Education About Asia: Online Archives

Chinese Tea in World History

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By Marc Jason Gilbert

Second today only to water as the world’s most consumed beverage, tea comes in many forms and has many sources. The four Chinese teas processed from the Camilla sinensis plant—green, white, black, and oolong —have played so long and so great a role in world history that it is possible to say that no other commodity is more revealing of the global human experience.1 Indeed, long before oil assumed the title, tea was the world’s “black gold.” Unlike oil, tea is a renewable resource.2 There is thus every reason to believe that long after the world’s last wellhead has run dry, tea will continue to shape both Chinese and world society, as it has for more than two millennia.

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