2737 BC The Second Emperor, Shen Nung known as the Divine Healer first discovered tea in China. One summer day while visiting a distant region of his realm, he and the court stopped to rest. In accordance with his ruling, the servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from the near by bush fell into the boiling water, and a brown liquid was infused into the water. As a scientist, the Emperor was interested in the new liquid, drank some, and found it very refreshing. And so, according to legend, tea was created.

350 AD The first description of drinking tea is written in a Chinese dictionary.

400 - 600 The demand for tea rose steadily. Rather than harvest leaves from wild trees, farmers began to develop ways to cultivate tea. Tea was commonly made into roasted cakes, which were then pounded into small pieces and placed in a china pot. After adding boiling water, onion, spices, ginger or orange were introduced to produce many regional variations

618 - 906 Tang Dynasty. Powdered tea became the fashion of the time. Nobility made it a popular pastime. Caravans carried tea on the Silk Road, trading with India, Turkey and Russia.

780 Poet Lu Yu wrote the first book of tea, making him a living saint, patronized by the Emperor himself. The book described methods of cultivation and preparation. The first definitive book on tea, the Ch'a Ching. This amazing man was orphaned as a child and raised by scholarly Buddhist monks in one of China's finest monasteries. However, as a young man, he rebelled against the discipline of priestly training which had made him a skilled observer. His fame as a performer increased with each year, but he felt his life lacked meaning. Finally, in mid-life, he retired for five years into seclusion. Drawing from his vast memory of observed events and places, he codified the various methods of tea cultivation and preparation in ancient China. The vast definitive nature of his work, projected him into near sainthood within his own lifetime. Patronized by the Emperor himself, his work clearly showed the Zen Buddhist philosophy to which he was exposed as a child. It was this form of tea service that Zen Buddhist missionaries would later introduce to imperial Japan.

805 The Buddhist monk Saicho brought tea seeds to Japan from China. The first tea seeds were brought to Japan by the returning monk, who had seen the value of tea in China in enhancing religious mediation. As a result, he is known as the "Father of Tea" in Japan. Because of this early association, tea in Japan has always been associated with Zen Buddhism. Tea received almost instant imperial sponsorship and spread rapidly from the royal court and monasteries to the other sections of Japanese society. Tea was elevated to an art form resulting in the creation of the Japanese Tea Ceremony ("Cha-no-yu" or "the hot water for tea"). The best description of this complex art form was probably written by the Irish-Greek journalist-historian Lafcadio Hearn, one of the few foreigners ever to be granted Japanese citizenship during this era. He wrote from personal observation, "The Tea ceremony requires years of training and practice to graduate in art...yet the whole of this art, as to its detail, signifies no more than the making and serving of a cup of tea. The supremely important matter is that the act be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful, most charming manner possible".

Such a purity of form, of expression prompted the creation of supportive arts and services. A special form of architecture (chaseki) developed for "tea houses", based on the duplication of the simplicity of a forest cottage. The cultural/artistic hostesses of Japan, the Geishi, began to specialize in the presentation of the tea ceremony. As more and more people became involved in the excitement surrounding tea, the purity of the original Zen concept was lost. The tea ceremony became corrupted, boisterous and highly embellished. "Tea Tournaments" were held among the wealthy where nobles competed among each other for rich prizes in naming various tea blends. Rewarding winners with gifts of silk, armor, and jewelry was totally alien to the original Zen attitude of the ceremony.

960 - 1280 Sung dynasty. Tea was used widely. Powdered tea had become common. Beautiful ceramic tea accessories were made during this time. Dark-blue, black and brown glazes, which contrasted with the vivid green of the whisked tea, were favored.

1101 - 1125 Emperor Hui Tsung wrote about the best ways to make whisked tea. A strong patron of the tea industry, he had tournaments in which members of the court identified different types of tea. Legend has it that he became so obsessed with tea he hardly noticed the Mongols who overthrew his empire. During his reign, teahouses built in natural settings became popular among the Chinese.

