Tea drinking is first mentioned in texts dating back to the 3rd century BC, such as the Erya, the first Chinese dictionary, and the Shijing, ‘the Book of Songs’. Both suggest that by this time, tea (called tu) had already been used for cooking and medicines for well over a thousand years.
In time, tea became closely associated with Buddhism as a useful tonic for staying awake whilst spending long hours meditating, and even as an 'elixir' of life and immortality.
Later, tea in China began increasingly to be used as currency, traded for horses with Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia. The tea leaves were compressed into ‘cakes’ or ‘bricks’ for easy transportation across the Himalayas, on what would become known as the Tea Horse Road.