Tea chronologic

2737 B.C.

Chinese emperor Shen-Nung, also known as the Divine Healer, is often mentioned as the discoverer of tea. The legend tells us that, while emperor Shen-Nung was boiling a kettle with water, the wind blew some tea leave through the open window into his kettle. Shen-Nung drank it and the rest is history. As far as known, he was the first to write about tea, it is mentioned in his medial book ‘Pen Ts’ao’, written in 2737 B.C.: Tea is thirst-quenching, stimulating and improves the condition of the heart.

350 B.C.

More likely, the roots of tea are in South-East Asia. Nowadays, tea can still be found in nature. In this part of the world, tea was first mentioned in 350 B.C. – as Erh Ya - by Kuo P’o, while he was editing a Chinese dictionary.


In China people start using tea for medicinal purposes and the manufacturing processes are being developed. A lot of tea consumers add onion, ginger, herbs or orange to their drink.


Ya Kuang adds tea to the Chinese dictionary, including a detailed description of the preparation.


Turkish trade people buy tea at the then Turkish-Mongolian border.


Buddhism and tea become part of life in Japan. Japanese monks study in China and take tea seeds and leaves home.

618-907 T’ang Dynasty

For two reasons, tea becomes very popular in China: for its taste and its medicinal features.


Japanese monk Gyoki plants the first tea crops in the gardens of 49 Buddha temples.

In Japan, tea is in short supply and expensive, and mostly savoured by the High Priests and the aristocracy.


Tea gets its own character in China: cha.


The Japanese Emperor serves tea powder (named hiki-cha) to Buddhist priests.


For the first time, tea tax is being levied in China.

Chinese poet and scientist Lu Yu writes his book The Classic of Tea (Cha Ching), influenced by Taoism. He describes thoroughly the ancient Chinese methods for cultivation and steeping.


Dedication to Buddhism and tea spreads out more and more.

Japanese Buddha monk Saicho Kobo Daishi brings tea seeds and cultivation advise from China and creates courts in Japanese temples.

960-1280 Sung Dynasty

Chinese tea is booming, and so are the elegant tea houses with their gorgeous China tea cups.

Drinking powder, tea and/or coffee that are scented with flowers is totally common in China. The use of flavourings is out of the question.

Chinese Zen Buddhism is introduced in Japan, drinking tea is incorporated in the temple rituals.


Chinese emperor Hui Tsung is obsessed by tea and writes about the best cultivation methods and organises tea tasting tournaments in the law court. It is believed that he did not notice the Mongolian takeover of his empire, due to this obsession.

Tea houses start to pop up all over China, often in gardens!


Japanese Buddha abbot Eisai, who introduced Zen-Buddism in Japan, brings tea seeds from China and surrounds his temple in Kyoto with the seedlings.

1206-1368 Yuan-dynasty

During the Mongolian occupation of China, tea becomes an ordinary drink and it will never regain its status of exclusivity.


Japanese Buddha abbot Eisai writes the first Japanese book about tea, Kitcha-Yojoki (Book of Tea and Water).


Mongolia occupies China. Since the Mongolian emperor does not fancy tea, the aristocracy stops drinking tea. Ordinary people keep on drinking it though.

1368-1644 Ming Dynasty

All sorts of tea – green, black and oolong – are easy to buy in China.

Steeping with entire tea leaves in cups or pots becomes popular.


The Japanese tea ceremony advances, for the first time executed by Zen priest Murata Shuko. The ceremony is called Cha-no-yu, literally meaning ‘hot water tea’, it celebrates daily life.

Tea is the stat of art, it almost is a religion.


Japanese shogun Yoshimasa encourages tea ceremonies, painting and drama.


Europeans learn about the health aspects of tea when a Venetian author ascribes the high age of Asian people to their tea drinking.


As a word, tea is first mentioned in an English translation of a travel journal of Dutch navigator Jan Hugo van Linschooten. He refers to tea as chaa.

