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Origin and history

The cradle of the tea plant is a region that encompasses eastern and southern China, northern Myanmar, and Assam in northeastern India. Spontaneous (wild) growth of the assamica variant is observed in an area ranging from the Indian state of Assam to the Chinese province Yunnan and the northern part of Myanmar. The variant sinensis grows naturally in eastern and southeastern regions of China.[6] Recent studies and occurrence of hybrids of the two types in wider area extending over mentioned regions suggest the place of origin of the Camellia sinensis variant is in an area consisting of the northern part of Myanmar and the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China.[7] Origins of human use of tea are described in several myths, but it is unknown as to where tea was first created as a drink.

Creation myths
In one popular Chinese legend, Shennong, the legendary Emperor of China, inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine, was on a journey about five thousand years ago. The Emperor, known for his wisdom in the ways of science, believed that the safest way to drink water was by first boiling it. One day he noticed some leaves had fallen into his boiling water. The ever inquisitive and curious monarch took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and its restorative properties. Variant of the legend tells that the emperor tried medical properties of various herbs on himself, some of them poisonous, and found tea works as an antidote.[8] Shennong is also mentioned in Lu Yu's Cha Jing, famous early work on the subject.[9] A Chinese legend, which spread along with Buddhism, Bodhidharma is credited with discovery of tea. Bodhidharma, a semi-legendary Buddhist monk, founder of the Chan school of Buddhism, journeyed to China. He became angered because he was falling asleep during meditation, so he cut off his eyelids. Tea bushes sprung from the spot where his eyelids hit the ground.[10] Sometimes, the second story is retold with Gautama Buddha in place of Bodhidharma[11] In another variant of the first mentioned myth, Gautama Buddha discovered tea when some leaves had fallen into boiling water.[12] Whether or not these legends have any basis in fact, tea has played a significant role in Asian culture for centuries as a staple beverage, a curative, and a symbol of status. It is not surprising its discovery is ascribed to religious or royal origins.

The Chinese have enjoyed tea for centuries if not millennia. While historically the origin of tea as a medicinal herb useful for staying awake is unclear, China is considered to have the earliest records of tea drinking, with recorded tea use in its history dating back to the first millennium BC. The Han Dynasty used tea as medicine. The use of tea as a beverage drunk for pleasure on social occasions dates from the Tang Dynasty or earlier.

The Tang Dynasty writer Lu Yu's (AC729-804) Cha Jing is an early work on the subject. (See also Tea Classics) According to Cha Jing writing, around AC760, tea drinking was widespread. The book describes how tea plants were grown, the leaves processed, and tea prepared as a beverage. It also describes how tea was evaluated. The book also discusses where the best tea leaves were produced. Teas produced in this period were mainly tea bricks. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), production and preparation of all tea changed. The tea of Song included many loose-leaf styles (to preserve the delicate character favoured by the court society), but a new powdered form of tea emerged. Steaming tea leaves was the primary process used for centuries in the preparation of tea.    
Lu Yu's statue in Xi'an.
After the transition from compressed tea to the powdered form, the production of tea for trade and distribution changed once again. The Chinese learned to process tea in a different way in the mid-13th century. Tea leaves were roasted and then crumbled rather than steamed. This is the origin of today's loose teas and the practice of brewed tea. In 1391, the Ming court issued a decree that only loose tea would be accepted as a "tribute." As a result, loose tea production increased and processing techniques advanced. Soon, most tea was distributed in full-leaf, loose form and steeped in earthenware vessels. In 17th century China numerous advances were made in tea production. In the southern part of China, tea leaves were sun dried and then half fermented, producing Black Dragon teas or Oolongs. However, this method was not common in the rest of China.
The first historical record documenting the offering of tea to an ancestral god describes a rite in the year 661 in which a tea offering was made to the spirit of King Suro, the founder of the Geumgwan Gaya Kingdom (42-562). Records from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) show that tea offerings were made in Buddhist temples to the spirits of revered monks. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the royal Yi family and the aristocracy used tea for simple rites, the "Day Tea Rite" was a common daytime ceremony, whereas the "Special Tea Rite" was reserved for specific occasions. These terms are not found in other countries. Toward the end of the Joseon Dynasty, commoners joined the trend and used tea for ancestral rites, following the Chinese example based on Zhu Xi's text formalities of Family. Stoneware was common, ceramic more frequent, mostly made in provincial kilns, with porcelain rare, imperial porcelain with dragons the rarest. The earliest kinds of tea used in tea ceremonies were heavily pressed cakes of black tea, the equivalent of aged pu-erh tea still popular in China. However, importation of tea plants by Buddhist monks brought a more delicate series of teas into Korea, and the tea ceremony. Green tea, "chaksol" or "chugno," is most often served. However other teas such as "Byeoksoryung" Chunhachoon, Woojeon, Jakseol, Jookro, Okcheon, as well as native chrysanthemum tea, persimmon leaf tea, or mugwort tea may be served at different times of the year.
The earliest known references to green tea in Japan are in a text written by a Buddhist monk in the 9th century. Tea became a drink of the religious classes in Japan when Japanese priests and envoys sent to China to learn about its culture brought tea to Japan. Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saichoin 805 and then by another named Kūkai in 806. It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga , the Japanese emperor, encouraged the growth of tea plants. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began. In 1191, the famous Zen priest Eisaibrought back tea seeds to Kyoto. Some of the tea seeds were given to the priest Myoe Shonin, and became the basis for Uji tea. The oldest tea specialty book in Japan, Kissa Yojoki how to stay healthy by drinking tea) was written by Eisai. Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian Period.
Green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan -- a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes. The modern tea ceremony developed over several centuries by Zen Buddhist monks under the original guidance of the monk Sen-no Rikyu (1522-1591). In fact, both the beverage and the ceremony surrounding it played a prominent role in feudal diplomacy.In 1738, Soen Nagatani developed Japanese sencha (Japanese), which is an unfermented form of green tea. In 1835, Kahei Yamamoto developed gyokuro (Japanese) ,by shading tea trees during the weeks leading up to harvesting. At the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912), machine manufacturing of green tea was introduced and began replacing handmade tea.      
Japanese tea ceremony

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