Tea, next to coffee, is one of the most popular drinks in the whole world. It is in almost every household and we drink it practically every day – in the morning to stimulate, in the afternoon with meals and in the evening to relax. Although there are many types, and the way of preparing and drinking it varies from country to country and from region to region, it is an undeniable fact that it has left a huge mark on human history and continues to be an important part of it.
The Chinese legend of tea’s origin
It is said that tea, as a beverage, was created for the first time 5,000 years ago and there is a story associated with it. The mythical Chinese emperor Shennong used to drink hot boiled water for hygienic reasons. At the time, when he was resting in his garden, a few leaves from a nearby bush fell into his pot of hot water. After a while, the leaves discoloured the water and gave it a pleasant aroma. It also turned out that the accidentally created brew was very tasty, and the emperor, delighted with his discovery, decided to spread the drink throughout his country. This story is only a legend and it is difficult to establish whether it actually took place. However, it is known that it was the Chinese who first discovered the properties of the Camellia sinensis plant, which we know as tea. The first references to tea as an infusion date back to the 7th century BC.
Popularity of tea in other parts of the world
Today, tea is drunk by people on every continent in the world, but thousands of years ago it was a secret closely guarded by the Chinese. The first countries after China to learn about the taste and effects of tea were Mongolia and Tibet. Then its seeds found their way to Japan, where it quickly became a symbol of this country – it is closely connected to the philosophy, and the ceremony of brewing tea can be called an art. In the 16th century, tea was introduced to the Russians through diplomatic contacts with China during the conquest of Siberia. Russian tea is called “chai” and is drunk as a very strong and intense infusion. Chinese tea came to Western Europe in the early 17th century – it was imported from China by Dutch traders. In the second half of that century, it gained popularity in England, where it is now considered almost like a national asset. In the 19th century, the British brought tea to India, where the largest tea plantations are located today.
The history of tea in Poland
It is not exactly known how tea came to Poland. There are two theories on this subject. The first one says that the history of tea in Poland was started by the Russians. According to the second theory, it appeared in the country as a result of journeys of aristocracy and nobility to Western European countries. One thing is certain – King Stanisław August Poniatowski can be considered a precursor of tea lovers. He was very enthusiastic about all trends observed in western countries. During the famous “Thursday Dinners” he served his guests tea, among other things. Although Poles were initially very sceptical about this drink, some even believed it to be harmful to health, today tea is an integral part of their diet, and in world rankings on tea consumption Poland ranks high. In 2017 Poland ranked 4th in Europe and 9th in the world.