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.