How Tea Became Popular

How tea spread to the world, from China, is an interesting story. Originally, tea was used to pay taxes (a tribute) to the Emperor. The last dynasties of the Chinese Empire: the Tang, Song, Qing, and Ming, choose the best of their products to offer to the Emperor, and to win his favor.

The Emperor, of course, liked some teas, and didn’t like others, leading to favorites of the Emperor, called tribute teas. Once the tea growers established which were the Emperor’s favorites (Yellow tea is an example), the competition began to produce the very best of his favorites. Production methods improved, and better teas for the Emperor were the result. 

As we know in all countries, dynasties, and empires, favorites of those in power have an easier life than those not so favored. It behooved the growers to curry the favor of the Emperor. China was a harsh environment. 

The Emperor kept the best teas, and his favorites, for himself (no big surprise there), and shared the not-so-stellar, and common teas, with visiting dignitaries, who grew to appreciate them. They didn’t know the difference. Ignorance really is bliss. The dignitaries, and some court officials as well, took them home and this is how tea spread across the globe: second rate tea sent out to the world to popularize it. That’s ok: in 1911, the Chinese Empire was toppled, and since then, we can all drink the Emperor’s tribute teas. So much for not sharing.