Tea World

Lesson 28

Early-upto 16th Century

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2737B.C – A Chinese legend credits the discovery of tea to the legendary emperor Shen Nung about the time of the Biblical Adam. The second emperor of China, Shen Nung, discovers tea when tea leaves blow into his cup of hot water or so the story goes.

25-221-Another Chinese legend says the first tea plants were brought to China by Gan Lu, a Buddhist monk, in the Later-Han dynasty.

221-265-Tea is discovered in the After Han dynasty, according to a fable in Ch’a pu, written in Ming dynasty.

 350- (i) Tea plants from the Yunnan Province in China are planted along the Yangtze river in the Scechwan Province. The cultivation of tea begins (ii)Kuo Po published the earliest reliable description of the tea plant and manner of making the beverage. (iii) A Chinese dictionary cites tea for the first time as ‘Erh Ya’. The Erh Ya a dictionary of ancient Chinese origin annotated by scholar Kuo P'o, defines tea as beverage made of boiling leaves from a plant "as small as a gardenia, sending forth its leaves even in winter. What is plucked early is called t'u and what is plucked later is called ming (bitter tea)."

400-600 - Demand for tea as a medicinal beverage rises in China and cultivation processes are developed. Many tea drinkers add onion, ginger, spices, or orange to their teas.

400 – Tea is called as ‘Kuang Ya’ in the Chinese dictionary, tea and the detailed infusion and preparation steps are defined.

479 - Turkish traders bargain for tea on the border of Mongolia.

500-Tea is more generally used in China, principally as a medicine.

589-Tea is first used as social beverage at the beginning of the Sul dynasty.

593 - Buddhism and tea, journey from China to Japan. Japanese priests studying in China carried tea seeds and leaves back.

618-907 - Tea becomes a popular drink in the T’ang dynasty in China, for both its flavour and medicinal qualities.

648-749 - Japanese monk Gyoki plants the tea bushes in 49 Buddhist temple gardens. Tea in Japan is rare and expensive, enjoyed mostly by high priests and the aristocracy.

725 - The Chinese give tea its own character ‘cha’.

727-The Japanese Emperor Shomu receives a gift of China tea from a visiting T'ang court emissary.

729 - The Japanese emperor serves powdered tea to Buddhist priests.The Emperor Shomu serves Chinese tea to visiting monks. The monks are inspired by the tea and decide to grow it in Japan. The monk Gyoki dedicates his entire life to the cultivation of tea in Japan, during which time he built 49 temples, each with a tea garden.


780 - First tea tax imposed in China due to its popularity . Chinese poet and scholar Lu Yu writes the first book of tea titled ‘Ch’a Ching’ (The Classic of Tea) in timely alignment with the Taoist beliefs. The book covers detailed ancient Chinese tea cultivation and preparation techniques.

794- Japanese monks plant tea bushes in Kyoto's Imperial gardens.

805 - Buddhism and tea devotion spreads further. The Japanese Buddhist Saint and priest Saicho and monk Kobo Daishi bring tea seeds and cultivation and manufacturing tips back from China and plant gardens in the Japanese temples.

815- The Japanese Emperor Saga orders for tea cultivation in five provinces near the capital.

850- The first report of tea published outside China in the “Account of tea by two Arabian Travellers” written in Arabic by Soliman.

900-Japan is again influenced by Chinese culture, when Japanese scholars return from a visit to China bearing tea.

907-923- The use of tea in China spreads to lower classes.

951- The tea beverage is used to combat the plague in Japan.

960-1280 – (i) Chinese tea drinking is on the rise, as are elegant teahouses and teacups carefully crafted from porcelain and pottery. Drinking powdered and frothed tea or tea scented with flowers is widespread in China. (ii) Zen Buddhism catches on in Japan through China and along come tea-drinking temple rituals.

1101-1125 - Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung becomes tea obsessed and writes about the best tea-whisking methods and holds tea-tasting tournaments in the court. While “tea minded,” he does not notice the Mongol take-over of his empire. Teahouses in garden settings pop up around China.

1191 - Japanese Buddhist abbot Eisai, who introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan, brings tea seeds from China and plants them around his Kyoto temple.

1206-1368 - During the Mongol take-over of China, tea becomes a common place beverage buy never regains its high social status.

1211 - Japanese Buddhist Abbot Eisai writes the first Japanese tea book ‘KitchaYojoki’

1280 - Mongolia takes over of China and since the Emperor of Mongol is not a “tea guy,” tea drinking dies down in the courts and among the aristocracy. The masses continue to indulge.

1361-1628- The process of green tea manufacture is invented in China during Ming Dynasty.

1368-1644 - At the fall of the Mongol take-over, all teas - green, black, and oolong - is easily found in China. The process of steeping whole tea leaves in cups or teapots becomes popular.

1400’s- Tea drinking becomes prevalent among the masses in Japan.

1422-1502 - The Japanese Tea Ceremony emerges on to the scene. First created by a Zen priest named Murata Shuko, the ceremony is called ‘Cha-no-yu’, literally meaning "hot water tea" and celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life. Tea’s status elevates to an art form and almost a religion.

1474-The retired Japanese Shogun Yoshimasa becomes the patron of the Tea Ceremony and of Shuko, its first high priest.

1477- The Japanese Shogun Ashikaga-Yoshimasa builds the first tea room at his palace in Kyoto. He employs the Buddhist priest Shuko to develop a ceremony around the service of tea. The practice and etiquette of "chanoyu" ("hot water tea") is born.

1484 - Japan's Shogun Yoshimasa encourages tea ceremonies, painting, and drama.

1521-1591-   Sen Rikyu, known as the "father of tea" in Japan, codifies the tea ceremony

1559- Giambatista Ramusio, Venice, Publishes the first notice of tea in Europe.

1589 - Europeans learn about tea when a Venetian author credits the lengthy lives of Asians to their tea drinking.

1597 - Tea is mentioned for the first time in an English translation of Dutch navigator Jan Hugo Van Linschooten's travels, in which he refers to tea as ‘chaa’.

End of 1500’s - Japanese tea master Sen-No Rikyu opens the first independent teahouse and evolves the tea ceremony into its current simple and aesthetic ritual. During this ceremony, one takes a garden path into a portico, enters upon hearing the host’s gong, washes in a special room, and then enters a small tearoom that holds a painting or flower arrangement to gaze upon. The tea master uses special utensils to whisk the intense powdered tea. Tea drinkers enjoy the art or flowers and then smell and slurp from a shared tea bowl. Europeans hear about tea again when Portuguese priests spreading Roman Catholicism through China taste tea and write about its medicinal and taste benefits.

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