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Tea Around the World - Tea Going Abroad

Since its discovery about 5000 years ago in China, tea has been gradually introduced to the test of the world through trade. The first recorded incidence of this slow process occurred mare than 2000 years ago during the Western Han dynasty. Zhang Qian was twice charged as an imperial envoy to make contact and form an alliance with the people living outside the western frontier. Zhang Qian's journeys opened up the east end of the Silk Road, allowing more contact and trade between China and countries in the west as far as the Arab world. In the Tang dynasty, the popularity of drinking tea flourished in China. As many Arab merchants bought Chinese silk and porcelains, they also brought back Chinese tea. The custom of drinking tea began spreading along the Road into Western and Central Asia.

Near the end of 4th Century during the Eastern Jin dynasty, Buddhism was introduced to the Korean Peninsula by sea. The custom of drinking tea was brought there as well. But tea was not grown on the peninsula until the Tang dynasty.

Chinese tea was introduced to Japan in a very similar manner. In 777, the Japanese Buddhist monk Eichu came to China with a Chinese envoy and he lived in China for more than 20 years. Later in 805, another monk Saicho travelled to China to study Zen Buddhism at Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai. Saicho returned to Japan with Eichu and founded the Tendai school of Buddhism. The two were the first to bring tea seeds back to Japan. They planted tea seeds in the Omi region of Japan. Then in 815, Emperor Saga visited Eichu's monastery on an excursion. Eichu brewed tea by tea set for the emperor himself and received great praise from emperor Tea became popular in the royal family. Then it was slowly spreading to the common people in Japan.

The first to bring tea to Europe were the Dutch. In 1606, the Dutch brought some tea from Macau to Jakarta on Java island in Indonesia, Then they brought it back to the Netherlands in 1610. In 1609, the merchant ships of the Dutch East India Company arrived in Japan and transported tea through Java, Indonesia then back to Europe. Later, the Dutch merchants were banned from Japan, so they turned their tea trade to China.

In 1639, the British came to China to study the potential for tea trade. No actual trade occurred at this time. In 1664, the British East India Company set up an office in Macau. In 1669,the British government granted the British East India Company the monopoly to conduct tea trade in Asia. The demand for tea in Britain grew substantially throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. The British East India Company even ordered its ships to return to England as soon as tea is loaded.

In 1727, China and Russia signed a treaty to promote trading by creating a trading post at Kyakhta in Siberia. Tea was a major commodity under discussion. Tea was first transported to Tianjin by horse, then to Kyakhta using camels. Later, the Russians hired ten tea specialists from China.In thirty years, they helped Russia build tea estates and imparted the full knowledge and technology of tea production.

In the 17th Century,British colonization of North America began.The British promoted the consumption of tea in the American colonies,hoping to extract more profit from the tea trade, In order to dump the British East India Company's excess tea stockpile on the North American colonies and to increase tax revenue, in 1773 the British government passed the Tea Act to allow the East India Company directly export tea to the colonies, thus undercutting the prices of smuggled Portuguese tea. The resulting monopoly by the East India Company in the colonies and the tax levied on tea angered the colonists. In November 1773, the East India Company ships arrived in Boston Harbour with 342 chests of tea. On December 16th, 8000 people attended a mass meeting and resolved to demand that the ships docking at Boston Harbour leave. When the governor refused, a group of men boarded the ships under the disguise of Native Americans and dumped all 342 chests into the sea. This is the famous Boston Tea Party, which ignited a series of events that finally led to the American War of Independence in 1775.

After the United States gained independence, the trade of tea resumed between China and America. In 1784, the American ship Empress of China sailed from New York to Guangzhou, China, and returned with tea, silk, and other exotic goods. The tea trade between China and the United States flourished ever since.

India is a major tea producer in South Asia. Although wild tea trees were discovered there, India's history of planting tea trees is not very long. In 1780 the first attempt at growing tea trees was made without success. Then a committee was formed in 1834 to study the science of planting tea trees. The committee secretary G. J. Gordon was sent to China to purchase tea seedlings. They were planted in the Darjeeling region south of the Himalayas. The committee also hired tea specialists from China to learn the knowledge and skills involved in tea producion. After nearly 100 years of effort, India finally mastered the technologies of tea production..

Since the beginning of the 17th Century, as China slowly opened up to international trade, tea was circulated to the South Pacific, Western Europe, North America, and other regions. Now there are 61 tea producing countries in the world. These regions are primarily between the latitudes of 45 degrees North and 35 degrees South. The processing and consumption of tea have spread all the over world, There are now more than 3 billion people in more than 160 countries drinking tea regularly. This is an annual per capita consumption of about 500 grams (about of a pound). Tea is now the most popular and most widespread natural beverage in the world.