Late 1500

Japanese tea master Sen-no Rikyu opens the first independent tea house and evolves the tea ceremony to its present, modest and aesthetic ritual. During this ceremony, the tea master enters the hallway after hearing the gong of the host. He washes his hands in a special room and enters the small tea room. In this room is a painting or a flower arrangement. The tea master uses a whipper to prepare the powder tea. The people enjoy the art and flowers, and slurp tea from a shared cup.

Europeans learn about tea when Portuguese priests start to drink Chinese tea and write about its medicinal benefits and taste.


Dutchmen bring green tea from Japan (although some people say that the origin of this tea was China).

The Dutch East-Indian Company sells tea as an exotic, medicinal drink. However, only the nobility can afford to buy it.


Chinese ambassadors offer crates with tea to the Russian tsar. He does not accept the present, he thinks tea is useless.


Dutch judges start to like tea.

A German doctor informs the public on the dangers of drinking tea.


Wives of rich Dutch traders serve tea at parties.


Tea parties become quite popular among women in all social classes and men complain about the deterioration of family life. Religious reformers request for a ban.


The Dutch introduce tea in New Amsterdam, later on this city became New York.


In London, at Garway’s Coffee House, tea is sold as a therapeutical drink for the first time.


The debate about the influence of tea on health – the pro’s and cons – is intensified. Dutch doctors advise tea for its healing features, while French and German doctors point out the harmful side effects.


When Charles II marries a tea drinking woman (Portuguese Catharine of Braganza), drinking tea becomes a very classy thing to do. As a result, the consumption of alcohol diminishes.


The English East-India Company offers tea to the British King and Queen.

The Brits buy New Amsterdam and change the name into New York. A British tea tradition follows shortly.


In The Netherlands tea prices decrease to $80-$100 per pound.


The British East-India Company convinces their government to monopolise import of British tea, in New York as well as in England, and to prohibit Dutch import of tea.


In the British colony of Massachusetts the consumption of black tea is big.


Madam de Sévigné’s mentions tea with milk in her letters (these are considered to be classics in French literature).

The Duchess of York introduces tea in Scotland.


For the first time, tea is sold publicly in Massachusetts.


The first export of tea from Taiwan, then called Formosa.

End 1600

Russia and China sign a treaty regarding tea trade between Mongolia and Siberia.

18th century

The controversy regarding tea is still alive in England and Scotland. Opponents keep saying that it is too expensive and unhealthy, and even that drinking tea can result in moral decay.


During Queen Anne’s reigning period, drinking tea remains a habit in the British coffee houses.


Yearly import of tea in England increases up to 800,000 Pound Sterling.


Thomas Twining serves tea at Tom’s Coffee House in London.


Tom’s Coffee House evolves into the first tea shop, the Golden Lion. Men and women work in this shop.


British Prime Minister Robert Walpole lowers the tax on tea import.


The Russian Empress regulates the tea trade.

To meet the demand for tea in Russia, traders travel with three hundred camels from China to Russia, which is almost 11,000 miles. The journey takes 16 months.

Russian customs officers drink tea: a mix of tea concentrate, hot water and lemon, which they drink while holding a sugar cube between their teeth.


Tea is the most popular drink in the American colonies.


The Townshend Revenue Act is accepted by British Parliament, taxes are levied on tea and other products that are imported in the British colonies in America.

In Boston a meeting takes place regarding the Townshend Revenue Act. The meeting results in a boycott on British import, and because of this there is abundant smuggling of Dutch tea.


The Parliament retracts the Townshend Revenue Act, as a result all import taxes – except the one on tea - are annulled.


The protests against duties on British tea are called the ‘Boston Tea Party’, colonists dressed up as Indians go aboard ships of the East-Indian Company en throw hundreds of tea crates into the harbour.

These ‘Tea Parties’ also take place in Philadelphia, New York, Main, North Carolina and Maryland until 1774.


As a reaction on the American ‘Tea Parties’, The furious British Parliament drops all coercive measures, except the duties on tea.