1191 Eisai Myoan, the monk who brought Zen Buddhism to Japan, returned from a trip to China with tea seeds, which he planted on the grounds of his temple near Kyoto. Eisai experimented with different ways to brew tea, finally adopting the Chinese whisked tea.

1206 - 1368 Yuan Dynasty. Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan conquered Chinese territories and established a Mongolian dynasty in power for more than a century. Tea became an ordinary drink, never regaining the high status it once enjoyed. Marco Polo was not even introduced to tea when he visited.

1368 - 1644 Ming Dynasty. People again began to enjoy tea. The new method of preparation was steeping whole leaves in water. The resulting pale liquid necessitated a lighter color ceramic than was popular in the past. The white and off-white tea-ware produced became the style of the time. The first Yixing pots were made at this time.

1422 - 1502 A Zen priest named Murata Shuko, who had devoted his life to tea, created the Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony is called "Cha No Yu," which means "hot water for tea."

While tea was at this high level of development in both Japan and China, information concerning this then unknown beverage began to filter back to Europe. Earlier caravan leaders had mentioned it, but were unclear as to its service format or appearance. (One reference suggests the leaves be boiled, salted, buttered, and eaten!) The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz in 1560. Portugal, with her technologically advanced navy, had been successful in gaining the first right of trade with China. It was as a missionary on that first commercial mission that Father de Cruz had tasted tea four years before.

The Portuguese developed a trade route by which they shipped their tea to Lisbon, and then Dutch ships transported it to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries. (At that time Holland was politically affiliated with Portugal. When this alliance was altered in 1602, Holland, with her excellent navy, entered into full Pacific trade in her own right.)

1610 The Dutch brought tea to Europe from China, trading dried sage in exchange.

When tea finally arrived in Europe, Elizabeth I had more years to live, and Rembrandt was only six years old. Because of the success of the Dutch navy in the Pacific, tea became very fashionable in the Dutch capital, the Hague. This was due in part to the high cost of the tea (over $100 per pound) which immediately made it the domain of the wealthy. Slowly, as the amount of tea imported increased, the price fell as the volume of sale expanded. Initially available to the public in apothecaries along with such rare and new spices as ginger and sugar, by 1675 it was available in common food shops throughout Holland.

As the consumption of tea increased dramatically in Dutch society, doctors and university authorities argued back and forth as to the negative and/or positive benefits of tea. Known as "tea heretics", the public largely ignored the scholarly debate and continued to enjoy their new beverage though the controversy lasted from 1635 to roughly 1657. Throughout this period France and Holland led Europe in the use of tea.

As the craze for things oriental swept Europe, tea became part of the way of life. The social critic Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Seven makes the first mention in 1680 of adding milk to tea. During the same period, Dutch inns provided the first restaurant service of tea. Tavern owners would furnish guests with a portable tea set complete with a heating unit. The independent Dutchman would then prepare tea for himself and his friends outside in the tavern's garden. Tea remained popular in France for only about fifty years, being replaced by a stronger preference for wine, chocolate, and exotic coffees.

1618 Chinese ambassadors presented Czar Alexis with a gift of several chests of tea.

Imperial Russia was attempting to engage China and Japan in trade at the same time as the East Indian Company. The Russian interest in tea began as early as 1618 when the Chinese embassy in Moscow presented several chests of tea to Czar Alexis. By 1689 the Trade Treaty of Newchinsk established a common border between Russia and China, allowing caravans to then cross back and forth freely. Still, the journey was not easy. The trip was 11,000 miles long and took over sixteen months to complete. The average caravan consisted of 200 to 300 camels. As a result of such factors, the cost of tea was initially prohibitive and available only to the wealthy. By the time Catherine the Great died (1796), the price had dropped some, and tea was spreading throughout Russian society. Tea was ideally suited to Russian life: hearty, warm, and sustaining.

