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tree or bush, its leaves, and the beverage made from these leaves. The plant (Camellia sinensis, Thea sinensis, or C. thea) is an evergreen related to the camelliacamellia
[for G. J. Kamel, a Moravian Jesuit missionary], any plant of the genus Camellia in the tea family, evergreen shrubs or small trees native to Asia but now cultivated extensively in warm climates and in greenhouses for their showy white, red, or variegated
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 and indigenous to Assam (India) and probably to parts of China and Japan. In its native state, it grows to a height of about 30 ft (9.1 m), but in cultivation it is pruned to 3–5 ft (91–152 cm). The lanceolate leaves are dark green; the blossom is cream-colored and fragrant. Today tea is consumed by more people and in greater quantity than any beverage except water. The flavor of tea is due to volatile oils, its stimulating properties to caffeinecaffeine
, odorless, slightly bitter alkaloid found in coffee, tea, kola nuts (see cola), ilex plants (the source of the Latin American drink maté), and, in small amounts, in cocoa (see cacao). It can also be prepared synthetically from uric acid.
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, and its astringency to the tannin content (reduced in black teas by the fermentation process). In all parts of the world, tealike beverages (sometimes called tisanes) are made from the leaves or flowers of a wide variety of other plants, often for their medicinal properties.

Cultivation and Preparation

China, where state farms are being supplanted by private ones, remains the largest tea grower of the world; elsewhere, tea is usually grown on plantations. Tea culture requires a protected, well-drained habitat in a warm climate with ample rainfall. The leaves are picked by hand, principally during flushes (periods of active growth), the most desirable being those near the growing tip. They are prepared by withering, rolling, and firing (i.e., heating).

The many kinds of tea are usually named for their color and grade (the best teas using only the two terminal leaves) or for their district of origin, e.g., Darjeeling and Lapsang. Teas are sometimes scented by exposure to fragrant flowers, e.g., jasmine. Brick tea is made from tea dust or inferior tea pressed into blocks. Black teas (e.g., pekoes, souchongs, and congous) differ from green teas (e.g., imperials, gunpowders, and hysons) in having been fermented before firing; oolongs, intermediate in color and flavor, are partially fermented. Green teas are produced chiefly in China and Japan; black teas in China, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya; and oolongs in Taiwan.


Tea was cultivated in China in prehistoric times and was probably first used as a vegetable relish (as it was in American colonies and still is in some parts of Asia) and medicinally. By the 8th cent., cultivation had begun on a commercial scale in China, and shortly thereafter, in Japan. The tea ceremony of Japan was introduced from China in the 15th cent. by Buddhists as a semireligious social custom. Tea was first imported into Europe by the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th cent., and its subsequent popularity played an important role in the opening of Asia to Western commerce.

Until 1834 the British East India Company held a monopoly on imports to Great Britain, trading by direct and indirect routes exclusively with China. Only after this monopoly was broken did other tea-producing areas develop as major exporters—chiefly Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Taiwan. Leading importers of tea include Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Russia, and the Netherlands. The United States also is a large importer, although coffee has long been a more popular beverage.


Tea is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Theales, family Theaceae.


See J. Shalleck, Tea (1972); J. Schapiro et al., The Book of Coffee and Tea (rev. ed. 1982).


Thea sinensis. A small tree of the family Theaceae having lanceolate leaves and fragrant white flowers; a caffeine beverage is made from the leaves of the plant.





1. an evergreen shrub or small tree, Camellia sinensis, of tropical and subtropical Asia, having toothed leathery leaves and white fragrant flowers: family Theaceae
a. any of various plants that are similar to Camellia sinensis or are used to make a tealike beverage
b. any such beverage


(Tiny Encryption Algorithm) A secret key cryptography method that uses a 128-bit key. It uses the block cipher method, which breaks the text into 64-bit blocks before encrypting them. Written by David Wheeler and Roger Needham of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in the U.K., it is available in 16 round and 32 round versions. The more rounds (iterations), the more secure the results. See encryption algorithm.
References in periodicals archive ?
Before the integrative research of that work, which began in the 1960s, these and many other sources pertaining to the history of tea in China were only to be found scattered in specialized journals and original language sources.
This delightful, scholarly and totally absorbing book gives a vividly written history of tea with as many details floating up throughout the text as there are leaves drifting on the surface of the boiling water in the teapot.
The Olde English Pub, reminiscent of England's influence throughout the history of tea, is just one of the charming tearooms where guests delight in taking high tea.
It shows PG Tips' protagonist Monkey romping through the history of tea, from its discovery in ancient China up to the Rainforest Alliance certification of its tea, and emphasises the brand's new ethical credentials.
Beautiful, soft pastel color illustrations by Dawn Peterson, a handful of recipes, and notes on the history of tea parties round out this good manners primer.
The next talk will be held on February 2 and will be given by Ken Hughes about the history of tea, sauce and custard in Birmingham.
Part II explores a subject that will be of concern to anyone interested in the early history of tea practice, for it considers the late 16th century rebulding of the Sanmon gate (the main entryway to the temple complex) and the events that followed.
She educates them on the history of tea, the entire process the ingredients go through--from the plant to the tea bag--to get to the table, the proper service of the tea, and how the ingredients in their teas are different from other teas.
His new book (right), Tea--Addiction, Exploitation and Empire, an investigation into the history of tea, is a fascinating tale but one that reflects poorly on the British, Americans, French, Portuguese and Dutch.
The seminar continues with a tasting session and tour of the museum, where an extensive exhibition of ceramics and memorabilia illustrate the history of tea and coffee.
We have reviewed the history of tea and its use, including the original discovery of tea in China some 4,000 years ago, in the form of green tea, and later of black tea in Northern India.
While the history of tea can be traced back at least 4,000 years, it was not common in the West until the East India Company began importing tea from China as a precious commodity in the 17th century.

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