Emperor Shennong and the Origin of Tea

Whether you drink it in a travel mug, or sip it from a dainty daisy-adorned ceramic cup, tea is a beverage that has ancient – and sterile – roots.

More than 5,000 years ago, people in ancient China became enthralled with the refreshing liquid that came about from Emperor Shennong. He dictated that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. Germaphobes rejoice!

The boiled water became tea when one summer day, a leaf from a nearby bush fell into the water, creating a diffused brown liquid. The emperor drank the substance, finding it refreshing, and the love of tea spread through the Chinese culture.

A man named Lu Yu wrote the first definitive book on tea, ironically titled the Ch’a Ching. Was this just coincidence? Or perhaps this man saw the great fortune that would be made from the cultivation and trading of tea. The man was patronized by the emperor and codified different methods of tea cultivation and preparation.

Today, there are thousands of varieties of tea; however, these types fall into four different categories. Teas are either, Black, Green, Oolong or White and come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which was first cultivated in China, and was also found in India. The differences lie in the methods used, such as oxidization and drying. Black tea undergoes the most processing, and White tea is the least processed.