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HISTORY OF TEA

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The history of teas follows closely the path of world explorers, throughout Asia, along the Silk Road, up Great Britain and over to America.

While a cup of tea may seem like a simple pleasure, it contains so much history. Each leaf is imbued with centuries of tradition, culture, politics and geography of its place of origin.

After the 2737 B.C. discovery of tea in China, the Chinese developed ways to farm tea, rather than harvesting it from wild trees.

Over time, the Turks began bartering for tea on the Asian border and the Chinese began trading with India and Russia, as well. Around 805 A.D., Buddhist monk Saicho brought tea seeds to Japan from China. 

As tea grew in popularity throughout Asia, ceremonies for drinking it were developed and beautiful ceramic tea accessories, like cups and pots, were made, too.

In the 1660s, Europe was ready to explore the world. The Dutch were the first Europeans to bring tea back to Western Europe, in exchange for dried sage and the European Tea craze was underway. By 1657, tea was being served in London's coffee houses. A few years later, the marriage of Charles II and Catherine Braganza of Portugal created a fashion for drinking tea in Europe, since they both loved it; alcoholic beverages fell from favor.

By 1705, Britain imported approximately 800,000 pounds of tea—up from 150 pounds in 1669. Wealthy American colonists began to develop a taste for tea as well. In 1773, Americans participated in the Boston Tea Party, in protest of the high taxes that England levied on tea. Under cover of night, colonists, dressed as Native Americans, boarded East India Company ships in Boston Harbor. By opening chests of tea and dumping the contents into the water, the American fight for freedom began.

In 1869, the Suez Canal opened, which made the tea trade much quicker.

Tea, an Asian plant, and a beverage often associated with the British, actually had a lot of help from Americans. In 1904, Richard Blechynden created iced tea for the world's fair in St. Louis. A few years later, Thomas Sullivan inadvertently invented the tea bag in New York. He sent tea in silk bags to clients, who steeped it without opening the bags.    

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