Tea perhaps was first referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh, written at around 3000 BC but clay fragments of which was discovered only in the 19th century. It is thought that Gilgamesh was told by Utnapishtim, a man who became a god, that on his ship he poured tea as a libation for the gods as appreciation for his deliverance, and that in smelling the tea’s sweet aroma the gods gathered around.
Shen Nung, the second emperor of China, was said to be a creative scientist. One of his edicts required that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. In 2737 BC, it is told, some tea leaves accidentally blew into a pot of boiling water that Shen Nung had ordered. And so the official history of tea began. Today, tea is the most-consumed beverage on the planet.
The first European to encounter tea was the Portuguese Jesuit Jasper de Cruz in 1560 but tea was introduced to Europe by the Dutch in the 17th century and was brought to the United States by Peter Stuyvesant in 1650. The first mention of tea in England was made in 1658 by coffee house owner Thomas Garaway, referring to Chineans Tcha (Chinese Tea). It is thought that the concept of afternoon tea was introduced around 1840 by Anna, Duchess of Bedford. (More about tea time traditions) Ice tea was introduced in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. The teabag was introduced in 1908 by Thomas Sullivan of New York.
Tea also played a major part in US history: the Boston Tea Party protesting the British tea tax was one of the acts leading to the American Revolutionary War in 1775.
Tea simply is an infusion made with the leaves of an evergreen plant called Camellia Sinesis which is native to Southeast Asia. The different flavors are a results of the age of the leaves and the different ways in which the leaves are dried and processed.
British Standard 6008 and International Standard ISO 3103 advise that tea is best made with water that is freshly boiled. Prolonged boiling of water, or water that is boiled twice, drives off the dissolved oxygen in the water, making the tea taste flat.