Tuesday 3 December 2013

A History of Tea and Tea Plantations in China

When people think of China, they think of tea. Tea has a long and rich history in China and still holds an important place in Chinese people’s culture. Tea is not only used as a refreshing beverage, but also for medical and traditional cultural reasons. China is the home to many types of tea, including green tea, Pu’er tea, Oolong tea and many others. Tea has also been at the forefront of some major historical events in China’s history, including the Opium Wars fought between the Chinese and British in the 19th Century. China continues to be one of the top tea producers in the world and is home to many tea plantations. China Holidays can organise visits to tea plantations throughout China, where our clients can learn how this leaf is so important to Chinese culture.

Tea in China was said to be discovered in the 3rd Century BCE by the Emperor Shennong. It is said that he liked to drink his water hot and that one day, when his water was being prepared, a tea leaf fell in the water. When the Emperor drank it, he found it to be refreshing. Tea became even more popular during the Tang Dynasty period (618-907CE) when writer, Lu Yu, discussed in his book The Classic of Tea (茶经) which discussed the process of growing, cultivating and preparing tea as a beverage. Tea has also been described as one of the ‘Seven Necessities’ to start your day, alongside firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, and vinegar.

Before the outbreak of the Opium Wars, export of Chinese tea to Europe was extremely popular, whilst export of European goods to China was not as well received. The British, as an example, therefore had to begin trading expensive silver in return for Chinese tea which was costing the country greatly. The British therefore began to trade opium to China which, as a highly addictive substance, spread throughout China and caused the power between the two countries to flip. Britain, as a result of being in a more powerful position, ambushed Chinese ports and began a war on China after the government’s attempt to ban opium trade. The result was the Opium Wars which ended with Hong Kong being seceded to Britain. Tea clearly played an important role due to its high demand by European powers and China’s knowledge of its popularity in the west.

Tea production continues to be an important industry in China and plantations continue to exist throughout the south and east of China. One of the most famous plantations in China is the Long Jing Tea Plantation in Hangzhou, east China. One of the most famous Chinese teas, Long Jing tea (a type of green tea) comes from the west lake area of Hangzhou and is enjoyed throughout the country and internationally. The Long Jing tea is so popular in China that is has been ranked as the most notable tea in the ‘Ten Great Chinese Teas’ list.

In Guilin, Guangxi province, China Holidays’ tourists can visit the Guilin Tea Science and Research Institute. The Institute was founded in 1965 and is home to over 250 different types of tea leaf. During the Ming Dynasty, this area was the royal tea garden of the Emperors as the area has rich and fertile soil which produces high quality tea leafs. China Holidays’ guests can visit the institution and learn about how tea is made, the different types of tea and do a tea tasting session.

Tea is a very important part of China, historically, socially and culturally. In The Classics of Tea, Lu Yu states that it is ‘Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.’ This saying sums up Chinese attitude towards tea and how it truly holds high importance in Chinese culture, earning its spot as one of the ‘Seven Necessities.’ Tours to tea plantations in China are a fun way of gaining a unique perspective of Chinese history and culture and China Holidays would be very happy to assist our customers on adding a visit to a tea plantation into their itinerary or organise a specialist tea tour of the country, visiting tea plantations and the Tea Institute in Guilin.

For more information about tea tours please contact China Holidays on 020 7472999 or email sales@chinaholidays.com

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