Tea originates from China where it’s already been used for thousands of years. It’s impossible to determine exactly how tea was discovered and who was responsible for this. One of the traditional stories speaks of Emperor Shen Nong (2737-2698 B.C.), who is known in Chinese mythology as the ‘Divine Farmer.’ He is seen as one of the founders of modern agriculture. (It is said he was the first one who used the technique of ploughing the earth). In his capacity of also being a scientist and herbalist he discovered the healthy benefits of tea. According to the legacy he discovered tea by accident during one of his travels. A few leaves of the tea plant whirled into a kettle of boiling water, after which the brewing beverage was starting to spread a lovely scent. Curious as he was he tasted this beverage and thus discovered tea.
First arrival in Europe
In the centuries after his discovery, tea was mainly used as a means to stimulate digestion and an essence of tea was also used in ointments. During the Han Dynasty (206-220 A.D) tea became the more popular beverage as we know today. During the following centuries the production and processing of tea leaves were refined; other countries also started to develop their tea cultures (e.g. Japan and India are well-known). However, it was not until 1559 that tea was first mentioned in Western literature.
Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557) described in his Delle Navigatione et Viaggi a beverage called “Chai Catai,” brought to Venice by the Persian commercial traveller Hajji Mahommed. The beverage is prepared from the leaves of a certain herb and used as a medicine against stomach ache. It wasn’t until 1606 that the first small amounts of tea were taken from Java to… The Netherlands. In these early days of tea use the beverage was seen as a ‘novelty’ and only drank by the super-rich of that time. It took a few decades before tea received a growing interest by the wealthy Dutch. After 1630 tea slowly started to spread to the rest of Europe. Up until the mid-seventeenth century tea was mainly an indulgence for the rich, but a few decades later tea also reached the bourgeoisie.
Tea throughout centuries
In the following centuries European countries colonised large parts of Asia. Especially the Brits reached new levels in producing of tea, founding huge tea plantations in their own colony of India. Through the mid-nineteenth century tea was shipped to Europe in such vast quantities that tea use became common in all social layers. During the twentieth century the interest for tea suddenly diminished. The two world wars had led to changes in social patterns. As from the 1950s American fast-food restaurants opened its doors throughout Europe; these ousted the tea salons: we were “American-ized.” For decades the use of tea wasn’t very popular compared to the few centuries prior. As from the 1980s we slowly notice an increase in the use of tea again, which brings us to today.
Tea has made its comeback! The so-called ‘high tea’ is very popular and can be found in numerous places in The Netherlands. We also notice a growing group of people who are actively looking for special tea varieties, new flavours, natural essences; the use of quality and excellent teas is growing rapidly. And for all that Four Leaves is the right place for you!