The ancient Chinese drink spurred on an English habit, faster ships, and a serious opium problem.
The history of tea is a dark and stormy brew, a far cry from the peaceful images that may come to mind of ritual tea drinking in China and elaborate British afternoon teas. That’s the takeaway from a recent charmingly animated TED-Ed lesson on the profound effect tea has had on the world’s history.
In the video entitled “The History of Tea” Shunan Teng takes us back 6,000 years to the first recorded use of tea in China (it was eaten as a vegetable, not sipped as a drink).
Along the way, we learn:
- That modern coffee baristas weren’t the first to draw pictures in foam
- That it was a Portuguese who introduced tea to the English aristocracy
- That lightning fast clipper ships were invented for the tea trade
- That the British introduced opium (and the Opium Wars) to China to pay for their tea habit
- And the English sent a botanist (in disguise) to smuggle tea trees (and tea workers) to India
Afterwards you can take this Ted-Ed quiz, possibly with a greater respect for the world’s second most consumed beverage after water.