China is often referred to as the “cradle of tea”, because we owe this marvellous drink to China! It is, indeed, in China, that tea emerged, as long ago as the 3rd millennium BC. The main tea produced in China is green tea! Let us discover the extraordinary History of Green Tea in China!
The tea tree, whose scientific name is “camelia sinensis”, was discovered in China under extraordinary circumstances! There was an Emperor called Chen Nung, who made this amazing discovery back in the year 2,737 BC. As the legend has it, the Emperor was very keen on a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, he was travelling around China, in research of different medicinal herbs. However, he came across tea practically by chance.
On a particularly hot day, the Emperor got very tired during his long journey, and decided to have a rest. He found a leafy tree, that would create a perfect shadow, and sat under it. Then he boiled some water (given that the Emperor lived very healthily, he would always boil water before drinking it), put the cup by his side… and fell asleep.
While he was sleeping, some leaves fell from the tree that was sheltering him, and a couple of leaves fell into his cup. When the emperor drank the water, he found it absolutely delicious. Thus began the history of green tea in China, as well as the long history of the world’s most exquisite drink: the tea!
However, the word “cha” meaning “tea” didn’t appear in the Chinese language until the Tang dynasty (years 618 – 907 AD). Before that the word used to describe the camelia sinensis was “tu” (meaning “a bitter plant”) or “mieng” (meaning “the bud”).
In the 8th century, a buddhist monk Lu Yu wrote a treaty on the subject of tea. He described in very precise details how to harvest, produce and taste tea. Since then tea became very popular with buddhist monks. They discovered that not only did tea taste good, but it also had a number of health benefits, such as keeping them awake during long hours of meditation.
At that time, tea was usually brewed in boiling water, then the Chinese would drink it and eat the tea leaves. It was considered very beneficial for one’s health.
History of Green Tea in China. New tea production techniques
Under the Song dynasty (years 960 – 1279) a new technique of tea production was discovered: tea leaves were crushed between two stones and the powder produced in this way was thrown into boiling water and mixed with a bamboo whisk. This technique is still used in Japan.
Under the Ming dynasty (years 1368 – 1644), the Chinese started brewing entire tea leaves. Thus different tea accessories, such as teapots, tea bowls, cups, etc, appeared in China.
It was roughly during this time that the Chinese started exporting tea in different other countries. It is also during the Ming dynasty that different types of tea, such as black tea, post-fermented tea, yellow tea, white tea and blue-green (oolong) tea were introduced.
Tea production techniques in China
Most of Chinese green teas come from the Anhui region. However the Long Ching tea is harvested in the Zhejiang region, and many other teas are produced in the Fujian region.
There is a long history of green tea in China. Therefore, the Chinese have created several production techniques for this miraculous drink. Then, judging by those techniques, they divided their green tea into 3 categories.
– The “gunpowder” tea, whose leaves are rolled in the shape of small balls.
– The “Chu Mee” tea (“Chun Mee” translates as “an old man’s eyebrow”), whose leaves are rolled in length
– The “Long Ching” tea (“Long Ching” translates as “the dragon’s wells”), whose leaves are dried in a frying pan, and afterwards they are folded in length.
China is the only country in the world that produces all types of tea, and every type of tea produced there has its long and interesting history. However, the history of green tea in China is particularly important to all tea addicts around the world, for several reasons.
Firstly, green tea is the most natural tea type, because its leaves are preserved in their natural state. Therefore, it is green tea that Emperor Chen Nung accidentally discovered back in the 3rd Millenium B.C., and it is definitely green tea that is the most popular tea type in China to this day.
China is one the world’s greatest producers and consumers of Green Tea. However, many other tea types are produced in China, such as Black Tea and White Tea. However, there is a country that produces ONLY Green Tea, and this tea type plays a crucial role in their culture too. The country in question is Japan, whose green tea is exquisite, and has a long and interesting history. Please refer to our article “Tea in Japan. History” to learn more about this.
To honour the history of green tea in China, as well as the traditions related to it, Bedford tea developed a vast collection of Loose Chinese Green Tea. Our collection of Green tea from China includes many tea types, such as Gunpowder Green Tea, Jasmine Green Tea and many others.