Tea Is Ancient

Tea has a very long and storied history, and it all started with whole leaf tea and an ancient Chinese emperor, about 5,000 years ago. Legend has it that Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, in 2732 B.C., discovered tea when whole leaves from a wild tea tree blew into his pot of boiling water. He was intrigued by the scent of the brew, and when he ingested some, said that he felt like the tea gave him a warm feeling, as if the tea was investigating his whole body. He named the brew ch’a for the Chinese character that means “to check” or “to investigate”. The Chinese have been brewing tea ever since, although it took some time to start exporting to other countries. Tibet and Japan, being neighbor nations, were two of the first. Europe wouldn’t start to benefit from the tea trade until the 17th century A.D. 

At Everything Tea, we have dozens of varieties of whole leaf tea for your enjoyment. We carefully list all of the ingredients in each variety so that you know exactly what you’re getting. Find your new favorite now!

You can learn how to brew it here!

Modern discoveries about loose tea’s contribution to human health have shown that it:

  • May boost your immune system
  • May fight inflammation
  • Potentially wards off cancer and heart disease
  • Contains high levels of antioxidants (especially white tea)
  • Is especially high in flavonoids
  • Can lower your cholesterol
  • Contains l-theanine (especially oolong), which can help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases

In the mid-17th century, black tea became popular because it was easier to export from China than fragile, delicate whole green tea leaves, to destinations around the world.

Candy Cane Rooibos Tea Product Photo

Rooibos, or red, tea, originates in South Africa and is traditionally used to treat many ailments, as well as enjoyed for its delicious flavor.

yummyberry kids tea

Herbal tea does not derive from a tea tree, but from flavorful botanicals such as peppermint, chamomile and lavender.

loose tea photo of Hot Cocoa in Florence

Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, making it easier to transport for long distances without spoiling. It also better preserved its flavor and aroma. 

The Han Dynasty’s Influence and Empirical China’s Control

In 200 B.C., a Han Dynasty emperor ruled that only a special, newly created character (still called “ch’a”) could represent the written word for tea, which was being consumed in only green, whole leaf form at this point.. The character that was created includes wooden branches, grass, and a man between the two, and it is said to symbolize the way tea brought humankind into balance with nature. 

The Chinese empire kept the tea crop under tight control. The only people allowed to handle the tea leaves were young women, probably because they were considered more pure than anyone else in the empire. These young women were not allowed to eat garlic, onions, or any strong spices, in case the odor on their hands might contaminate the precious tea leaves.

The only type of tea consumed until the 17th century was green tea. As foreign trade increased during the 1600s, however, Chinese tea growers found that they could use a special fermentation process to preserve the aroma and flavor of the tea, and black tea was born. Black tea could be shipped considerable distances and not lose any of its characteristics or health benefits. The first to import whole loose leaf tea to Europe were the Dutch and Portuguese in 1610; England, in 1662. The King of England, Charles II, married a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, who brought her beloved Chinese tea chest with her to her new homeland as part of her dowry. She was soon serving tea to her friends at court, and word quickly spread of the delicious royal beverage. For centuries, tea was a prize of only the upper classes, as they were the only ones who could afford to drink it.

Learn how to brew the perfect cup here!

Tea Around the World: The Modern Era

Tea has inspired wars to be fought and colonial properties to be lost (the most well-known both being British losses: the American colonies during the American Revolutionary War and The East India Company in India). The Opium Wars were not about opium, they were about tea (and how well the Chinese fooled the British by using opium to get their tea practically for free). It has, thanks to commercial trade, become a drink that regular working class people can enjoy, as well as the British Royal Family. In America, during the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, a group of tea producers were putting on a special exhibition of their wares when it was quickly discovered that nobody was interested in a hot beverage on a remarkably hot summer day. The man who was supervising the booth started pouring the tea over ice packed into glasses, and iced tea was born. Now, the US drinks almost 50 billion glasses of iced tea per year. Tea bags were also born in America. Tea is a staple beverage in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Tibet, India, Russia, Europe and North America.  

In China, you can attend the Shanghai Tea Institute and work towards your Tea Art certificate. Some of the qualifications required to earn this certificate include performing a flawless tea ceremony, playing the traditional Guzheng stringed instrument, speaking a foreign language to entertain overseas guests, and distinguishing between roughly 1,000 different types of Chinese whole leaf loose tea. To date, fewer than 75 students have been able to gain their Tea Art certification. If you’re serious about brewing your tea, you may find our Brewing Guide helpful.

In America, more and more hot tea is consumed regularly as more and more Americans recognize the health benefits of this extraordinary beverage. You can try delicious whole leaf tea in scores of different varieties at Everything Tea, including black, green, oolong, rooibos, white, herbal, in a variety of delightful flavors or in pure tea form, if that is your preference. You can find all of the ingredients in our whole leaf loose tea on our Shop page, where you can also find a variety of sweeteners, tea-specific drinkware, and other tea accessories. We hope you’ll find your new favorite at Everything Tea.

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