Until recently, white tea was mostly unknown outside of China. While many other types of teas grew in popularity such as green tea, black tea and even red tea, white tea remained a drink for Chinese royalty and their guests. As the popularity of tea grew, however, and more people began to notice its health benefits, white tea has become more main stream. White tea history is not only interesting, but vital to understanding why the drink has taken so long to gain popularity.
To properly understand white tea history, you need to know how all tea was discovered. According to popular belief, tea was first discovered in 2737 BC by Emperor Shennong. According to legend, the Emperor and his army stopped to rest and began boiling water to drink as was common at the time. During the boiling process a dead leaf from a tea bush flew into the water. Unnoticed by anyone, the water was given to Emperor Shennong. The Emperor found the drink refreshing and tea was born.
Over the next few thousand years, tea was revered for its medicinal effects and its use quickly became widespread throughout China.
White Tea History
White tea was discovered during the Song Dynasty in China between 960 and 1279 AD. During this period, the Chinese discovered that the youngest buds would produce a more mild tasting and refreshing tea. During the beginning of white tea history, it was known as the Emperor's drink. Common people were not allowed to drink white tea and it was enjoyed by the Emperor and his court exclusively. In fact, one Emperor, Hui Zong, became so obsessed with white tea that it cost him most of his empire.
Even after white tea became available to the commoners, it was still very rare and expensive. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that white tea history changed and certain tea bushes were cultivated to produce different varieties of white tea. Soon, white tea was exported to neighboring Asian countries and then to the western world.
The latter part of white tea history is very short compared to its long history in the Orient. It has only been in the last decade, as health-conscious people began to discover the many health benefits that white tea offers that it has grown in popularity. White tea remains rare, however, because of the stringent rules on how it is to be harvested and processed.
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