Green Tea Throughout History

Americans have probably consumed more black tea than any other kind over the course of the past few decades. But one of the more interesting facts I’ve run across in the years I’ve been writing about tea is that in earlier times we probably downed as much green tea as the black kind or perhaps even more.

Which is an interesting tidbit about green tea and history and I thought I’d set out to see what other ones I could find. A certain vast online archive might not contain every book every written, but it’s got a bunch and I thought it might a good place to dig up a few interesting facts on green tea throughout history.

One of the earliest references to green tea in said archive appears in 1706, in volume eight of The History of the Works of the Learned, Or, An Impartial Account of Books Lately Printed in All Parts of Europe also seen here. Many of these early references discuss green tea’s health benefits – or lack thereof, depending on who’s discussing. This one claims that it is a good diuretic and “Stomachtick” and also credits it with getting the blood going.

A few years later, in a work titled The British Apollo, or, Curious Amusements for the Ingenious, “Green-Tea” is said to help the suppression of urine. Whether that’s a good thing or not is hard to say. In a 1712 medical tome, the claim is put forth that green tea is a remedy for something or other, though it wasn’t quite clear to yours truly what ailment it was supposed to help. Here’s yet another such book, from 1724, which claims that green tea, with marshmallow root and licorice, serves to open up the lungs and acts as a diuretic.

Turning from the medical advice for a moment, we find John Nutt’s 1712 Asia is One Volume, with Thirty One Maps, Sanson’s Tables, &c. as May be Seen in the Catalogue Thereof Annex’d to the Preface, which takes a fairly in-depth look at Chinese tea. Nutt includes a brief description of green tea and provides a few strategies (including chewing it) for determining the quality. A similar description appeared a year earlier, in An Account of the Trade in India, by Charles Lockyer, along with two other mentions of green tea. Of course India wasn’t involved in the tea trade at the time but as nearly as I can tell Lockyer’s notion of what constitutes India is a little broader that what we know today.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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