Interesting facts

History of tea

A legend says that tea was discovered by chance and invented by the Chinese Emperor Chen-Nung. As he tried to cool himself in the shade one scorchingly hot summer day in 2374 B.C., the summer breeze wafted some leaves from the nearest bush into boiled water.The Emperor only noticed this when the intoxicating scent of the magical concoction reached him when he lifted the cup closer to his mouth. So a new drink was born that has since been invigorating and healing both the old and young, the rich and the poor. In a great many places it also strongly influenced the political and cultural goings on. While in Turkey and Europe new ideas were born in coffee shops, the Chinese revolution was concocted in a room of a Shanghai teahouse.

Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism in the Chinese files from the first century B.C. described tea as an elixir of immortality. During the time of the great Ming dynasty the drinking of tea developed into a true ritual symbolising poetry and beauty as well as power and determination. A cup of tea became the mirror of the soul. In the beginning of the 9th century this habit also spread to Japan where a strictly prescribed ritual of drinking the drink of immortality was elevated to poetic heights and developed into an expression of the art of living itself.

In China during the rule of the Emperors, tea was plucked by young virgins that were every day freshly donned, scented and wearing gloves, in total silence.

The offered tea cup in the Arab world is even now a non-intrusive expression of hospitality for a visitor from the humblest of tents to the grandest marble palaces. It is drunk hot, sitting on the floor with crossed legs, in respectful silence. In Morocco, a very sweet tea that is traditionally drunk at every meal is always prepared by the master or his son, never by a servant or woman. Very hot tea is poured from great height and the crystal sounds of pouring the flavoured drink into glasses would resound in the ears of Allah as thanks for the gift of food.

The Western civilisation had not come across tea until the 17th century when the first ship bearing a load of fragrant tea leaves sailed to Europe from Macao. In France, the tea was considered as a drink of those who did not get involved in physical labour – of intellectuals, rich people and mostly mademoiselles that weaved the ritual of tea drinking with threads of sliver, lace tablecloths, elegant morsels of pastry and gesture of holding up a pinky when tilting the porcelain cup. By all means, the greatest passion for drinking tea in Europe is associated with the British morning and obligatory afternoon ritual with cakes and sandwiches; almost any joyous or sombre social occasion calls for a “nice cup of tea”. According to traditional British rules, milk is the first thing to go into a tea cup (or very rarely a lemon). This is followed by tea and then sugar. The mixture prepared in this way is not drank in big gulps but rather delicately sipped on.

In Slovenia, drinking tea is mainly associated with folk medicine that has a strong tradition in our region. Slovenian folk medicine uses around 500 medicinal plants and regardless of the dominance of scientific medicine with the use of synthetic drugs, everyone almost inherently knows what camomile, sage and hawthorn are used for. Tea with honey and lemon is a classic aid in preventing all types of colds and coughs.

Today we drink an incredible 14 thousand cups of tea worldwide each second. Although drinking tea is indelibly woven into tradition and social rituals of many nations, the scientific articles reverberate strongly with the “re-discovered” healing effects of certain plants.