It is easy for us to conclude that man discovered the virtues of tea early. But we cannot ignore the endorsement provided to this by the Buddhist Monks. The practice of meditation among the monks for a higher level of self realisation, gave them a higher intellect. They discovered that consumption of tea refreshed their minds and inspired thoughts of wisdom and peace.
Throughout history, we come across prominent individuals – poets, playwrights, thinkers who thought that tea provided a rare balance of being energising and calming; it soothed the nerves of a frayed mind and, at the same time provoked clever & thoughtful reasoning among the people of average intelligence.
The spread of Buddhism, certainly resulted in tea acquiring a higher pedestal among the commodities traded on the silk route. Its steady rise in demand in Russia, Iran, Turkey gave the Chinese growers a lot to cheer about.
But the big boost in trade happened when ships from europe anchored on the South East Chinese ports and vied with each other to get a larger share of the trade. Every time the ships grew bigger and faster, the chinese businessmen found innovative ways to exploit to the hilt, their position of monopolistic strength. Contrary to the role of Buddhism in the spread of tea, the other major religion of of asia, Hinduism, remained aloof and disconnected.
In fact when the english tea companies, tried to introduce tea to Indians in the late nineteenth century, it was opposed by the locals. For the majority of Indians, milk was all goodness – pure, nutritious, fit for the Gods. Whereas tea, they thought, induced physical weakness, produced a jittery sensation in the nerves, and was a mild addiction.