The recent history of Chinese tea consumption
The history of tea consumption in China is long. Its path is, however, not at all straight. As a young child growing up in China during 60s-70s, tea and water were the main beverages available. During the 80s when I was a new university graduate, I remember China’s tradition of tea consumption was overshadowed by coffee, coke and bottled drinks with the younger generation looking to the west for inspiration and ideas of freedom and modernisation. This was during the period that China was opening up to the west. The beverages coming from the west were considered to be ‘cool’ and tea was an old fashioned drink that was out of date. Tea’s market price was low and the main demand for it came from the ‘older’ generation. This phenomenon lasted for a couple of decades.
Reasons for the ancient green tea’s phenomenal comeback
The tea drinking culture, however, returned with a vengeance in the late 90s, attracting a bigger numbers of enthusiasts, both in China and worldwide. One of the reasons for this rebirth is that after a couple of decades of ‘opening up’ to the west, the younger generation adjusted their views of the world and started to think: ‘hang on, there may be something that we, in China, can offer to the world instead of simply copying what the rest of world is doing’. This re-adjustment in thinking also came on the back of the younger people being more health and culture conscious than previously. The drive in the renewed interest in tea in the developed countries came mainly from societies which had become burdened by the so called ‘life style related health conditions’ such as obesity, cancer, high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. Western medicine seemed to be running out of answers to these serious and growing threats. When modern scientists turned their attention to the ancient beverage green tea about 30 years ago, they discovered that not only is it calorie free, but also a preventive to all these conditions, plus many other health benefits.
Over and above green teas
Following the green teas’ overwhelming positive results, the researchers also started studying other categories of Chinese teas, including white tea, yellow tea, Oolong tea and black tea. Most of the dieticians believe that here are more overlapping than differences in their benefits. They all have high anti-oxidant contents and are beneficial to human health.