The samovar, adopted from the Tibetan "hot pot", is a combination bubbling hot water heater and tea pot. Placed in the center of the Russian home, it could run all day and serve up to forty cups of tea at a time. Again showing the Asian influence in the Russian culture, guests sipped their tea from glasses in silver holders, very similar to Turkish coffee cups. The Russians have always favored strong tea highly sweetened with sugar, honey, or jam.

With the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1900, the overland caravans were abandoned. Although the Revolution intervened in the flow of the Russian society, tea remained a staple throughout. Tea (along with vodka) is the national drink of the Russians today

1657 Tea was first sold in England at Garway's Coffee House in London. The East India Company operated out of several sites in the City of London, the first in Philpot Lane, Fenchurch, then it took a lease on Lord Northampton's mansion, Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate and then in 1658 another move before it finally leased Lord Craven's House in Leadenhall Street. Under the terms of a charter granted by Elizabeth I, The East India Company owned all trading rights and controlled the sale of those imported goods back to Britain.

Great Britain was the last of the three great sea-faring nations to break into the Chinese and East Indian trade routes. This was due in part to the unsteady ascension to the throne of the Stuarts and the Cromwellian Civil War. The first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and 1654. Tea quickly proved popular enough to replace ale as the national drink of England.

As in Holland, it was the nobility that provided the necessary stamp of approval and so insured its acceptance. King Charles II had married, while in exile, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza (1662). Charles himself had grown up in the Dutch capital. As a result, both he and his Portuguese bride were confirmed tea drinkers. When the monarchy was re-established, the two rulers brought this foreign tea tradition to England with them. As early as 1600 Elizabeth I had founded the John company for the purpose of promoting Asian trade. When Catherine de Braganza married Charles she brought as part of her dowry the territories of Tangier and Bombay. Suddenly, the John Company had a base of operations.

The John Company was granted the unbelievably wide monopoly of all trade east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of Cape Horn. Its powers were almost without limit and included among others the right to:

• Legally acquire territory and govern it.

• Coin money.

• Raise arms and build forts.

• Form foreign alliances.

• Declare war.

• Conclude peace.

• Pass laws.

• Try and punish law breakers.

It was the single largest, most powerful monopoly to ever exist in the world. And its power was based on the importation of tea. At the same time, the newer East India Company floundered against such competition. Appealing to Parliament for relief, the decision was made to merge the John Company and the East India Company (1773). Their re-drafted charts gave the new East India Company a complete and total trade monopoly on all commerce in China and India. As a result, the price of tea was kept artificially high, leading to later global difficulties for the British crown.

1661 The Taiwanese began to drink wild tea.

1662 Charles II took Catherine Braganza of Portugal as his wife. They both drank tea, creating a fashion for it. Its popularity among the aristocracy causes alcohol beverages to fall from favor.

1669 Close to 150 pounds of tea were shipped to England. Until 1669, most of the tea drunk in Britain was bought from the Dutch. 1689Traders with three hundred camels traveled 11,000 miles to China and back in order to supply Russia's demand. The trip took sixteen months.

1697 In Taiwan, settlers of Formosa's Nantou County cultivated the first domestic bushes. Dutch ships carried the tea to Persia, the first known export of Taiwanese tea.

1705 The yearly importation of tea to England grew to approximately 800,000 pounds.

Tea mania swept across England as it had earlier spread throughout France and Holland. Tea importation rose from 40,000 pounds in 1699 to an annual average of 240,000 pounds by 1708. Tea was drunk by all levels of society.

Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals-breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread and beef. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of the day. It was no wonder that Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) experienced a "sinking feeling" in the late afternoon. Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." (London at that time still contained large open meadows within the city.) The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses. A common pattern of service soon merged. The first pot of tea was made in the kitchen and carried to the lady of the house who waited with her invited guests, surrounded by fine porcelain from China. The first pot was warmed by the hostess from a second pot (usually silver) that was kept heated over a small flame. Food and tea was then passed among the guests, the main purpose of the visiting being conversation.

