The history of Chinese tea
The history of tea drinking is long and complex, spanning a period of thousands of years - but many experts agree that the beverage was first consumed in ancient China. While it is widely thought that Chinese tea was invented in Yunnan during the Shang Dynasty, one tale cites legendary emperor Shennong as the man who discovered it. Shennong was said to be boiling water for purity when the hot air from his fire blew tea leaves from the tea twigs he was burning up into the pot. Apparently not one to turn his nose up at the thought of burnt vegetation in his water, the scholar and renowned herbalist took a taste and found it to be delicious. The validity of the story is up for debate - the history books also claim Shennong had a transparent body that allowed him to see the effects of different plants and herbs he ingested - but it certainly makes for an interesting read! Chinese tea drinking habits Tea is popular throughout the country, but there are some slight regional variances. Scented tea is particularly popular in the north, while green tea is a staple of the east. Not only this, but tea drinking holds a certain reverence in the country, with a number of special circumstances surrounding preparation and consumption. One of the primary functions of tea in Chinese culture is to show respect to one's elders. This can be a simple offering of tea by younger generations on social occasions such as weddings, or as an apologetic gesture showing humility. Chinese society has become more liberal in recent decades, meaning tea-pouring customs have relaxed somewhat. In years gone by, it was unheard of for bosses and those of senior rank to pour tea for their subordinates!