Tea is often thought of as being a quintessentially British drink, and we have been drinking it for over 350 years. But in fact the history of tea goes much further back.
The story of tea begins in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor was sitting beneath a tree, his servant boiled some drinking water, when some leaves blew into the water. Shen Nung, tried the infusion, it was what we now call tea. It was shortly introduced to Japan, by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China. Tea drinking has become a vital part of Japanese culture, as seen in the development of the Tea Ceremony.
In the latter half of the sixteenth century there are the first brief mentions of tea as a drink among Europeans. These are mostly from Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries. Tea soon became a fashionable in western Europe.
Britain, suspicious of continental trends, had yet to become the nation of tea drinkers that it is today. It was the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza that would prove to be a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. She was a tea addict, and it was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage first at court, and then among the wealthy classes as a whole.