Tea cuisine quickly expanded in range to quickly include wafer thin crustless sandwiches, shrimp or fish pates, toasted breads with jams, and regional British pastries such as scones (Scottish) and crumpets (English). At this time two distinct forms of tea services evolved: "High" and "Low". "Low" Tea (served in the low part of the afternoon) was served in aristocratic homes of the wealthy and featured gourmet tidbits rather than solid meals. The emphasis was on presentation and conversation. "High" Tea or "Meat Tea" was the main or "High" meal of the day. It was the major meal of the middle and lower classes and consisted of mostly full dinner items such as roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, and of course, tea.

Tea was the major beverage served in the coffee houses, but they were so named because coffee arrived in England some years before tea. Exclusively for men, they were called "Penny Universities" because for a penny any man could obtain a pot of tea, a copy of the newspaper, and engage in conversation with the sharpest wits of the day. The various houses specialized in selected areas of interest, some serving attorneys, some authors, others the military. They were the forerunner of the English gentlemen's private club. One such beverage house was owned by Edward Lloyd and was favored by shipowners, merchants and marine insurers. That simple shop was the origin of Lloyd's, the worldwide insurance firm. Attempts to close the coffee houses were made throughout the eighteenth century because of the free speech they encouraged, but such measures proved so unpopular they were always quickly revoked.

Experiencing the Dutch "tavern garden teas", the English developed the idea of Tea Gardens. Here ladies and gentlemen took their tea out of doors surrounded by entertainment such as orchestras, hidden arbors, flowered walks, bowling greens, concerts, gambling, or fireworks at night. It was at just such a Tea Garden that Lord Nelson, who defeated Napoleon by sea, met the great love of his life, Emma, later Lady Hamilton. Women were permitted to enter a mixed, public gathering for the first time without social criticism. As the gardens were public, British society mixed here freely for the first time, cutting across lines of class and birth.

Tipping as a response to proper service developed in the Tea Gardens of England. Small, locked wooden boxes were placed on the tables throughout the Garden. Inscribed on each were the letters "T.I.P.S." which stood for the sentence "To Insure Prompt Service". If a guest wished the waiter to hurry (and so insure the tea arrived hot from the often distant kitchen) he dropped a coin into the box on being seated "to insure prompt service". Hence, the custom of tipping servers was created.

1706 The first auction dedicated to tea took place in Craven House, which became known as East India House. These East India Company auctions were held quarterly. Such early auctions were "Sold by the Candle," a system whereby a candle was marked off in inches, it was lit when the bidding began, the hammer was brought down as the first inch line was reached and so on down the candle for each lot.

1710 Wealthy American Colonists developed a taste for tea.

1773 The Tea Act of 1773 giving the East India Company control of trading in the Americas imposed the same taxes and levies on the colonists as paid by the British. Objection led to an act of rebellion known as the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, which is commonly viewed as a first step towards the American War of Independence. Under cover of night, colonists dressed as Native Americans boarded the East India Company ships in Boston Harbor. They opened chests of tea and dumped their contents into the water. This was repeated in other less known instances up and down the coast.

1776 China was the main tea source of eighteenth century. Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), Central and Eastern African countries were sending teas to the London Auction.

1833 The East India Company enjoyed its monopoly for two and a half centuries. Independent merchants campaigned for change and modernization, which was achieved in 1833.

1834 An imperial edict from the Chinese Emperor closed all Chinese ports to foreign vessels until the end of the First Opium War in 1842. Royal Assent was given to the Bill who rescinded the charter given to the East India Company; this came into force on 22nd, April 1834. The brokers began to look for new premises and found a dancing studio in Exchange Alley, City of London. In November 1834 the tea auctions were moved again to the newly built London Commercial Salesrooms, Mincing Lane and remained there until 30th January 1937 when they moved down the lane to Plantation House.