King George III agrees on the Boston Port Bill, the harbour of Boston shuts down until the East-Indian Company receives a compensation for its tea.


After a few British attempts to end the protests, the American Revolution starts.


Before the native Indian Assam tea plant is identified, British naturist Sir Joseph Banks, who is hired by the East-Indian Company, suggests that the Indian tea plants actually are imported Chinese tea plants.


British Parliament tries to reduce tea smuggling by reduces taxes on tea import.


England imports 11 million kilos of tea.


The Brits drink 2 pounds of tea per person each year, in the next 10 years this increases fivefold.


Samples of Indian tea plants are sent to a botanist of the East-Indian Company. He gets convinced that the plants are bona fide.


English Quaker John Horniman is the first to offer retail tea in sealed, lead coated packages.


The American Congress reduces taxes on coffee, tea and other products.


Because of action taken by British premier Charles Grey (second Earl Grey and name giver of the famous tea), the East-Indian Company loses its monopoly regarding the trade with China, mainly tea.


The East-Indian Company starts the first tea plantation in Assam, India.


The first American consul in Canton, Major Samuel Shaw, trades a shipment for tea and silk. Investors have a big revenue on their capital en this stimulates the trade between the Americans and China.


Indian tea – made of imported Chinese tea plants – is sold for the first time. A small quantity is sent to England and is very popular, due to its exclusivity.


American clippers speed up tea transports to America and Europe.

1840 and '50

In Sri Lanka, an experiment is started with growing tea plants from China and India.


Anna, Duchess of Bedford introduces drinking tea in the afternoon, a new British ritual is born: High Tea.


The Parliament ends the British ‘Navigation Acts’, and American ships are allowed to bring tea from China to British harbours.

Tea wholesaler Henry Charles Harrod opens a supermarket in London, which will become one of the world’s biggest department stores.


Londoners jostle around an American clipper when it arrives from Hong Kong, full of Chinese tea.

American sailors quit trading with China, and leave for California to dig for gold, which can be very lucrative.


People plant tea in Darjeeling, India.


George Huntington Hartford and George P. Gilman, a merchant from New York and his employee, start the chain A & P – the Great American Tea Company. They buy a huge shipload of tea in New York’s harbour and sell it at 33 percent below the regular price.


Over 90 percent of the tea in Great Britain is still being imported from China.


The Suez Canal is opened and steam boats emerged, which shortens the trip to China.

To position the company and the transcontinental connections, the Great American Tea Company chances its name into Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.

A vegetal fungus destroys the coffee harvest in Ceylon. The disease spreads all over the East and the Pacific Ocean, which causes a huge increase in tea consumption.


Twinings from England starts mixing tea, to ensure the uniformity.


The ‘Adulteration of Food, Drink, and Drugs Act’ considers more and more the sale of forged medicines and other unlabelled mixtures with foreign additions as penal.


The new ‘British Sale of Food and Drugs Law’ tags forgery as being dangerous for personal health and increases the legal consequences of it with huge fines or prison time.


Thomas Johnstone Lipton opens his first store in Glasgow. He learned the necessary managing skills while working in the supermarket of a department store in New York.


Thomas Lipton buys tea plantations in Ceylon, in order to sell tea at a reasonable price in his expanding chain of 300 supermarkets.

Late 1800

The original Assam tea ousts tea that is made of imported Chinese tea plants, tea trading is booming business.

The successful coffee business from Ceylon is taken over by the tea business.


During a heat wave at the St. Louis World Fair, British Richard Blechynden creates ice tea.

Sale of green tea and Formosa tea from Taiwan exceeds five times the sale of black tea in America.


Thomas Sullivan, tea importer from New York, invents unintentionally tea bags. He sent tea in little silk bags, which were accidentally used as a whole by his customers when brewing tea.


Thomas Lipton starts mixing and packaging his tea in New York.


In Sumatra, Indonesia tea growing and export is big, followed by Kenya and parts of Africa.