History of tea

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 Small Tea Leaf Theory

Alongside the famous Big Bang theory there is also the Big Tea Leaf theory which describes the early era of the universe and the importance of tea within it. Unfortunately, this theory has attracted little or no attention. Mostly because it is very far fetched, and quite honestly, rather absurd.

The Big Tea Leaf theory is controversial and somewhat unproven. At the time of the Big Bang, the cataclysmic explosion reached such high temperatures that the universe metamorphosed into the first ever tea kettle. It provided the perfect vessel to brew water for tea. Admittedly there was a shortage of leaves and water at the time, which continued for some billion years. However, that shortly passed and as soon as water was invented, things changed quite rapidly with the quickly expanding tea kettle filling with water and coming to a boil several times.

Nobody can recall for sure whether this is how it happened, because everyone who was alive back then to witness it unfortunately became coffee drinkers as the result of a brief but rather violent war between the Leafers and the Beaners. The Beaners won simply because hard coffee beans make better slingshot ammunition than the average tea leaf. As such, there was several millenia after the creation of the universe in which there were no tea drinkers at all. These are commonly referred to among Leafers as the Dark Ages.

First Cup of Tea

In 2737 BC, a Chinese emperor  was boiling water in  the shade of a wild tea tree. Why he was heating water, we will never know. It may have been accidental; the water simply began to boil because the Emperor got distracted, or he may have been planning to make soup. Either way, he could not have foreseen that his absentmindedness, or his penchant for soup, would lead to the discovery of tea.

It appears that at at the time it was a touch breezy  and some tea leaves dropped into his water. Since it was not up to the Emperor to remove these, and his servant was not paying attention, the water steeped the leaves. In hindsight the emperor was brewing up the first pot of tea. The Emperor, perhaps still thinking it wasn’t his place to fish out the leaves, took a few tentative sips, and was thrilled. This was the best cup of tea he’d ever tasted which doesn’t surprise anyone given that nobody in the world had ever tried tea.

After the emperor’s discovery, tea became enormously popular even on those days where there was no wind, and no accidental incidents with leaves. For the next 4900 years tea remained popular in China.

To meet the enormous demand that millions of thirsty leaf drinkers placed on the leaf, more and more tea gardens were planted all over Chinese provinces.  Quite inevitably, other nations caught wind of this “new” drink and spent an inordinate amount of time making and revising plans to cultivate tea in their home countries. In 1191 a Japanese Buddhist named Eisai, brought tea seeds into his country and then hurriedly introduced Zen Buddhism. Perhaps tea excited too many people.

In 1280 Mongolia invaded China and since the barbarians were not interested in tea, it was no longer a staple at court. That did not bother any of the ordinary folk though who just carried on steeping.

Meanwhile, that is some three hundred years later Europeans also heard of the drink and wanted their share. The Dutch were the first to import Japanese tea, though one could argue was in fact Chinese tea.

Empire Tea

In 1657 the English finally got involved and it was all downhill from there. However, nobody noticed at the time. The English East India company decided they wanted to grow tea in India, but realized the Chinese were quite ridiculously protective of their tea. They employed the services of a tea spy by the name of Robert Fortune, and dispatched him to China. It is rather curious that he was taken for a local, and managed to stuff his pockets with tea seeds before leaving for India to plant his bounty.

While the Chinese were seething, the Indians soon began plucking away at the lushest tea bushes which produced mighty fine tea. Since India had no say in their own country, and because the Brits were running the show, all the best tea was shipped back to Britain where it was well enjoyed by the upper-classes and the riff-raff too.