According to a Chinese legend, five thousand years ago the emperor Seen Nung invented the tea. He made this discovery by accident, while relaxing under the tea tree. Some leaves fell from the tree, and dropped into the cup with boiling water. The boiled leaves spread a delicate scent, but the emperor liked the drink. It was the first cup of tea!
The oldest document in reference to tea were written in 780 BC by the Chinese Lu Yu, who wrote a book called "Cha Ching" ("Holy Book of Tea"). In this book, the author described the classifications and methods of the tea industry, some of which are used even now.
At first, tea was only known as medicine, later - as a ritual drink, and only a few centuries ago it got its modern, well-known "status" as a refreshing, nosy tea, offering warmth and peace.
Shipments of tea into Europe were registered in 1606, when the Dutch sailors brought it as a gift to their relatives. After few years, tea was already officially delivered to the British Isles, which soon became a popularly accepted center of trade of that exotic drink. From that time and until the present day Great Britain, particularly England, has remained the main "tea country" of the Western world. It is the UK, where the modern European tea culture has been developed, and tea became popular in all population groups.
For some time after the first emergence in Europe, tea was only the prerogative of the aristocratic social groups, as it was a very expensive product. So expensive that it was stored in lockable boxes. However, time was moving on, and tea was delivered in larger and larger quantities, so it gradually became more accessible to the wider masses. In 1657 Thomas Garvey began selling tea in his cafes in London.
But really it found new roots in 1662 in England, when Catherine of Braganza, the wife of King Charles II, introduced the tea drinking as the latest fashion in court etiquette. After that the tea's popularity began to grow rapidly and already around 1700 there were more than 500 stores in London that were selling tea. Tea shops, as the carriers of a "less revolutionary image", got some advantages over the coffee shops, and they became the only place where the ladies could have met their friends without fear of dishonouring their reputation.
In the nineteenth century, during the reign of Queen Victoria, who was the author of famous “Tea Moralities”, tea-drinking became an integral part of British culture, but delivering the tea to Europe became more and more difficult...
For many centuries the tea cultivation monopoly was held by China. Emperors were strictly guarding the plantations and controlling the prices of raw materials, which was leading to the serious trade disputes with Great Britain, which became the largest tea supplier in the world in the nineteenth century.
During the conflict in 1825, the British Empire held a special expedition with the goal to find other regions, useful for cultivation of tea bushes. A lot of wild tea bushes were found in Burma, Laos, Vietnam, but it turned out that particularly favorable climate was in India that was under British control at that time. Exactly in India the British established the tea plantations that gave a rich black tea harvest, which became popular in Europe.
In the 1860 the British began cultivating tea bushes in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) high-altitude plains, making tea as the island's main export product and pride. Since that time, the plantations, established by the British, have remained the best in the world, standing out with rich harvests and high quality tea.
To ensure freshness and high quality of the harvested tea, English trading companies were using the clippers - the fastest ships of that time that managed to cover the distance from China to England just in 95 days. Often, clipper captains were arranging real races, as the crew, which delivered the first cargo of tea to the Foggy Albion, was rewarded with a cash prize. Every variety of tea during transportation was marked with a coloured line on the box. According to this tradition, packages with different varieties of “Ahmad Tea” are also marked with different color lines.
Simultaneously with the expansion of tea in Asia and later in Europe, the technological progress took place, which was determined by the way of brew production. The first stage of the process was closely related to the experimental development of the drink and passed away a long time ago; the second stage began in the XIX century and continues up to today.
Nowadays, it is impossible to reliably determine the time of occurrence of the methods of tea production at the first stage of its development. However, judging by the processes in the harvested fresh tea leaves, it is possible to suppose that the first tea processing techniques were withering, fermentation and drying.
Probably, just the drying was performed by people, because the fermentation and withering of the harvested leaves started by themselves. It is not possible to determine the time, when people started to curl the tea leaves up before fermentation. But most likely, later than they started to dry, ferment and wither, because the process of curling is the most unobvious than the others.
Next test of the tea leaves was pressing that was characteristic for the drink’s usage culture in the sixth century. In the X century China learned how to make the instant tea (from tea leaf juice), but this technology did not gain popularity because of its high costs. Around the X century, they started to produce a powdered tea, and, finally, in the XIV century the first stage of technological development of tea came to an end. Technological chain of the production of this drink got a modern type of “harvesting - drying - curling - fermentation – drying”.
The second stage of the tea technological development began in the XIX century with the establishment of tea factories in England. Tea factories as themselves did not make any fundamental changes in the tea production technology. However, the essence of tea production has radically changed - from the manual it developed into a mechanized, which became the reason for the development of new techniques for turning of the tea leaves into the raw for drink production.
However, there were no significant changes in the tea production until 1908, but it was only indirectly related to the factories. It was the year when the disposable tea bags appeared, which now forces out the traditional loose tea, and which is produced just by the means of the automatic lines.
The method of processing the tea dust left after the mechanic handling of tea leaves, was discovered in India, in the 50-s of the XX century, having started the production of CTC teas. The renaissance of the instant tea could be referred to the middle of XX century. It is now quite popular in many countries, and is produced by the means of rather complex technological chain. And in the recent decades the “decaffeinated” tea has started to be used – as a result of the general health concern (however the method of “release” of tea from caffeine was known a long time ago).
But the popularity of the cold tea caused the introduction of packaged and ready-to-drink teas in the beginning of the last decade.