Have you ever had a warm cup of tea on a cold day? Or have you seen your parents have a cup in the morning or after dinner? You may be familiar with this drink, and maybe even prefer it with milk or sugar or honey, but where exactly does this beverage originally come from?
Tea is made from the leaves and buds of a plant called the "Camellia sinensis." After the leaves are picked from the bush, they are allowed to wilt and oxidize (react with the oxygen in the air), which is what gives different types of tea different tastes and qualities. There are three main types of tea, all of which are made from the Camellia sinensis but vary depending on this preparation: green tea, which is oxidized only a little, black tea, which is oxidized as much as possible, and oolong tea, which is "semi-oxidized" sometime between the two.
Records show tea originated in China as long as three thousand years ago! It was first used as a medicine, but grew in popularity as explorers and merchants began their travels. Throughout the centuries tea use became more and more far-reaching, spreading across Asia and to Japan, India and Thailand in particular, and eventually made its way to Europe and Africa in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.