The History of Tea

For thousands of years, tea has been getting us ready to seize the day ahead. Read on to learn more about its fascinating history. 

Chinese Tea History

The earliest references to drinking tea are from China. Legend has it that a leaf fell into the water that Emperor Shen Nung’s servants were boiling for him. He found the taste refreshing, and little did he know, invented the first cup of tea.

Japanese Tea History

Japanese Buddhist scholars visited China during the Tang Dynasty and brought tea seeds back to Japan. Japan loved tea and welcomed it into their culture, introducing the now famous Japanese tea ceremonies. 

Tea in Europe

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to write about drinking tea. Many Portuguese missionaries and merchants lived in Asia and brought tea back as gifts.

The Dutch brought tea to Europe commercially. It was expensive though, and originally only high society could afford such a delicacy.

British Tea History

The most famous tea drinkers in the world didn’t initially take to drinking tea. It wasn’t until Charles II married Portuguese princess and known tea lover, Catherine of Braganza, that tastes changed. Wanting to keep up with the new queen, Brits soon took to tea over coffee. 

Afternoon Tea History

Afternoon tea was supposedly invented by Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford.  

The duchess often became hungry in the afternoon. She realized a light meal of Darjeeling, cake or sandwiches was the perfect solution. Just like that, afternoon tea was born.

The Tea Trade and Smuggling 

In Britain, tea was originally very expensive due to high taxation. This opened the doors for smuggling and illegal tea drinking. 

In the 18th century, more tea was smuggled in than was imported legally. The government reduced taxes, and tea suddenly became affordable and legal.

The History of Teabags

It was a New York merchant, Thomas Sullivan, who created the tea bag.  

Sullivan sent samples of tea to his customers in silk bags. They assumed that both the tea and bag should be put in the pot and it worked surprisingly well. Just like that, the tea bag was born. 


From Chinese emperors, to Portuguese princesses and New York merchants, there are plenty of people to thank for your cup of Lipton®. Be sure to raise a cup for them on your next refreshing tea break.

Get Creative with Tea

Get Creative with Tea