The History Behind Your Cuppa: Part 1


Kyle Mengwasser

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes stare in your morning cuppa Good Sir and wonder how those pale-brown, gnarled and soggy leaves ended up in front of you. Where did this mug of heaven come from? Why are we drinking the brew of these leaves instead of the ones from the oak tree out front? Why is waking up in the morning (and staying awake through the day) made so much easier with a few leaves, hot water, a cup and five minutes?

Camellia sinensis is known across English-speaking countries by its shorter, and more common name- Tea. The second most widely consumed beverage in the world (behind water), tea has become a staple of 158 million Americans’ daily routine. However, the story of tea stretches back beyond the founding of the United states, before the British Empire reached all ends of the Earth. Go a little further past the life of Jesus, right around the height of the Ancient Egyptian civilization, and we’ll stop at 2737 BCE beneath a tree in China.

Legend has it that Chinese emperor and skilled herbalist Shennong discovered tea when leaves from the tree under which he sat blew into a pot of boiling water. Being the intrepid herbalist he was, Shennong took note of the pleasant aroma this infusion created and took a swig.

(We at Good Sir Tea Company do NOT encourage creating a beverage from unknown leaves. Stay out of the emergency room and trust us with your tea needs.)

This legend of the provenance of tea cannot be reliably verified but is widely accepted and is most likely how the drink was discovered, Shennong being present or not. However, the earliest physical evidence of tea was found in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han. Being a Han dynasty emperor, he was enjoying the benefits of tea around the 2nd century, BCE. Written records from the area go back further, possibly as far back as the 10th century, BCE!

Tea was primarily enjoyed in southern China for nearly a millennium. It was not until the Tang dynasty in the mid-8th century that tea began to spread beyond China’s borders, popping up in Japan, Vietnam and Korea. There are many texts from the Tang dynasty that muse and instruct readers on the effects and preparation of tea, but their tea was most likely extremely bitter and unpleasant. The Song dynasty came along, and that’s where things turned into a proper tea party!

While you wait for the Song Dynasty tea party to begin, head over to our website at www.goodsirteaco.com to peruse our collection of creative blends steeped in history!

Interested in learning more about a specific tea, ingredient or moment in history? Contact us and we just might make it into a blog post!