The History of Tea
Tea began as a health drink in China 5,000 years ago. It became the most consumed beverage on earth, aside from water, and today is a universal sign of hospitality. According to legend and ancient literature, "tea" was first discovered by the Chinese Healer, Shen Nung, about 2737 B.C. when a leaf from the wild camelia sinensis plant fell into boiling water. By about 725 B.C. Ch'a, tea in Chinese, was a part of daily life in many parts of China. In 805 A.D. tea was introduced to Japan, and in 1610 tea reached Europe via Dutch and Portuguese traders. Tea came to the North America with the colonists, and played an important part in fueling the Revolutionary War. At the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 iced tea was invented and in 1908 a tea merchant in New York inadvertently made the first tea bag.
To read a great article on the history of tea, please see this pdf of an article by Paul Rogers called A Short History of Tea.