Skip to main content
Coffee Tips

What Came First – Coffee or Tea

Are you curious as to which beverage came first between coffee and tea? Here’s the history between these two beverages.


two cup of coffee and tea with coffee beans and tea leaf


Basically, tea came first before coffee. Tea was among the world’s earliest beverages. It dates way back to nearly 5000 years ago. Tea is thought to have been cultivated first in China in 2,700 BC by Emperor Shen Nung. On the other hand, coffee was discovered first in Yemen at around 900 AD, which was 3000 years after the development of tea.


What Came First – Coffee or Tea?

Records of history indicate that tea was consumed years earlier before coffee was created. Tea was first created in China where initially it was only consumed by emperors and their followers. In China, tea was consumed as a medicinal drink that was obtained by boiling fresh tea leaves in water. However, it was converted into a daily drink around the third century. From China, the popularity of tea grew in other areas such as India, Japan, and some other Asian countries. Around the 17 century, tea was introduced in Europe, which was lagging and it became their choice of drink.

On the other hand, the earliest credible evidence of coffee consumption dates to around 900 AD in Yemen. In Yemen, coffee was consumed by everyone – noblemen and commoners, and the popularity of the beverage grew in the Middle East to Europe, and later to America.


Myths Behind Tea Invention

According to legends, in 2737 BC, a Chinese emperor known as Shen Nung was exhausted from walking by the mountains together with his servants when he decided to sit down beneath a tree and take a break. While he was relaxing, one of the servants decided to boil water for his master to drink. This is when some leaves from the tree he sat beneath fell into the boiling water. The leaves turned the boiling water green while producing a delicious aroma.

At this point, Shen Nung, the herbalist decided to inspect the drink, and out of his curiosity and love for natural plants and herbs, he decided to try the liquid his servant had created. Upon trying the drink, he loved its flavor. Additionally, he tested the medicinal properties of the drink upon himself and he discovered that the drink could work as a poison antidote. From there, the emperor began sharing the accidental discovery across the world. The tree that the leaves fell from was known as Camellia sinensis and the beverage created was now named tea. And that’s how tea was created.

Another myth about the tea invention indicates that Bodhidharma, the Chan Buddhism founder had been meditating for years when he accidentally fell asleep. He later woke up disgusted by his weakness that he cut off his eyelids, throwing them off in anger. To his surprise, the eyelids fell to the ground and took root, developing into tea bushes. And that’s how the tea plants grew.


Tea Controversies

Surprisingly coffee was the first beverage to arrive in Britain before tea. Apparently, coffee arrived one century before tea. However, the British made tea their choice of drink the minute it was imported. Tea was at the beginning the drink of the emperors, which they consumed alone for thousands of years. Following importation, it became the drink of royalty. So the beverage wasn’t released to the public yet until a marketing campaign was run with the aim of getting more people to drink the beverage by the British East India Company.

Tea has been involved in several controversies such as the Boston tea party war and the Opium Wars. The Opium wars involved the British and Chinese. The war was caused by the trade of tea between the British and Chinese. The Chinese had decided they weren’t going to export tea anymore to the British since the gains were small. However, the British decided they weren’t going to allow the Chinese to stop the import of tea so they offered the Chinese Opium in exchange for tea.

As a result, lots of Chinese people became Opium addicts so the Chinese government decided to suspend the trade with Britain. The British people still wanted tea so badly that they decided to secretly trade opium for tea with the Chinese. Many Chinese people became Opium dependent and so the British continued having their tea from the Chinese.

The Boston tea party controversy involved American colonists who politically protested against Britain for the huge taxes that they had imposed on them. Out of frustration, the American colonists threw 342 bags of tea into the harbor that had been imported.


Myths Behind Coffee Invention

There are several myths behind the invention of coffee. The first myth indicates that in Ethiopia at around 850 AD, Kaldi, a goatherd, discovered that his goats were eating bright red berries from an unfamiliar tree. As Kaldi approached the goats, he noticed that the lethargic herd had been transformed into dancing goats by the magical fruit. Intrigued by the events, he took the red berries to a local monastery, where the monk disapproved of the berries and threw them into the fire.

The berries wafted out a delicious aroma that had the other monks gather around. The monks rescued the burning berries, ground them, mixed them with water, and created coffee. The monks claimed that drinking the berries kept them alert especially during their prayers. Word of the stimulant began to spread to the rest of the world and that’s how coffee was invented.

The second myth behind the coffee invention suggests that a sheik’s disciple who was exiled had to eat the berries to survive. However, the berries were bitter for his consumption and so he decided to throw them into the fire hoping that they would cook. As a result, the berries became harder and inedible and out of frustration, he decided to boil them in water. Surprisingly, there were sweet aromas as the water turned dark brown. He drank the dark brown water and threw away the beans. The liquid sustained him for days and that’s how coffee came about.


Coffee Controversies

Some of the controversies that coffee was involved in include whether Catholics and women should drink the beverage. First, people argued whether coffee was appropriate for Catholics for its stimulating nature. Some people called for the ban of the beverage until the pope approved it. From there, Catholics began drinking coffee. Following the approval, coffee houses developed across Europe and this resulted in some people banning women from entering the coffee houses. Another controversy arose.

In 1674, a petition was filed by women against coffee that led to their approval to drink coffee. Since the approval, coffee has increased in popularity and is enjoyed by both men and women. The largest consumers of coffee are people in the USA.