According to legend, tea was discovered in China by mistake in 2700 BC when a Chinese emperor was sitting beneath a tree while one of his servants was boiling drinking water. Some leaves blew off the tree and landed in the water, and upon tasting it, they decided to make more. Tea was a both a medicinal and ritualistic drink for hundreds of years, as well as the leaves being enjoyed as a vegetable. It finally became an everyday delight during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and often other spices were added to the leaves. To this day in China, tea is drank both daily and on special occasions, but typically people of lower ranking pour tea to those who rank higher. Offering tea to another can show respect, thanks, or signal and apology in Chinese culture.
After spreading throughout Asia and the Middle East in its early years, tea was finally brought to Europe in 1610 and became very popular with the Dutch. British people were weary of the “China drink” for quite some time, and it only gained widespread popularity when Charles II married a Portuguese princess who was a fan of tea. For many years it remained a drink for the wealthy because of high taxes placed on imports, so tea smugglers began selling tea to lower class citizens. Soon the smugglers were bringing in more tea to England than what was being imported legally. This was happening around the same time as American colonists were being taxed highly for tea and other goods, culminating in the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Today tea is enjoyed worldwide and there are many kinds of tea, often classified by their region of origin, such as Ceylon, Japanese, Assam, or Darjeeling. Tea is also classified by its manufacturing process, resulting in black tea, green tea, oolong, etc. China remains the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of tea.