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Home>EnglishTea And Health CareThe Origin of teaThe Earliest Book on TeaThe Extensive Chinese Tea Growing DistictsThe Variety of Tea

  The Origin of Tea  

  Millions of people all over the world drink tea and it has become an essential part of their daily lives. As you enjoy a refreshing cup of tea, have you ever thought about its origins, who first discovered delicious beverage and which country is the homeland of tea? It′s an interesting story dating back over 2,000 years.
  China is the world′s earliest nation drinking, planting and making tea. It was recorded in ″Shengnong′s Herbal″ over two thousand years ago that he tasted various herbals and was once poisoned. Eventually he discovered that tea cured his toxic system , and he also noted that regular consumption of tea can maintain one′s youthful appearance and reindforce vital energy.
  Ancient books used the word″ Tu″ when they referred to tea plant. Today. The popular beverage is known around the world as ‘tea′ and′ cha′ which are derived from pronunciation of its name in Guangzhou and Fujian dialects. So, as tea was spread from China to other countries, it retained its Chinese name.
  For a long time it was an undisputed fact that China was the homland of tea, but in more recent time this has been challenged in a series of arguments and disputes. India has been credited by some authorities as the homeland of tea, but the facts substantiate that tea did originate in China.
  It is known that a Japanese Buddhist monk, called Deng, studied in China and brought tea back to Japan in 805 B.C. He was the pioneer for growing tea outside of China. India, although a country of great history, did not engage in tea planting and drinking in ancient times.
  In 1610, tea was first taken to Europe by a Dutch merchant, and it rapidly gained in popularity. There were high profits to be made in dealing in tea, and to take advantage of this, Britain started planting tea in India in 1780. To aid this, successive prime
ministers sent representatives to China to buy tea and learn about plantations. Surviving records indicate that in the eighteenth century, tea was cultivated in at least twelve provinces of China, and two of these——Anhui and Fujian——supplied the largest portion of exports to Europe.
  In 1824, the British Major General R. Bruce, who invaded India, claimed that he discovered wild tea trees at Beesam (presently called Assam) in India, somewhere near the Burma/China (Yunnan) border. Under his direction, five boxes of black tea were shipped to London and subsequently received the prestigious ‘Innovation Award′ from the British Technologues Institute in 1836. Spurred by General Bruce′s discovery, the Indian Tea Commottee organized a scientific research group to study the wild tea trees at Assam. Led by botanists Dr. Wallice and Dr. Griffich and geologist Mr. Mcclelland, the group found that the species of wild tea growing in Assanm was actually from China; although its quality was poor because of a long period of wild, uncultivated growth.
  General R. Bruce vehemently disagreed with the conclusions of the ressarch team, and he wrote a pamphlet in India listing the 108 wild tea trees he had found in Assam including a 43 ft high by 3 ft diameter specimen. Thus India was promulgated as the original homeland of tea, starting a dispute which has persisted right through to this century.
  There are five schools of thought on the subject:

 
  1. Indian School

  Represented by an Englishman, Samuel Baildon, who opposed the historical theory of Chinese origin in his book ′Tea in Assam′ written in 1877. Mr. Baildon advocated that tea originated in India. Also of this school, Englishman John H. Blake wrote a book ″Guide to Tea Merchants′ to promote Indian tea sales in 1903. Edith A. Browne was another prominent figure who supported the Indian School.

 
  2. Persistent School

  Numerous scholars of the Persistent School insist that tea was sourced from China. Notable works supporting this include Rassian scholar E. Brets—cheider′s ″Botanic Ccience″, French Decandle Oenine′s ″Natural Systematic Botany″, and A. Wilson′s ″The Traveller′s Tale of Estern China″.

 
  3. Binoriginism

  A java ‘tea Classifier′ Cohen Stuatt indicated in his book that there are two types of tea leaves, differentiated by their separate origins. He believes the large—leaf species originated in India whereas the small—leaf varieties came from China.

 
  4. Multi—organism

 
  In his publication, ″A Full Text On Tea″ an American tea expert. William H. Ukers, insisted that tea originated wherever the natural environment favoured ist survival thus expounding a multi—origin theory.

