Tea comes second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage in the world and its history is nothing short of epic. Cultivation of tea dates back more than 6,000 years in East Asia, most likely in what is now China’s Yunnan province, where farmers first ate leaves of Camellia sinensis as a vegetable, then learned to steep them into a fragrant brew. Ever since, tea’s impact on civilization has been immense. It has been a builder of empires, a driving force for colonialism, and at the heart of many a bloody conflict.
Though people drink tea around the world, that doesn’t mean they all take their daily cup the same way. In the Portuguese Azores, locals brew their green tea with volcanic water, which turns the mixture a shocking shade of violet. In Tbilisi, Georgia, a teahouse with no name brews up piping-hot pots of Ceylon using a recipe unchanged since the Silk Road passed through town. While some regions have more of a reputation for growing tea, plantations crop up from Cornwall, England, to Charleston, South Carolina.
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