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The world’s most popular drink (after water) boasts a fascinating history which goes way back into the mists of time. The Chinese Emperor Shennong, or ‘the Divine Farmer’, was said to be the first to taste a cup, around 3,000 years before the birth of Christ. Previously, he had only drunk boiled water, but one day, as he was resting under a tea tree, some leaves fell into his cup.
The Indians, on the other hand, say that is was Bodhidharma, the son of the King of India, who first discovered tea leaves as he journeyed through China, and that he chewed them in order to stay awake for seven years straight, as he walked the earth preaching Buddhism.
Tea only arrived in Europe in the 1600s, however, thanks to Portuguese missionaries. The Dutch were the first to begin selling it, and it was they who organized the first shipments of cases of tea between the island of Java and Europe, thanks to the Dutch East India Company. The spread of tea to Great Britain came about thanks to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II: a great lover of the beverage, she popularized tea by drinking it at court.