mortals. Legend has it he had a transparent belly, was very kind and conducted experiments on himself to determine the effect of various plants on the human body.

One day, Shennong poisoned himself severely. Exhausted, he was crawling in search of help when suddenly a dewdrop from a tea bush fell into his mouth. Considering it a sign, Shennong chewed a tea leaf and immediately noted an improvement of his state. Later, further studying this plant, the Divine Farmer realized that tea can serve not only as an antidote, but is also a “cure for a myriad of diseases”.

Another story tells of a monk who had promised Buddha he’d pray the whole night, but fel asleep by dawn. Seeing his grief, Buddha pulled out a few of his eyelashes, and from them grew a tea tree – the source of body and spirit vitality.

The history of how tea popularity spread around the world shows another one of its distinguishing features – “tea brings together, unites, sets the mood for conversation, communion and communication”. Ancient Chinese poets admired tea at literary evenings, the knowledge of it was the subject of competition at tournament in Japan, Russian nobility was trying to exchange it for sable fur for their banquets, and, of course, it has become an indispensable ingredient of all receptions in Great Britain.