Saturday, April 29, 2006

Where the tea plant originated

Here's another excerpt from Green Gold:

No one knows for certain exactly where or when the tea plant, Camelia sinensis, originated, or even when or by whom it was first domesticated. What is known is that the tree evolved somewhere in the jungles of the eastern Himalayas, where in an amazingly rapid evolutionary development, the great varieties in temperature and micro-climate caused by the mountains rising from tropical lowlands, combined with the heaviest rainfall in the world as the monsoon clouds hit the outlying Himalayas, made it the most varied and rich region for plants in the world.

It seems likely that parts of the tea tree were first chewed by monkeys and other mammals indigenous to this region. Homo sapiens spread into the area between sixty and a hundred thousands years ago, and, perhaps taking their cue from the monkeys, early tribesmen began chewing tea and found it to be stimulating and relaxing to mind and body. It helped when carrying out arduous tasks, such as tramping through jungles and up mountainsides; indeed, people still chew tea leaves for this purpose: in Turkistan, for example, as Serena Hardy writes in The Tea Book, they chew used tea leaves, which "helps to allay fatigue on a journey when food is scarce."

See a previous post about this book here.

—Mellow Monk

Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
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