 
  5. Anonymous Theory

 
  A new theory, which can only be described as “Anony mous″ was put forward by T. Eden in his book ″Tea written in 1974. In this publication, Mr. Eden indicated that neither China nor India is the orgin of tea.
Facts Speak for Themselves
  To establish truth about the origin of tea, one has only to look at the facts. Learned scholars in China have long studied the history of tea, and their findings indicate conclusively that China is the homeland of tea.
  The Honorable Director of the Tea Academy, Mr. Wujuenong and Professor Chen Chuan of Anhui Agricultural College and professor Zhuang Wanfang of Zhejiang Agricultural University have studied the claims of the various schools of thought on the origins of tea, and their findings are recorded.
  The first argument——Indian school——lacks scientific evidence because tea trees growing in the wild did not necessarily originate in that place; especially if they′re discovered in areas bounding tea—growing territory, It′s also possible that wild trees were previously transplanted. According to Kindon Ward, what Bruce claimed to be wild tea tree land might have been a small piece of Tea land left idle by immigrants before British rule. In the third edition of ″The Culture and Marketing of tea″, Written by C. R. Harler in 1964, he points out that wild tea trees have been found on plains and slopes in Assam since 1823; but it didn′s necessarily mean that Brahmaputra Valley (Assam region at present ) is the homland of tea. Here, Harler denied Bruce′s theory.
  The second argument is that ″No one has ever found tea within the territory of mainland China, that is to say, no wild large—leaved tea tree is grown in China; so surely China is not the original place for tea″ According to the world′s first renowned article on tea, Lu Yu′s ″Cha jing″ ( The Treatise on Tea ); in the eighth century tea trees ranging in height from one to nearly one—hundred feet were growing at the eastern part of Sichuan and western valley of Hubei. ″Some of them are so large that two men cannot embrace their trunks and branches have to be shorten to collect the tea leaves″. Other historical records on tea substantiate the facts, and even today many wild tea trees can be found in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi Provinces.
  At the end of the nineteenth century, Mr. A. Wilson studied the plants in south western China, and the visitor claimed he found many large—leaved tea trees over 10 feet high on the slopes of Sichuan. Later, following Mr. Li Liandiao′s discovery of wild tea trees at the Eagle Rock in Guizhou in 1939, the Chinese government undertook large scale research and more evidence was revealed proving the existence of wild tea trees in Yunnan and Guizhou.
  In the primitive forest of Yunnan′s Xishuangbanna, there are more tall trees; the largest having a height of over 32 metres and diameter greater than one metre. This grand old tree is known as ″The King of the Tea Trees″. Another famous 200 year old tree, five metres high, was recently found on the Da Huang Shan as reported by the Nanning China News Agency on June 1979. This magnificent specimen has Luxuriant branches and leaves and still gives 60 jin tea one harvest.
  The third ″Binoriginism″ school of thought is contrary to all biological principles, including Darwin′s ″The Origin of Species″ which states that every spcies must have a single central source from where genus are spread. Being occupied by the concepts of the Indian School and lacking explanation of later deviation of a vague concept of binoriginism which ignores all bioloigical evolutionary principles. In 1973, a Japaness scholar pointed out in his work ″the Disseminating History of Tea″ that both Chinese and Indian tea chromosome numbers are 30 in cell hereditism and appearances show that the species were subjected to consequential changes from Eastern China (including Taiwan), through Hainnan Island, Thailand, and Burma to Assam in India. There is evidence that changes took place due to the geographical and environmental variances.
  The fourth thesis states that all natural environments favourable to tea growing in Southeast Asian countries are possibly the sources of tea origins. In the desired context, origin means the total evolution of tea in an area, including its ancestors, offspring and other subgenus over hundrees of thousands of years. Yet Ukers considered only a specific place which currently has a favourable natural environment. Therefore it is illogical and unscientific to judge a longstanding development with short and occasional data.
  Tea Has its Roots in South Western China
  In the vast country of China, it was the southwestern region where tea originated the true root of all tea trees; There, the first tea plant grew and generated over an evolutionary period of several thousand; and it is from southwest China that the tea eventually spread and multiplied to benefit people all around the world.
  According to the continental drift theory, the earth had only two major continents 250 million years ago. One, Laurasia, included today′s North America, Europe, and most parts of Asia, The other, called Gondwanaland, included South America, Africa, Australia and the remainder of Asia. There two major continents were divided by the Toothy Sea; China and India were disconnected, and there was a mighty ocean where the Himalayan range exists today.
  At the Upper paleozoic Era in geology China′s Yunnan, Yunnan, Guizhou Plateaux and Sichuan Basin was a mountain range situated at the southern edge of northern group Laurasia and facing the Tethys Sea. The area had a warm, Wet climate and abundant rainfall; the optimum environment for seeding oaleophytes and the orgin of many high quality plant.
  In systematic botant, tea tree families species derived as: Theales, Theaceae, Camellia and tea species. Through this reputionship we can trace the tea affinity.
There are 23 Camellia and over 380 species of Theaceae. China proved to have 15 Camellia and 260 species widely spread over Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan Provinces. Most of the species originated in Yunnan which is renowned as the best Camellia producing area in the world. Over 60 of the 100 Camellia varieties were discovered in China; and the diverse tea clusters in the region prove it was the original place of tea.
  Tea which was growing in various landscapes, climates and conditions, adapted to the changing environment to survive. The most obvious variances which resulted are the large leaves, small leaves, trees and shrubs; and after many generations, these altered species spread and nurture in other areas. Hence, the factors affecting the changes of tea species can also vindicates south western China as the souce of tea.
  In more recent times, a Swiss systematisc botanist, Carl Von Linnie, named a specimen of tea tree ″Theasinsis″ (which means Chinese tea tree).
In conclusion, it can be seen that tea originated in China; with Yunnan at its center and Guizhou and Sichuan its boundaries.

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