Tea Origins & Trivia

All About Tea: Fun Trivia and Some Interesting History Of Tea

Tea  Origins Time Line

2737 B.C.

According to legend, the second emperor of China, Shen Nung, discovers tea when tea leaves blow into his boiling water.

A.D. 350

A Chinese dictionary cites tea for the first time as Erh Ya.


Demand for tea as a medicinal drink rises in China. It is cultivated and processed.


Turkish traders begin to trade for tea from Mongolia.


Japanese priests studying in China carry tea seeds and leaves back to Japan. It is rare and expensive and is consumed mostly by high priests and the aristocracy.


The Chinese give tea its own character, ch’a.


The first book of tea, titled Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea), is written. It discusses ancient tea cultivation and preparation techniques.


After the Mongols take over China, tea loses its aristocratic status in the courts and becomes more popular among the masses.


After the fall of the Ming Dynasty with the Mongol takeover, all teas (black, green, and oolong) are easily accessible in China. Steeping whole tea leaves in cups or teapots becomes more popular.


Zen priest Murata Shuko creates the Japanese tea ceremony and calls it cha-no-yu (hot water tea). It celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life. Tea becomes more than just an art form and almost a religion.


Europeans are exposed to tea when a Venetian author says that Asians live so long because they drink tea.


Tea appears for the first time in an English translation of Dutch explorer Jan Hugo van Linschoten’s papers. He refers to tea as chaa.


The Dutch bring back green tea from Japan (though some scholars say it was actually from China). The Dutch East India Company markets tea as a medicinal drink, though only the very rich can afford it.


Chinese ambassadors present the Russian Czar Alexis with chests of tea. He refuses it as being useless.


The first tea is sold in London, England, at Garraway’s Coffee House as a health beverage.


England’s King Charles II’s new bride, Catherine Braganza of Portugal, is an avid tea drinker and helps make tea more popular and accessible.


The first tea is sold publicly in Massachusetts.


Tom’s Coffee House creates the first teashop called the Golden Lyon. Both women and men attend the shop.


In what is known as the “Boston Tea Party,” a group of Massachusetts colonists dumped several hundred chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes on tea.


Anna the Duchess of Bedford introduces afternoon tea.


Tea is planted in and around Darjeeling, India.


Thomas Johnstone Lipton opens his first shop in Glasgow, Scotland.


Englishman Richard Blechynden invents iced tea during a heat wave at the St. Louis World’s Fair.


New Yorker Thomas Sullivan invents tea bags when he sends tea to clients in small silk bags and they mistakenly steep the whole bag.



There is an estimated 1,500 different types of tea.

  1. There are two different words for tea: te-derived (Min, a historical Chinese language) and cha-derived (Cantonese and Mandarin). The word a specific country uses for tea reveals where the country first acquired its tea.k
  2. Tea is the national drink in Iran and Afghanistan. Green tea is consumed as a thirst quencher, and black tea as a warming beverage. Both of them are prepared with lots of sugars.i
  3. Russians started drinking tea in the 17th century, but because of its high price, it did not become widely popular until the beginning of the 19th century. Tea in Russia has historically been prepared in a samovar, a heated metal container. The samovar keeps tea hot for hours.k

The British drink about 165 million cups of tea a day

  1. The United Kingdom drinks about 165 million cups of tea a day, or 62 billion cups per year.k
  2. Britain is the second-largest nation of tea drinkers per capita. Ireland is the first.k
  3. In Morocco, it is the man’s job to pour the tea. He holds the long spouted pot high above the glass while pouring so that each glass of tea has a slightly frothy head to it.j
  4. China is the world’s largest producer of tea. In 2009, China produced 1,359,000 tonnes; India was second with 979,000 tonnes.k
  5. It is widely believed that iced tea was invented in 1904 at the St. Louis World Fair by Richard Blechynden, a British tea merchant. However, at least one late 19th century cookbook includes a recipe for iced tea.a
  6. An estimated 85% of tea that is consumed in the United States is iced tea.
    Over 519 million pounds of tea are imported into the United States each year.j
  7. Over 1.42 million pounds of tea are consumed in the U.S. every day.a
  8. The Lipton Tea Factory in Jebel Ali, Dubai, produces 5 billion tea bags a year.h
  9. In 2005, the total value of the worldwide tea market was over $20 billion.e
  10. Over 3 million tons of tea is produced every year worldwide.a

