Where Did Tea Originate?

Do you like tea? To be honest, I love tea. And sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I would do without tea! So, where did tea originate? Where do all these famous tea drinking customs come from?

The Origin of Tea

Tea originated in Southwest China and it was first used as a medicinal drink. Later, during the Tang Dynasty, it became popular as a recreational drink and was introduced to other East Asia countries. Soon the Portuguese priests and merchants began introducing it to Europe during the 16th century. By the 17th century tea had become a major part in the British culture, where they started a large scale production and commercialisation in India, to bypass the Chinese monopoly. Soon afterward, tea became a popular drink, specially among elevated social events, where it soon became part of the culture.

Tea in Culture

Amazingly, tea is the second most consumed beverage on Earth, next to water. (So maybe I’m not that crazy drinking 3 to 4 cups of tea each day?) When we hear “tea time”, we immediately think of England, right? Well, as you might assume, tea is considered one of United Kingdom’s cultural beverages. It is customary for your host to offer you some tea if you dropped in for a visit. In southwest England it is commonly served with scones, clotted cream, and jam. Sign me up for a tea party in England!

Ireland is also one of the main focal points of tea drinking. Although you might think only of beer when you hear “Ireland”, tea is largely consumed here. And by largely I mean that most people drink at least four cups of tea daily! The average is four cups daily per person, although some may drink up to six. In Ireland tea is usually served with milk and sugar and it is spicier that most tea in England.

Interestingly, 80% of tea drunk in the Unites States is consumed as iced tea, although tea has been an important part in American culture and history. Remember, taxes on tea began the Boston Tea Party in 1773. After this, tea turned a bit unpatriotic, and coffee became more popular.

We could keep rambling on and on about tea, but I’ll finish off by saying that tea is also an important focal point in the cultures of Russia, Turkey, and India.

Tea Bags, Loose Tea?

Before tea bags there was loose tea, which was stored loosely in a canister, paper bag, or other containers such as a tea chest. Until 1907, when American Thomas Sullivan began distributing samples of his tea in small bags of Chinese Silk, tea bags where unheard of. Soon consumers noticed they could leave the tea in the bag and reuse it. However, the potential of this method was not realised until later, after World War II. In the year 1953, when the rationing in the UK ended, Tetley launched the tea bag to the UK where it was an immediate success!

So there you have a short history on tea! Hope you enjoyed.


Hello! I'm Anna, an avid consumer of books and tea and a passionate lover of Jesus. I'm passionate about words and storytelling, I love teaching, and I enjoy embroidery and baking. You can find me in the mountains by the trees.