CHINESE TEA HISTORY
Tea has a fascinating history, and although
it’s origin can be traced to China, today tea is a part
of every household in many different cultures.
For many in the Chinese culture, tea is
one of the seven necessities to begin each day.
The earliest information about tea lies
in a old folk stories. Legend has it that the God of Agriculture
‘GoA’ discover Tea. In GoA’s Book of Herbs it’s stated
that GoA himself personally tasted hundreds of herbs to
discover their properties. In his endeavours of tasting
he was hit by 72 poisons contained in the different plants
which he cured by using tea leaves as the tea leaves neutralized
all the poisons.
That is probably why for thousands of
years Tea was considered a medicine and not a beverage.
In some Chinese tea history resources,
it is said that tea has been in existence for approximately
Historically, tea is thought to have started
in the year 2737 BC with the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung
having a few leaves from a tree drift into his mug of
boiling water, which he was advised to drink as it helps
Before the 8th century B.C., tea was used
primarily as a medicine. Chinese tea history books noted
that during the Chun Qiu Period (476 BC – 770 BC), the
Chinese people chewed tea-leaves.
From the 8th century onwards, the Chinese
started to realized that the tea can be used in foods
and as a beverage.
Therefore it was used as an herb and cooked
and eaten with soup. It was also used as a spice and blended
with other spices in food preparation.
During the Qin, Han Dynasty (221 BC –
8 AD), simple processing of Chinese tea began. At this
point in history tea leaves were pressed into ball shapes,
dried and stored. After this process the stored tea is
crushed and mixed with green onion, ginger and other spices
for various beverage recipes. In fact it is at this time
when Chinese tea was transformed from a medicine into
In this same time Chinese tea began to
be used as a treat for special guests, a luxury to offer
visitors and those of high standing within society. That
is why tea was first of all considered to be a beverage
for the aristocracy and those who could afford such luxuries
During the Jin Dynasty and Nan Bei Zhao
(265 AD – 589 AD), Chinese tea became a common beverage
available to all people.
Around 552 AD - Buddhist monks are believed
to have brought tea for drinking as well as seeds of the
Camellia Sinesis (the tea tree) to Japan, so that they
too could have and grow their own tea.
700 AD / 800 AD - The Japanese were said
to have perfected their tea processes and tea ceremony
using the Cha Ching (The Book of Tea) written by Chinese
scholar, Lu Yu,
As history progressed on to the Tang Dynasty
(618 AD – 907 AD), tea trading had become extremely busy.
Many famous teas were developed both before and by the
In early 1667 AD Tea Reaches England
1700 AD tea is still new and rare in England.
The King of England, Charles II places an extremely high
tax on tea, making it inaccessible to the masses and a
luxury that the upper classes alone can afford.
1773- The Boston Tea Rebellion/ The Boston
Tea Party takes place, leading to American Independence.
1784 The tax on tea is reduced causing
much of the tea smuggling trade to vanish nearly overnight
as it ceases to be a lucrative trade.
1790 England become the centre of Tea
variates and center of the world tea trade.
1800 Tea is available to nearly every
city in the world.
We touched on Tea History but what about Wulong/Oolong
Wulong or Oolong Tea means literally 'Black
Dragon' Tea. Although tradition says it had nothing to
do with dragons but with the name of the person discovering
it called Wu Liang. I will touch on this story in a moment
but before I do that I want to clarify a common misconception
about the difference in the terms Wulong and Oolong.
Often times I found that people are confused
between Wulong Tea or Oolong Tea. The fact is that both
names or titles refer to the same type of Tea. The only
difference possibly being the type of processing and treatment
of the tea leaves and fermentation.
“Wulong/Oolong” are a Chinese words, and
since the Chinese language uses characters which represent
entire syllables each character is morphemo-syllabic.
Words spelled in western terms appear different.
The spelling "wulong" or "oolong"
is a phonetic transcription of how the word would sound
if spoken in Chinese Mandarin by Romanizing the sound.
Romanization is the process of transcribing the sounds
of spoken Chinese with letters from the Roman alphabet
The Chinese characters for wulong tea
or oolong tea are these:
Now here is where the confusion starts,
as the first character is pronounced "oo" or
The second character is pronounced "long"
The third character (tea) is pronounced "cha".
Therefore depending on the pronunciation
you will have either "wulong" or "oolong".
So, back to our friend Wu Liang and the
start of the Wu Long.
One day Wu Liang was going about his every
day activities and went out a collect some wood for the
fire and gather some tea leaves for the day.
After having collected enough wood for
the day and a good amount of tea, his attention was caught
by a deer, and of course Wu Liang being an hunter as well
decided that some meat would make his wife very happy.
He was successful and brought the dear
home, but he was so busy preparing the deer for the dinner
that he forgot completely to dry the tea. The tea was
left in the tea bag in which he collected it in the shed
where he stored the wood.
They had some tea that his wife had previously
prepared. Because of this the tea was forgotten in the
wood shed for a few days until Wu Liang's wife requested
more wood to be brought inside.
By the time he remembered the tea had
started to change colour. Although he was worried that
the tea might have gone bad, he didn't want to throw it
away. Collecting tea leaves was a chore that required
a bit of time and his wife wanted the tea for lunch.
When he finished the process and tea was
ready he found that the Tea he just prepared smelled and
tasted completely different. It was a new taste full of
fantastic flavour. This new Tea was intense, aromatic
in flavour and unlike anything he had ever tasted before.
His discovery was such a success that
the rest is history! Soon after Wu-Liang's tea was known
throughout the province and then throughout all of China.
Wulongs/Oolongs tea grew extremely fast
and new varieties in taste were growing just as fast as
the tea trees themselves. Many of these varieties had
a character and depth that was not always present in other
types of tea and was further successfully developed.
Eventually it became known as Wu-Long
Cha (tea), or the Black Dragon Tea as it is most commonly
black in colour.
STEP 1: Pour hot water in to a teapot
or cup. The teapot or cup should be made out of a clay
The hot water will heat the clay, when
you pour in the next measurement of boiling water the
first amount of hot water has already warm the pot or
STEP 2: Pour out the water you first used
to heat the tea pot or cup.
STEP 3: Prepare the amount of tea you
want to drink. Normally one spoonful of tea per 8oz cup,
however this may vary depending on the tastes of the person
drinking or preparing the tea.
STEP 4: Pour boiling water over the Tea.
This allows the fragrance and the full, intense flavour
to be realized more efficiently and fully. For the best
tasting tea use bottled or filtered water.
STEP 5: Allow the tea to rest or steep
for about 5 to 8 minutes. Be sure to cover the tea while
steeping to prevent evaporation of the flavour.