The Scottish botanist/adventurer Robert Fortune, who spoke fluent Chinese, was able to sneak into mainland China the first year after the first Opium War. His second journey to China was for the East India company to obtain the finest tea plants (20,000) to establish plantations in India. He obtained some of the closely guarded tea seeds and made notes on tea cultivation. With support from the Crown, various experiments in growing tea in India were attempted. Many of these failed due to bad soil selection and incorrect planting techniques, ruining many a younger son of a noble family. Through each failure, however, the technology was perfected. Finally, after years of trial and error, fortunes made and lost, the English tea plantations in India and other parts of Asia flourished. The great English tea marketing companies were founded and production mechanized as the world industrialized in the late 1880's.

The first three American millionaires, T. H. Perkins of Boston, Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor of New York, all made their fortunes in the China trade. America began direct trade with China soon after the Revolution was over in 1789. America's newer, faster clipper ships outsailed the slower, heavier English "tea wagons" that had until then dominated the trade. This forced the English navy to update their fleet, a fact America would have to address in the War of 1812.

The new American ships established sailing records that still stand for speed and distance. John Jacob Astor began his tea trading in 1800. He required a minimum profit on each venture of 50% and often made 100%. Stephen Girard of Philadelphia was known as the "gentle tea merchant". His critical loans to the young (and still weak) American government enabled the nation to re-arm for the War of 1812. The orphanage founded by him still perpetuates his good name. Thomas Perkins was from one of Boston's oldest sailing families. The Chinese trust in him as a gentleman of his word enabled him to conduct enormous transactions half way around the world without a single written contract. His word and his handshake was enough so great was his honor in the eyes of the Chinese. It is to their everlasting credit that none of these men ever paid for tea with opium. America was able to break the English tea monopoly because its ships were faster and America paid in gold.

1840's Clipper ships, built in America, sped-up the transportation of tea to America and Europe, livening the pace of trade. Some ships could make the trip from Hong Kong to London in ninety-five days. Races to London became commonplace; smugglers and blockade runners also benefited from the advances in sailing speeds. By the mid-1800's the world was involved in a global clipper race as nations competed with each other to claim the fastest ships. England and America were the leading rivals. Each year the tall ships would race from China to the Tea Exchange in London to bring in the first tea for auction. Though beginning half way around the world, the mastery of the crews was such that the great ships often raced up the Thames separated by only by minutes. But by 1871 the newer steamships began to replace these great ships.

Trade with China and Japan had brought knowledge of tea to the Arabs starting in the 9th century. Certain of their ancient tales mention the drink. However, their interest remained dormant until the 19th century.

Production of tea in India soared during the 19th century due, among other things, to mechanization of the plantations. The English began to worry about possible overproduction. As they searched out new markets, they thought that if they introduced tea to the Arabs, they could divest themselves of their surplus. At the time the Arabs were in the habit of drinking mint or absinthe; they welcomed tea, as it blended in well and attenuated the bitterness of their infusions.

Tea met with such success that it was soon being consumed at all hours. It became a national drink, intimately associated with hospitality and sociability. Of the 20 nations in the world that consume the most tea, half are Arab countries (Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia). Most Islamic countries, including Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia import and consume black tea, while Morocco and Afghanistan are the two main consumers of green tea.

In the Arab countries, mint tea or n‚a-naa is the ritual drink of hospitality. Besides helping to digest spiced or fatty food, it is thought to comfort the anguished spirit, calm the insomniac, awaken the slumbering, sharpen the senses, constrain the over-exuberance of youth, and soothe the ills of old age. It is served in palaces and it is served in the most modest of rooms, in offices, stores, markets and cafes, at all hours of the day and night. One never refuses tea.

The tea ritual in these countries is exclusively masculine. The man of the house or the oldest son is responsible for preparing and serving. He places three teaspoons of green tea in a teapot and pours boiling water on top, then strains it off immediately in order to clean the leaves and remove a little of their bitterness. He then once again pours boiling water over the tea (often gunpowder tea) and adds the mint leaves, which have previously been washed. Once the whole has been left to infuse, he adds pieces of sugar broken off from a sugar loaf. He pours out one glass, immediately pours it back into the pot, and may repeat this operation a second time. The tea is poured from very high up in order to oxygenate it, then it is served in large painted crystal glasses.

