Worldwide, tea is consumed more than any other beverages. The history of Chinese tea is a long and gradual story of refinement. It dates many millenniums back. The Chinese have enjoyed tea for many thousands of years. People of various diverse backgrounds enjoy tea - Scholars recognized the brew as a cure to some ailments, the noble class considered the drinking of good grade tea as a mark of their status, and others simply enjoyed its flavor.
Ancient folklore believes that the creation of the tea brew was dated back to 2737 BC. It was believed that Tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong. Emperor Shennong always liked his water boiled before he drank it. One summer day, on a trip to visit a distant region, he and his army stopped to rest. A servant began boiling water for him, and a dead leaf from the wild tea bush fell into the water. It was unnoticed and was presented to the emperor. The emperor, a scientist, was interested in this new liquid, drank some and found it very refreshing. “Cha” (tea) was thus discovered.
The Han Dynasty used tea as medicine. It has long been known that tea aids in digestion, which is why many Chinese prefer to consume it after their meal. The use of tea as a beverage drunk for pleasure on social occasions dates from the Tang Dynasty and earlier. At this time, the nature of the beverage and style of tea preparation were quite different from the way we experience tea today. Tea leaves were processed into compressed cakes form. The dried teacake, generally called brick tea was ground in a stone mortar. Hot water was added to the powdered teacake, or the powdered teacake was boiled in earthenware kettles and enjoyed as a hot beverage.
The transformation of tea drinking to an art began in the 8th century, with the publication of Lu Yu's "The Classic Art of Tea." The highly esteemed poet and former Buddhist priest was strict about the proper procedure for brewing, steeping, and serving tea. Centuries after the publication of Yu's work, tea's popularity spread rapidly throughout China. Besides becoming a regular subject for books and poems, emperors bestowed gifts of tea upon grateful recipients. Gradually, teahouses began filling the landscape of China and the rest of the world.