The tea we drink is derived from Camillia sinensis, an evergreen tree of the Theaceae family. As Camillia sinensis is indigenous to China and parts of India, each culture has a claim to the discovery of this popular beverage.
India's legend originates with a saintly priest named Bodhidharma. About 1,900 years ago, the eventual founder of Zen Buddhism was in the fifth year of a seven-year sleepless contemplation of Buddha. Finding himself dangerously close to falling asleep, Bodhidharma snatched some leaves from a nearby bush and chewed them. He was immediately revived. Bodhidharma turned to these leaves—the leaves of a wild tea tree—whenever he again felt drowsy, and was thus, according to legend, able to complete his seven years of meditation.
Tea's popularity as a wholesome, invigorating drink first spread throughout China and Japan. The first book on tea, Ch'a Ching, was written by the Chinese author Lu Yu in the eighth century. A definitive, poetic manual that covers the cultivation and production of tea, it is credited with helping tea become China's national drink long before it was ever tasted in the West.
The story of tea is as old as nature itself; we have been drinking tea on these shores for over 350 years. But, it took an exciting turn in the year 1837, when the Tetley brothers went into business in Yorkshire, England. This is the brief history of tea, Tetley and the tea bag.