Tea is always served in three rounds. While the guests are drinking the first round, which may not contain mint, the master of the house adds tea, mint and sugar to the leaves already in the pot, and allows this blend to infuse. This second preparation will be more robust than the first. The third round proceeds as for the second, and will be stronger yet. Sometimes a fourth round, made without the addition of tea, will be prepared for the children.

An Arab proverb expresses the spirit of the three rounds:

"The first glass is as bitter as life;

The second glass is as sweet as love;

The third glass is as soothing as death."

1870 Twinings of England began to blend tea for consistency. Tea companies to blossom in Britain by the late nineteenth century blending, branding and packaging were giving the public a wide variety of choice.

Beginning in the late 1880's in both America and England, fine hotels began to offer tea service in tea rooms and tea courts. Served in the late afternoon, Victorian ladies (and their gentlemen friends) could meet for tea and conversation. Many of these tea services became the hallmark of the elegance of the hotel, such as the tea services at the Ritz (Boston) and the Plaza (New York).

By 1910 hotels began to host afternoon tea dances as dance craze after dance craze swept the United States and England. Often considered wasteful by older people they provided a place for the new "working girl" to meet men in a city, far from home and family. (Indeed, the editor of Vogue once fired a large number of female secretarial workers for "wasting their time at tea dances").

1900 Trans-Siberian railroad made transport to Russia cheaper and faster. Java became an important producer as well. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the London Tea Auction had grown in importance. Most working days of the week were allotted to a particular country's sale with minor suppliers being herded together on convenient days.

1904 Richard Blechynden created iced tea for the St. Louis World Fair. America stabilized her government, strengthened her economy, and expanded her borders and interests. By 1904 the United States was ready for the world to see her development at the St. Louis World's Fair. Trade exhibitors from around the world brought their products to America's first World's Fair. One such merchant was Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner. Originally, he had planned to give away free samples of hot tea to fair visitors. But when a heat wave hit, no one was interested. To save his investment of time and travel, he dumped a load of ice into the brewed tea and served the first "iced tea". It was (along with the Egyptian fan dancer) the hit of the Fair.

1909 Thomas Sullivan invented tea bags in New York, sending tea to clients in silk bags, which they began to mistakenly steep without opening.

As a tea merchant, he carefully wrapped each sample delivered to restaurants for their consideration. He recognized a natural marketing opportunity when he realized the restaurants were brewing the samples "in the bags" to avoid the mess of tea leaves in the kitchens.

1910 Sumatra, Indonesia grows and exports tea. Soon thereafter, tea is grown in Kenya and other parts of Africa.

1918 A National Tea Control was brought in, tea was split into three grades and sold at a fixed retail price of two shillings and eight pence, the equivalent of three and a half modern pence.

1919 The London Tea Auction resumed on 5th May 1919.

1920 - 1930 The tea trade suffered a slump like most other industry in Britain. However the tea trade found export markets to fill the gap.

1940 As Britain recovered, so did the UK tea trade, but again the economy collapsed with World War II. In 1940 tea was rationed, this remained until October 1952.

1952 The London Tea Auction resumed and took place in Plantation House until it moved to Sir John Lyon House on 8th, February 1971. Since then the tea trade has seen the introduction of the off shore auction, tea sold by the container whilst on route for the UK and the growth of the producer countries' own auctions due to increased volumes.

1970 The Taiwanese government encouraged its population to drink tea, revitalizing tea culture on the island.

1998 In the last twenty years the frequency of and volumes sold at the London Tea Auction have declined. In 1990 the auction moved to The London Chamber of Commerce where it closed in 1998.

2003 India is the country with the most tea consumption in the world - an average of 651,000 metric tons per year. China is second, and consumes about 463,000 metric tons per year. USA is number one consumer of iced tea, with between 80% and 85% of our total tea consumed that way. Tea is more popular than ever in America today. Currently, there is a re-awakening of interest in tea as many Americans seek a more positive, healthy lifestyle. Fine hotels throughout the United States are re-establishing or planning for the first time afternoon tea services.