The consumption of tea in China began as a medicine but gradually grew into a form of beverage. Shen Nong (神农), a legendary traditional Chinese medicine practitioner 2,700 BC ago, utilized tea as an antidote when he was poisoned while trying out various herbs.
Li Shizhen (李时珍), another well-known medical practitioner and author of The Pharmacopoeia, a book described by Charles Darwin as an encyclopedia on Traditional Chinese Medicine, wrote that “Tea is bitter and cool … can best assuage internal heat which is the root of all diseases.”
The world’s first book on tea called Canon of Tea《茶经》was written by Lu Yu which detailed how to grow, prepare and drink tea. The book had a far-reaching influence on the development of tea culture in China.
The major religions of Taoism and Buddhism in China also utilized the consumption of tea for meditation, health and longevity purposes. It was believed that the Japanese tea culture originated from Jingshan Temple in Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province and was quickly adopted and developed into an elaborate ritual by Japanese monks.
As time went by, people living in different locations developed different forms of tea cultivation, tea brewing and tea culture. Longjing Tea (龙井茶) cultivated along the famous West Lake in Hangzhou was popular in Zhejiang Province. In the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong, Oolong Tea (乌龙茶) was popular. Other famous tea included Mao Feng (毛峰) from Huangshan, Biluochun (碧螺春) from Jiangsu Province and Pu’er (普洱) from Yunnan Province.
However, today in China, tea was on longer a dominant home beverage. The sales of coffee beans, instant coffee products and soft-drinks had risen dramatically. It was now common for Chinese to offer soft-drinks or coffee to visitors in place of the traditional tea.
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