After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world

  1. Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water.
  2. Black tea undergoes the longest process of oxidation. White tea undergoes the shortest.
  3. Because tea absorbs moisture, it is important to store loose tea or tea bags in a tin or sealed jar.
  4. While in older times it was customary to pour the milk first into a tea cup as a way to protect the surface of the china, tea connoisseurs say that is not necessary now. Instead it is better to pour the milk in after the tea because it is easier to judge how much is needed.
  5. In 2011, Americans consumed over 65 billion servings of tea, which is approximately 3 billion gallons. An estimated 85% of all tea was black tea, 14% was green tea, and the rest was oolong and white teas.
  6. In the United States, the South and Northeast have the greatest concentration of tea drinkers.
  7. It takes around four to 12 years for a tea plant to produce seed. It takes about three years before a new plant is ready to harvest.
  8. Tea plants need at least 50 inches of rain a year.

Tea plants thrive in hot, humid climates with high rainfall

  1. Most of the world’s tea is grown in mountain areas 3,000-7,000 feet above sea level and between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Tea-producing countries include Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya Malawi, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
  2. Just the top 1 to 2 inches of a mature plant, or the flushes of the plant, are picked to make tea. A new flush grows within 7 to 15 days during growing season.
  3. A tea plant can grow into a tree that is as tall as 52 feet if its leaves are not harvested. Cultivated plants are usually pruned to waist height.
  4. There are 6 basic categories of tea: 1) white, 2) yellow, 3) green, 4) oolong, 5) black, 6) and post-fermented.
  5. Black tea is called “red tea” in China.
  6. The Ritz Carlton of Hong Kong has the world’s most expensive High Tea meal, at a price of $8,888 per couple.
  7. Boodles jewelers made a handcrafted diamond teabag worth $15,250. As the most expensive teabag in the world, it contains 280 diamonds and is being used to raise money for a children’s charity in Manchester, England.
  8. The most expensive tea in the world is a rare Chinese tea called Tieguanyin, which is around $1,500/lb. The tea is named after the Buddhist deity Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy). It is an oolong tea.
  9. Historically, tea has been viewed as a health drink. Recent studies suggest that tea, especially green tea, helps reduce some forms of cancer, helps bad breath, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces blood pressure, helps with weight control, kills bacteria and virus, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and has neuroprotective power.
  10. Over 65% of tea brewed in the United States was prepared using tea bags.

A Chinese emperor discovered tea in 2737 B.C.

  1. According to legend, tea was discovered in 2737 B.C. by Chinese Emperor Shen-Ning, known as the “Divine Healer.” Purportedly, he discovered the beverage when tea leaves accidentally blew into his pot of boiling water.
  2. The United States invented both the tea bag and iced tea in 1904. Many tea lovers consider the tea bag as one of the worst inventions of the 20th century. Tea brewed with loose tea is generally considered to be richer than tea made from bags.
  3. More than 200 cups of tea can be brewed from one pound of loose tea leaves.
  4. A cup of brewed tea usually contains less than half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. It’s also easy to decaffeinate loose tea at home by “rinsing” tea leaves. To rinse the leaves, begin brewing tea as usual and then remove the leaves after 20 seconds. Discard the brew and start again with fresh boiling water and the now-decaffeinated tea leaves.
  5. Famous songs about tea are “Tea for Two,” “No, No, Nanette,” and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea.
  6. One of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, the Duchess of Bedford, is usually credited with the idea of “English Afternoon Tea.” The British invented two kinds of afternoon tea: “Low tea,” or afternoon tea served on a low “tea table,” and “high tea,” which is served on a “high” dining room table.

