The discovery of Chinese green tea
Tea was discovered by the Chinese more than 2000 years ago. It is believed that the Chinese emperor Shennong was resting under a tree while travelling, when some leaves fell from the tree above into the pot in which his servants were boiling water for him to drink. The brew turned out to be immensely refreshing and thirst-quenching and this marked the beginning of human tea consumption.
Tale or not, there was one thing for sure, tea consumption did not start as a result of the health benefits reported by laboratory studies today; such as it being high in anti-oxidants and able to reduce blood cholesterol levels etc. The ancient Chinese needed a drink, and this leaf brew happened to serve the purpose. A supply met a demand and a new product was born.
The varieties of Chinese teas are a result of various drying processes
To preserve these leaves for later use, people started drying them. The various methods of drying have since produced hundreds of varieties of Chinese teas, beginning with the unfermented green teas. Chinese teas have always been categorised according to the level of fermentation during the drying process; for example green teas are not fermented; Oolong teas are semi-fermented and black teas are fully fermented.
Through the modification of tea making skills, numerous tea varieties have been developed, taking many factors into account such as climate conditions, soil conditions, tea bush/plant variety and local diet etc.
Chinese tea was born to be enjoyed first, health benefits second
During the history of tea consumption in China, the Chinese have made a connection between tea drinking and better health. Part of my fond memory of my grandmother was that she always made a strong cup of tea first thing in the morning, often followed by the comment: ‘tea is good for you’, although she did not know how and why.
There is no doubt that Chinese tea was born first as a drink to be enjoyed.