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TRAVEL through time with tea

Posted On April 30,2017



Under an old rosewood tree in one breezy morning with a cup of hot tea, this moment brought me back to an idea of tea hunting adventure trip in China. Before the trip, by serendipity, a book called “The story of tea” came to me. Page after page, it is fascinating about how Chinese culture back then was so rich and full of interactions. Just through a cup of tea you are drinking today can lead us back more than 4,260 years ago.

Tree tea was first discovered in Yunnan, the south of China in the pre-historic period.

In  the first dynasty of China, Shang dynasty around 1,700 B.C., tea was used as part of herbal medicine. Till mid Zhou Dynasty, when Confucius, Tao and Buddhism were prominent, tea was a wake-up tool for mediation and mindfulness on their teachings. Tea, therefore, is an element often found in poetry and paintings as as symbol of a peaceful stage of mind.

Play about Qin Shihuangdi (The First August Emperor)

Tea was presented for royalties as a drink during Qin Shi Emperor of Qin Dynasty who marks the most significant event in the formation of China. The China great war was built during this time as well. As a country, varieties of cultures and knowledge from different tribes were mingled and traded as well as a simple yet important way of life, food and drinks. However, tea was still limited to only in the palace at that time.

Map of Tang Dynasty

Hann dynasty was actually a tipping point of tea because the empire took over a western territory which today is Yunnan and Sechuan. Tea business was done more freely, then. Thus, tea was no longer only for the royalites. The most prosperous time of tea was actually during Tang dynasty because many traces and influences of today’s tea were found during this famous/artictic/peacuful dynasty. During no-war time, a rise of art and cultures took place. Creation and life savoring art colored the society. Economic status was formed and,funnily, tea was used in this social status in the form of how creatively it was served. Lu Yu, the father of tea was born at this period as well.

Yuan Emperors

Entering Yuan dynasty, it is another interesting part of tea life. Yuan dynasty was the empire of China led by Kunlai Khan, who originally a Mongolian leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. The mongols ruled territories including today’s north China for decades before winning over the previous dynasty. The foreign culture of drinking horse milk was mixed into tea, especially black tea.

Qing dynasty had put the tea as a race detector. Tea was named into 2 types; Hann tea AND Manchu tea. Hann tea is clear and was drunk by Hann, the original race of Chinese, while Manchu tea is a black milk tea that got influenced by the Mongols. The west from Europe entered China to trade at this time as well. Although Portuguese is the first country that started, Dutch is the one who brought this tea culture back to Europe. Black milk tea or Manchu tea was the pick. That’s why, as you can see today, tea with milk is the general option for tea time in Europe.

After that tea was one of the trading commodities throughout Europe, and it is also one of the causes that led to the Opium war and many circumstances that westerners come to take over the weak. This ended with the loss of HONGKONG by the Nanjing treaty.

Tea in your cup can be classified into 6 types during Ming dynasty; white, yellow, green, blue (oolong), red and black. Today, ancestor of tea leaves in your cup had traveled to all over the world and passed many important historic situations.

This is how the serendipity of the book brought to me and here to you. I hope you enjoy your moment in everyday’s life.


Story by Madee Lertkachonsuk

References :

1. The story of tea By Mary Lou Heiss และ Robert J. Heiss

2.The brief history of Tea by Roy Moxham

3.The Way of Tea โดย Aaron Fisher