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History of Tea - Types and Benefits

We all love a good cup of tea! Even though coffee is our specialty, brewing is our passion. If you are just as interested in these magical leaves as us, then we’ve got just the thing for you! Prepare to travel back in time and learn about the history of tea. Get to know what types of tea existed back then and why it grew to be so popular.

The History of Tea: An Accidental Beginning 

Cultural Significance

The date is 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung is preparing a pot of boiling water when a gust of wind tears through his room! Little does he know that this wind carries what will become the most famous leaf in 5000 years.

According to the records pertaining to the history of tea, this serendipitous gust of wind delivered tea leaves directly into the emperor's pot of boiling water and the rest, as they say, is history! He was amazed by its pleasant aroma and instantly fell in love upon taking a sip. What began as an accident of nature became one of the biggest cultural symbols of the nation.

Important Ancient Tea Facts

Emperor Shen Nung named the brew “Ch’a”. During the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C, the ruling emperor brought forth a new rule for Ch’a. It stated that the word Ch’a should be written using a special character that denotes grass, branches, and a stickman between the two. 

History of Tea: Cultural Significance 

Tea was – and still is – the single most important beverage in China. It was incorporated into everything from weddings to evening activities. Tea was ingrained in the very fabrics of Chinese society, and you could even go as far as saying it was considered to be “holy” as it was treated with such respect and reverence.

The popularity of tea spread far and fast. Tea plantations sprung up all around ancient China as the benefits of tea were acknowledged and the demand for this medicinal leaf grew. Tea merchants grew wealthy and became important figures within the nation. The ruling nations strictly oversaw its preparation. Only young females were allowed to pick tea, and they were not allowed to eat certain foods! Onions and garlic were strictly off the menu, as their fingertips needed to be odour free!

Pretty soon teawares were born, and these were used in the preparation of tea. Brewing an everyday cup of tea was almost ceremonial. Expensive teaware began to pop up all around China and was used to denote wealth. 

History of Tea: The Journey

Journey of tea

Green tea was the most prominent form of tea in china until the dawn of the 17th century. Green tea consists of tea leaves in their dried form. While green tea was the most flavourful and aromatic, transporting or trading the dried leaf was troublesome. They would lose flavour and the benefits of tea would diminish. Not to mention even the slightest contact with moisture would cause mould, ruining the stock.

This was when black tea was discovered by merchants. Black tea is created by fermenting tea leaves through a special method. This new form of tea had a longer shelf life and did not spoil quickly. The birth of black tea was a new dawn for tea merchants!

Also Read - 9 Types Of Tea To Drink For Cold And Flu

The First Trades

The first tea trade began in the 9th century as merchants travelled to the surrounding lands of Tibet and Japan. However, this was before black tea was discovered. Therefore the types of tea were limited to just green tea.

Tibet graciously accepted tea into their land. But, there was a catch! Their rugged mountains made propagation impossible. Therefore the Tibetan tea supply was solely in the hands of the Chinese merchants. 

The Japanese wholeheartedly integrated tea into their culture. Tea became an important aspect of society just like it did in Chinese culture. Samurai, a noble class in Japan, were often gifted teaware as rewards. 

With the invention of black tea, the transportation of tea became easier. This helped traders to travel to distant lands in order to sell their precious tea for exorbitant prices. Tea became a royal beverage!

Europe and Russia

Europe marked the first step in tea globalization. The Dutch and Portuguese were amazed by this fascinating beverage! The prices, however, were far out of reach for the average citizen. A single pound of tea would cost as much as an entire month's wage!

Its high prices gave the beverage a sense of grandeur and opulence. According to the known history of tea, drinking a cup of tea marked you as an elite member of society! Paintings of noble families drinking their cups of tea were a common living room adornment back in the day. The afternoon tea and the high tea are both age-old British institutions that are still popular to this day. 

Just like Europeans, Russia warmly welcomed tea into their land. A warm cup of tea to shed away the colds of the freezing land made tea an instant sensation! Almost 6000 camel caravans trekked into Russia annually, each carrying almost 600 pounds of tea. The tea route gradually vanished once the trans-Siberia railway was established, which cut down the transport time to 2 weeks.

Tea Facts: Types of Tea

Tea is the national drink of China! Its popularity paved the way for many different types of tea. The history of tea is filled with the new strains and processing techniques that gave rise to a handful of popular candidates. We made a list of the 7 most popular types of tea over the years!

Green Tea

Green Tea

Green tea is the oldest of the bunch! The history of tea can be followed by tracing how green tea has evolved over its age. When it comes to types of tea, green tea is the most “pure”. Traditional green tea is beloved by the residents of mainland China. The dried leaves make a brew that carries a sharp and astringent flavor.

