Considered one of the seven necessities in the Chinese culture (along with rice, vinegar, firewood, salt, oil and soy souse) tea had earned its place as one of the most famous and beloved beverages among a vast number of nations around the world. This herbal drink and the intricate and detailed rituals that come with consuming it in China had been traced back centuries. There are some theories about how tea was first discovered and most of them sound as magical as the drink itself tastes. The most known legend is that tea was discovered by accident by Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 BC. It states that a leaf from a shrub fell into the water that a servant was boiling for the ruler and thus the first cup of tea was produced. The emperor loved the concoction and continued drinking it.
A period called the “Spring and Autumn period” existed around 771 BC – 476 BC when tea was firstly considered a medicine. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) tea drinking in China was becoming a social event and the herbs were widely produced and consumed around the country. It is interesting that during this time tea was prepared in a form of a compressed cake called teacake or brick tea. Water was added to powdered teacakes to create the brew. Around the 13-th century, the Chinese people developed new techniques and begun roasting the leaves. This probably was how the origins of the loose tea we know today came to be. Tea became a very important drink among Buddhist monks, as some types of tea contained caffeine much needed during the long hours of meditation.
The five most distinct kinds of tea in China are: white, green, black, oolong and dark tea (post-fermented), but there are many sub-categories or varieties of different drinks that are begotten from the main ones.