Black tea is the world's most popular type of tea

  1. Black tea constitutes around 75% of the world’s tea consumption.
  2. Black tea is the most common tea beverage in the United States, the U.K., and Europe. Green tea is popular in Japan and China. Oolong and white tea are in general less popular.
  3. All tea is made from the leaf of the plant Camellia sinensis. The specific types of tea are made by processing the tea leaves differently.
  4. White tea is the least processed type of tea. The most “fussy” type of tea is oolong tea.
  5. In many parts of the world, tea is an important part of the day and an expression of hospitality.
  6. When tea is being poured in China, guests tap two or three fingers on the table three times to show gratitude to the server.
  7. Although tea arrived in England in 1657, it did not immediately become popular. First sold in coffee houses, tea was heavily taxed, illegally smuggled, altered, and fought over. It took many years for it to become a quintessential English drink.
  8. Tea was initially sold in coffee houses in England. Only men were allowed to enter coffee houses, which were full of smoke and noise. Finally, in 1717, the Twining family opened the Golden Lyon, a teashop that allowed women. The shop is still open today, and the Twinings company is a prominent English marketer of tea and one of the inspirations for Napa Kettle Teas
  9. At one time in the late 18th century, tea in Britain was predominantly imported through illegal methods. Smugglers would often mix tea (most often green tea) with other types of leaves and additives to increase their profits. Often these additives were poisonous. The British government intervened in 1785 and lowered taxes, which made tea more affordable and wiped out illegal smuggling activity.
  10. In 1884, the Aerated Bread Company turned one of their unused rooms into a tearoom. The idea was extremely popular. Tearooms gave a woman a proper place to gather outside the house without a male escort and keep her reputation intact.
  11. Although ready-to-drink teas and iced tea are increasing in popularity, they may not have the same polyphenol content as brewed hot tea, which has the highest polyphenol concentration.

Herbal tea has been infused with herbs, spices, or other plant material

  1. The term “herbal tea” means that the tea has been infused with herbs or fruit that was not part of the tea plant. Herbal tea includes rosehip and chamomile teas.
  2. Solid blocks of tea were used as money in Siberia until the 19th century.
  3. After the Boston Tea Party, tea declined in popularity in the United States. To this day, coffee remains more popular than tea.
  4. Marriage therapist Andrew G. Marshall suggests stopping in the middle of love-making to have tea and talk to each other. The idea is that sex, which used to last 15 minutes, can now last an hour and half and allows partners to share intimate moments.
  5. While 1,120 liters of water go into producing a single liter of coffee, only 120 liters go into making the same amount of tea. In fact, to produce one liter of tea takes less water than producing wine, apple juice, orange juice, or beer.
  6. Lipton is the world’s best-selling tea brand.
  7. South Carolina is the only state that has a major tea plantation. It produces the brand American Classic, which has been the official White House tea since 1987.a
  8. The tannic acid in black tea is said to help remove warts.
  9. Tea sets in the 18th century typically had numbered spoons to help the host remember which guest needed a refill.
  10. A 2009 study by the Department of Human Biology, Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute at Maastricht University in The Netherlands argues that the catechins in green tea help decrease body weight as well as maintaining body weight after weight loss.
  11. The tannins found in green tea have been found to help stop bleeding by coagulating the blood.

Unlike black and and oolong teas, green tea is minimally processed

  1. Green tea is full of antioxidants which, when added to water, can help boost the health of plants.
  2. If actors are required to drink whisky in a film or TV scene, they often are just drinking watered-down tea instead, which looks the same as whisky.
  3. The song “I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout” was written in 1939 by Tin Pan Ally songwriters Clarence Kelley and George Harry Sanders.
  4. Though the Eastern world has been using tea for more than 4,500, tea was introduced to the West only 400 years ago.
  5. The most expensive teapot in the world is a rare pair of “melon” teapots from 18th century China. They sold for $2.18 million. They had been owned by a Scottish collector who had them for 50 years but did not realize their value.



a 365 Things Every Tea Lover Should Know. 2008. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

b “The 50 Most Jaw-Dropping Luxury Purchases in the Past Year.” Business Insider. June 1, 2011. Accessed: April 29, 2013.

c Dodd, Celia. “Revealed: The Secret to an Enduring Sex Life—Cups of Tea.” The Independent. January 24, 2012.

d EcoSalon. “20 Unusual Uses for Green Tea.” Yahoo! Shine. August 7, 2012. Accessed: April 24, 2013.

e Guyer, Peter. “The Rapidly Growing Coffee and Tea Markets.” Athena Marketing International. October 2009. Accessed: April 29, 2013.

f “Interesting Tea Facts and Lore.” The Royal Tunbridge Wells and Tea Museum. Accessed: April 24, 2013.

g Jeremy. “Most Expensive Tea.” The Most Expensive Journal. August 1, 2007. Accessed: April 24, 2013.

h “Lipton.” Unilever. Accessed: April 24, 2013.

i Martin, Laura C. 2007. Tea: The Drink That Changed the World. Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing.

j Pettigrew, Jane. 1997. The Tea Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide. New York, NY: Macmillan.

k Richardson, Lisa Boalt. 2010. The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publisher.

l “Tea Fact Sheet.” The Tea Association of the U.S.A. 2013. Accessed” April 24, 2013.

m “Thirsty Work.” The Economist. February 25, 2009. Accessed: April 24, 2013.

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