The Amoy dialect word for tea is “te” and it was the pronunciation from foreign traders that the English word tea came from. The legend of the discovery of tea harkens back to 2737 B.C. by the father of Chinese medicine, Emperor Shen Nung. One day Shen Nung was resting under a wild tea tree when some or its leaves fell into the boiling water that he was preparing. He tasted it and felt refreshed and revitalized, realizing that the brew had medicinal powers. And so, tea was discovered.

During the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906), tea reached the height of fashion also referred to as the “golden age” of tea. Tea was no longer taken as a medicinal tonic but drunk for pleasure. It was this time that tea began to spread outside of China, first to Japan in A.D. 729, next to Korea and then to the Middle East.

Tea reached Europe in the early 17th century by Dutch and Portuguese traders. By the middle of the 17th century, drinking afternoon tea became a common habit for Dutch. In 1658, Thomas Garraway, a general merchant was the first to advertise the virtue of tea at his London coffee house. Tea-drinking in Britain took a lucky turn in 1662 when King Charles II married the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. She served her friends afternoon tea and very soon it became the talk of aristocratic drawing rooms across the capital. Ladies enjoyed tea at home, while gentlemen drank theirs in the coffee houses. The British adopted the Dutch habit of drinking afternoon tea since then.

In America, the reaction to tea was quite different especially after the famous incident known as The Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, a group of Americans dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships and threw all the teas overboard into the Boston Harbor in protest of an increased tea tax imposed by King George III. The Boston Tea Party ended America’s liking for both the British and their teas and signaled the beginning of America’s coffee-drinking tradition. This changed in 1908 when the “tea bag” concept was brought to the US by a New York tea trader, Thomas Sullivan. He filled small bags with tea and sent them out as samples to his customers and helped renew the country’s interest in tea.

Today, more teas are consumed around the world than any other beverage. Every nation has established tea traditions and there are many different kinds of teas to suit each individual and social taste. Not only are teas being enjoyed for their delightful taste, but as a fashionable social accessory.