China Today (English)

Chinese Tea Culture Traced Back to 400 BC


An archaeolog­ical team from Shandong University, in east China’s Shandong Province, has found the earliest known tea remains in the world, dating back about 2,400 years.

The discovery traced physical evidence of the origin of China’s tea culture back to the early stage of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), namely from 453 BC to 410 BC. It extends the age of the beverage, as suggested by previous studies, by more than 300 years.

The samples, which have proved to be the residue of brewed tea, were excavated from ancient tombs in Zoucheng, Shandong Province.

From August to December 2018, the team, led by professor Wang Qing from Shandong University, conducted archaeolog­ical excavation­s in the ruins of an ancient city, which was built during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the subsequent Warring States Period.

According to the researcher­s, the stem-and-leaf-like carbonized residue found in an inverted porcelain bowl was later proven highly likely to be ancient tea.

Subsequent data showed that the content of caffeine and theanine in the residue was low or even absent. Since these two substances are easily soluble in water, the researcher­s concluded that the unearthed tea samples were the dregs left by the ancients after they boiled the tea.

The findings were published in the Chinese-language Journal of Archaeolog­y and Cultural Relics.

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