There is hardly a population that we associate with tea more than the British. With their perfect English breakfasts and posh high teas, the British have become symbolic of the richness that is a good cup of tea.
However, they didn’t actually discover tea. There are numerous legends and myths about how tea came to be, most of the centered around China. Tea has been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years, with archaeological evidence dating back to the second century B.C.
There are stories of emperors who accidentally discovered tea, of ancient medics who first used tea as anecdotes for poison, and of Buddhist religious leaders who grew tea as a way to repent for past sins. Tea plays a huge role in the cultural anecdotes of a lot of Asia.
Given that China was optimally located for exchanges with most of South Asia, tea soon spread to Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam, with a lot of local varieties propping up everywhere.
The relevance of the British within tea history is within the last 300 years. Given that China had a monopoly on tea production, the British introduced tea to India, it’s colony at the time. Initially, only Chinese varieties of tea were grown but later, they started growing their own versions in the North-eastern Himalayas. Soon, chai, which forms the basis of your Starbucks chai tea latte, became a huge part of Indian culture.
The British folk stationed in China and India took tea back to the United Kingdom with them, and soon enough, no British gathering was complete without a high tea ceremony! From there, it was only a matter of time before the beverage made its way to the United States.
Coffee is by far more popular in the U.S. but both hot and iced tea are also regularly consumed as refreshments.