When it comes to the benefits of tea, most stem down from green tea. It has the least amount of processing involved as a whole. The entire process can be cut down into just three steps: moisture removal, rolling and drying.

Yellow Tea

Yellow Tea

A tea fit for a king!

Yellow tea was the Chinese emperor's choice of brew. The history of tea shows how yellow was the imperial color, hence the choice as a royal drink. Hunan province of China makes the most prestigious strain of yellow tea known as Junshan Yinzhen.

Yellow tea emits a beautiful aroma when brewed. Its aroma is similar to red tea but with a flavour that matches white tea. The combination is described to be heavenly. 

White Tea

White Tea

Back in ancient China, the poor were not able to afford tea. Hence, they’d offer a cup of plain boiling water to their guests instead. This is probably one of the saddest tea facts you’ll hear! This strain is dedicated as a memory for those less fortunate in those tough times.

White tea has a very subtle flavor. It’s made from green tea that is both uncured and unfermented. The delicate flavor of white tea originates from the strains found in Fujian province.

Oolong Tea

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is one of the more popular types of tea. It’s made from a blend of green and red tea that is unfermented during processing. One of the main benefits of Oolong tea is its ability to aid in weight loss

The tea has a mix of aromas and tastes. The blend of green and red tea gives the brew a feel of uniqueness. Through studying the history of tea, we found out that oolong tea was favoured by the ancient Chinese as a beauty enhancer.

Black Tea

Black Tea

Black tea comes just behind its green counterpart in the consumption rankings. It’s been extremely popular since its discovery. Ceylon, Indian, and Chinese black tea are famous worldwide for their distinct tastes! 

The lightest of the young tea shoots are hand-picked every morning. They are wilted and rolled before fermentation. The processed tea leaves are then dried before packing. 

A brew of black tea exhibits a catchy red hue with a light aroma. The taste and quality depend a lot on the growing conditions of the tea plants, which is why black tea is an exquisite blend!

Dark Tea

A fitting name! Dark Tea is one of the more complex types of tea. The tea leaves undergo fermentation using bacteria giving them a darker hue. The history of tea shows how dark tea evolved over 400 years branching out to brews such as Pu’er.

Many find the intense flavor of the dark tea to be overwhelming, but we believe it is wonderfully bold. The strength of the brew is what defines it! The flavor of the brew can be described as earthy and smoky with a spicy hint to it.

Tea Facts On Cultivation

Tea Cultivation

Growing tea was never an easy process. The history of tea depicts tea cultivation as a laborious process and over the years not much has changed. But that’s a part of its charm, a thousand-year-old process that has been perfected by growers worldwide!

There are a few different strains of tea, most of which are grown in the tropical climates where they originate from. Some strains can tolerate marine climates as well. When it comes to the different types of tea, the best way to classify them is through their botanical strains. But who wants to memorize tons of Latin names?


These types of tea plants have the smallest leaves of the bunch. These are the oldest strains when it comes to the history of tea.


Assam tea plants have large leaves. The visual difference is significant when compared with the Chinese plants.


These types of tea plants are a hybrid of Assam and Chinese tea plants. They sit comfortably between the two in terms of foliage size.

The growing season for all types of tea starts out in March and ends in November. This is the prime time period for tea harvesting. The plants are pruned down to waist length for easy reach. The highest quality teas are handpicked by expert tea pluckers with decades of experience. Only the top shoots of the plants are plucked as they make the best brews!

Tea plucking is broken down into “flushes”. A flush is a period in which the tea plants sprout new shoots (A flush lasts between 1-2 weeks). The quality of the flush depends on the climate and geography.

Blends With Benefits: Historical Benefits of Tea

Benefits of Tea

The benefits of tea are almost mythical at times! The history of tea shows how tea was used as a medicine for thousands of years. It was used expansively as both a daily refreshment and a supplement to fuel the ancient Chinese through the tough climates. 

If you are curious about the benefits of tea, then these tea facts will amaze you! To break the line between tea facts and myths, we have added modern discoveries as well!

Peace of Mind

The history of tea is often associated with one’s spiritual well-being. Some might say that it’s the placebo effect, but we beg to differ! 

The spiritual benefits of tea relate to the calming effect of tea. Drinking a cup of tea can boost your mood, improve your focus, and cut out the buzz from your head. Now, this ain't no magic trick! This happens due to L-theanine and caffeine in tea leaves. The combination enhances and promotes relaxation!

A daily cup of tea can even protect your brain from Parkinson's; maybe those old tales weren’t lying!

