It is believed that Chinese people have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Di, one of three rulers in ancient times, tried many different types of herbs in search of medicinal cures.
One day, as he was dying from being poisoned by an herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and saved his life. True, this is a legend, but one thing that is backed up by research is that tea does possess powerful health benefits that prevent or relieve several serious health issues.
During the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was regularly used as a religious offering. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea’s refreshing effect had made it a favorite among the monks during Za-Zen meditation.
During the Tang Dynasty tea prospered as a common beverage, at which point tea shops became very popular. It was during this time that a major turning point in tea culture happened, the completion of the book Tea Classics, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu.
This book details the rules concerning various aspects of tea drinking, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing and tasting of tea, the history of Chinese tea and quotations from other records, comments on tea from various places and notes on what occasions tea wares should be included and when some wares can be omitted.
Reflecting the cultural style of the Song Dynasty, tea culture, during this period, was delicate and sumptuous. New skills were learned to create several different ways to enjoy tea. The Ming Dynasty laid the foundation for the tea processing, types of teas and different styles of enjoying tea that we have inherited today.
The Qing Dynasty brought the addition of folk art to tea shops, making them popular entertainment centers. This tradition is still being practiced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
In 1610, tea and all of the practices and traditions made their debut in Europe via a Dutch merchant ship, and as they say, the rest is history. As expected, tea drinking successfully caught on and became just as popular as it was in China.
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