Drinks

Steeped in History

The world's oldest tea was just discovered in China
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table
Pouring Tea

From England's high tea and India's milky chai to Japan's earthy matcha and Middle Earth's "elevenses," tea is a universally beloved beverage. Tea drinking as a ritual, whether it's passing gourds of Argentina's yerba maté or sipping on Morocco's spearmint tea, is as important as the drink itself. These days, tea seems more popular than ever. The international community should be pretty excited to learn, then, that the oldest tea in the world was just discovered in China.

According to the Independent, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found tea buried in the Han Yangling Mausoleum, the tomb of Han Dynasty Emperor Jing Di. The emperor died in 141 BC, which would make the tea 2,150 years old.

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Through careful analysis, the researchers were able to decipher that decomposed leaves in the tomb were, in fact, tea. Also found in the emperor's tomb were human and animal figurines, chariots and horses, and grains like millet and rice.

The tomb is located in Western China, near the modern-day city of Xi'an. With tea tourism taking off in China—a country that produces 38 percent of the world's supply—the Han Yangling Mausoleum may become a destination on the circuit. It's probably easier to get to than the cup of tea at the top of China's Mount Huashan, otherwise known as the "scariest trail in the world."

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