The history of tea – Shunan Teng

During a long day spent roaming the forest
in search of edible grains and herbs, the weary divine farmer Shennong
accidentally poisoned himself 72 times. But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it revived him, and that is how we discovered tea. Or so an ancient legend goes at least. Tea doesn’t actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor
of agriculture, highlights tea’s importance
to ancient China. Archaeological evidence suggests tea
was first cultivated there as early as 6,000 years ago, or 1,500 years before the pharaohs built
the Great Pyramids of Giza. That original Chinese tea plant is the same type that’s grown
around the world today, yet it was originally consumed
very differently. It was eaten as a vegetable
or cooked with grain porridge. Tea only shifted from food
to drink 1,500 years ago when people realized that a combination
of heat and moisture could create a complex and varied taste
out of the leafy green. After hundreds of years of variations
to the preparation method, the standard became to heat tea, pack it into portable cakes, grind it into powder, mix with hot water, and create a beverage
called muo cha, or matcha. Matcha became so popular that a distinct
Chinese tea culture emerged. Tea was the subject of books and poetry, the favorite drink of emperors, and a medium for artists. They would draw extravagant pictures
in the foam of the tea, very much like the espresso art
you might see in coffee shops today. In the 9th century
during the Tang Dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first
tea plant to Japan. The Japanese eventually developed
their own unique rituals around tea, leading to the creation
of the Japanese tea ceremony. And in the 14th century
during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese emperor
shifted the standard from tea pressed into cakes
to loose leaf tea. At that point, China still held a
virtual monopoly on the world’s tea trees, making tea one of three
essential Chinese export goods, along with porcelain and silk. This gave China a great deal of power
and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world. That spread began in earnest
around the early 1600s when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe
in large quantities. Many credit Queen Catherine of Braganza,
a Portuguese noble woman, for making tea popular with
the English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661. At the time, Great Britain was in the
midst of expanding its colonial influence and becoming the new dominant world power. And as Great Britain grew,
interest in tea spread around the world. By 1700, tea in Europe sold for ten times
the price of coffee and the plant was still
only grown in China. The tea trade was so lucrative that the world’s fastest sailboat,
the clipper ship, was born out of intense competition
between Western trading companies. All were racing to bring their tea
back to Europe first to maximize their profits. At first, Britain paid
for all this Chinese tea with silver. When that proved too expensive, they suggested trading tea
for another substance, opium. This triggered a public health problem
within China as people became addicted to the drug. Then in 1839, a Chinese official
ordered his men to destroy massive
British shipments of opium as a statement against
Britain’s influence over China. This act triggered the First Opium War
between the two nations. Fighting raged up and down
the Chinese coast until 1842 when the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded
the port of Hong Kong to the British and resumed trading on unfavorable terms. The war weakened China’s global standing
for over a century. The British East India company also
wanted to be able to grow tea themselves and further control the market. So they commissioned
botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China
in a covert operation. He disguised himself
and took a perilous journey through China’s mountainous tea regions, eventually smuggling tea trees
and experienced tea workers into Darjeeling, India. From there,
the plant spread further still, helping drive tea’s rapid growth
as an everyday commodity. Today, tea is the second most consumed
beverage in the world after water, and from sugary Turkish Rize tea, to salty Tibetan butter tea, there are almost as many ways
of preparing the beverage as there are cultures on the globe.

100 thoughts on “The history of tea – Shunan Teng

  1. Wait…The British ¨suggested opium?¨ WOW! This can't even be considered an understatement, but down right misleading alternative fact!

  2. China: boils water
    Britain: yes, and…
    China: puts in leaf

  3. British didn't invent tea!?!!??? What is this nonsense

    Wonder if people get its a joke also I'm not British

  4. Poisoned 72 times boi how tho do u poison ur self 72 times without noing

  5. I know it is just a myth, but how in the world would anyone manage to be able to poison themselves 72 times?! Even worse, they don't even die!!

  6. Tea plant was not stolen from China to grow them in India, tea were already there in northeastern jungles of India. But it was discovered very late buy a Chinese trader who visited those jungles, then only people around there started producing tea.

  7. The West stole from China in the past – now the tables have turned.

  8. 0:05–0:23 This guy goes foraging for food and eats a bunch of strange plants, he gets sick and his solution is to eat another strange plant? Whaaat?

  9. the two Opium Wars are the most depressing Chinese history I have ever read.

  10. So here’s the tea:

    China found tea

    Britain took it.

    (It’s what it think happened?)

  11. China invents tea and huawei is china based
    Britan and America: KILL

  12. So why did tea only found in China? Any video/article explaining this?

  13. TedEd: makes an interesting video about how tea became the drink it is known today.

    Comment Section: so we should start fighting about it?

  14. I can't help but feel responsible for the whole trade problem and eventual tea theft since it was a Portuguese Lady who introduced tea to the British 😅😅😅

  15. Accidently… but 72 times. That's called a suicide attempt right there

  16. Back in The Day People Be Stealing From China

    But Look who's Laughing Now?

  17. So hyped…

  18. Day 32 : peanut is still lost in youtube… what will he do? Where will he go? IDK HELP ME IM LOST

  19. I could smell the scent of green tea from just watching this video.

  20. If anyone is interested in a more in-depth history, I suggest the book "For All the Tea in China," by Sarah Rose. A lot of the info in the video definitely matches up with the book. And despite be a historical non-fiction it's actually a very exciting and enjoyable read. *sips tea*

  21. I knew it! Opium wars. Sadly my teacher had not discussed it in my AP class… 🙁

  22. Whenever I watch samurai jack in the evening I make myself a green tea and I watch it

  23. When i first game to the UK i was shocked that the British put milk and sugar in their tea.

  24. So, why did people thought everything that "made in China" is low quality? Think again!

  25. 国不可一日无君,君不可一日无茶。
    A nation can't be without a lord for 1 day. A lord can't be without tea for 1 day.

  26. The best way is the American way, in the harbour, let simmer, enjoy

  27. moral of the story, if you see a brit
    kill them before they steal your goods

  28. There is missing information in this video.
    The reason the Chinese accepted opium for silver in the first place was because they already had a large market of addicts for it. The Chinese threw the large quantity of captured opium only after (many years later) they had outlawed it (and murdered many Chinese opium shopkeepers in the process). This was the catalyst for the Opium war which effectively led the British to capture parts of China. Only then was Opium legalized.

  29. China: Do You Want Some Water?
    U.K: Nah.
    China: What If We Put A Leaf In It?

  30. So… I’m here drinking my green tea and I’m British


  31. in Iraq, if you don't start your day with tea you will be in bad mod all day 😹

  32. I know this comment will receive backlash but I have to say it:
    Tea is better than coffee! ❤️🍵☕

  33. It's a top secret in old Great Britain that they stole tea from the Orient, and it's a taboo topic to talk about. That's why whenever two people are talking quietly, people assume that they're talking about it, so they ask them "Are you talking about the tea?" Later on, they associated it with secrets, scandals, shenanigans, and other taboo issues, that, whenever they ask about it, they'll say "What's the tea?"

  34. 壽星⭐鐵觀音 茶葉 for HK$65 on #carousell

  35. I am an Indian and I know that the British people was ruling on India , thanks for the freedom fighters of India ,we got freedom

  36. Northeast Afghanistan ( pamir region ) drinks salty tea.
    Most afghans enjoy green tea with nuts and dried fruits

  37. I am afghan and we drink a lot of tea.
    For me around 10 cups.
    I add some high quality Afghan saffron and Indian cardamom

  38. Wierd youtube ! Recommending this while I'v just started drinking my 1st cup of tea for the night!

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