Keeps you in shape

Drinking tea has been a daily tradition in ancient Asia ever since its discovery. They believed it had the power to keep your body fit and healthy. Soldiers would guzzle down a cup of tea whenever they could to keep them going!

So, what’s the big deal with it? Well, tea is loaded with so many antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it’s pretty much a chalice of rejuvenation! 

Tea can even cut down weight, keep your heart healthy, and slow down the ageing process. No wonder it was treated as a miracle by the ancients!

A boost in immunity 

A boost in immunity

Wars were frequent back in the day, and soldiers needed all the help they can get. The history of tea strongly showcases how the beverage was drunk to help soldiers get a boost in healing. 

Of course, this was not a divine potion! But, the chemicals and antioxidants in the different types of tea drunk back in the day were thought to be extremely beneficial in cellular repair. 

A Modern Twist on the History of Tea

It’s true that old is gold, but an upgrade is always an upgrade. We decided to create the blends for the 21st century. These Portfolio Coffee exclusives combine the best of both worlds. It’s where the past meets the present!

The English Breakfast

Simple, yet elegant. The English breakfast blend is an all-time favourite classic. The robust blend is perfect for a break beverage. The blend goes well with milk and sugar allowing you to cream it to your tastes.

The flavour profile is rich and deep because of the different types of tea involved. The bitterness of Assam, the fruity flavours of Kenyan tea and the exquisite pine flavours of Ceylon are all a treat to your taste buds.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile Tea

Feeling a bit hectic? A sip of Chamomile tea should do the trick!

Chamomile tea is a favourite to no surprise! We live hectic lives and chamomile soothes the troubles away. The blend is great for anxiety and helps you to rest when the sun goes down. When it comes to the benefits of tea, chamomile is known to protect consumers against heart disease and even boost digestion.

The Green Tea Genmaicha

A Japanese speciality made from green tea and popped brown rice.

It’s nutty! The flavours of the Genmaicha layer down with tones of nutty caramel, fruits and a hint of savoury goodness. Of course, the green tea just makes everything better! 

Have trouble with cholesterol? A cup of Genmaicha will lend you a hand in controlling it. Since Genmaicha has lower amounts of caffeine, it can even be drunk before bedtime. No sleepless nights in this household!

Spicy Chai Tea

Spicy Chai Tea

Spicy Chai is an Indian speciality. You’d see vendors all around India pouring heaps of them into cups and their customers flocking to grab a cup. If you’re someone that loves a bit of spice, the Chai tea is just for you!

What’s in it? A whole lot of spices and a blend of black tea of the best quality. Cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and a handful more. Every sip feels like a trip to the misty tropical mountains. 

Doubtful about the spices? Chai tea is now a beloved beverage in the US, Europe and Oceania. Not all spices leave your tongue watering from the heat, the chai blend is special! The spice is more like a savoury kick that gives the tea a very pleasant aftertaste.

Peppermint Tea

Because who doesn’t love mint? 

The goodness of mint and the soothing blends of tea all fit into a perfect cup! Our peppermint tea is great for both you and your taste buds. We all know about the benefits of peppermint. A cup of it would do all of us some good!

Peach Tea

Do you love eating peaches? Why not try a tea made from it?

Peach tea is made from the bark and the leaves of the peach tree. Mix it together with some black tea and you have a delicious brew that elevates the taste to a whole new level. 

It doesn’t end there!

This is just a speck of what we have in our collection. Ever heard about pumpkin spice tea, Earl Grey, and Matcha? We have them all. They are all waiting to be popped into your teapot!

A sip a day keeps the worries away

A sip a day keeps the worries away

Did the history of tea catch you by surprise? Isn’t it wonderful how a simple cup of hot leaves has so much history ingrained in its fragrant depths? Next time you sip on a cup of tea, you’ll appreciate it even more as you now know how significant it really is! If you are an avid tea lover, we’ve got a wide range of brews and blends just for you. Everything from true tea made with the Camellia sinensis plant, like those mentioned above, to the herbal blends created by infusing dried flowers, fruits, herbs, or spices. Give them a look and be amazed!

Is this all we do?

Not in the slightest!

We are specialists in everything that can be brewed in a pot! Coffee, tea and herbal blends, you name it! Our coffee is the best you can get in Canada. Roasted to perfection in the hands of our experts and carefully packed to be delivered to your very doorstep.

That’s why we are different and that’s why we are better! We cover every one of your needs. Portfolio Coffee even has a coffee subscription for our loyal customers. If you ever get tired of the different types of tea, which we highly doubt because of our impressive range, always pop your head over to the coffee section.

We’ll leave you for now and always remember, a warm teapot is a happy teapot!

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