A brick of plant matter found in a 2,150-year-old Chinese tomb turned out to be the oldest tea ever discovered according to scientists. Strangely, the world’s oldest crumpets were nowhere in sight.
Archaeologists found the ancient tea in the Han Yang Lin Mausoleum, built for the Jing Emperor Liu Qi who ruled from 157 B.C. to 141 B.C. The site was original excavated in the 1990s, but it was only recently that scientists, armed with modern equipment, were able to identify the formerly mysterious plant. According to the final research, published in Scientific Reports, analysis of this tea shows that it comes from around 141 B.C. The previous oldest teas discovered were far younger, dating back only about 1,000 years. And this discovery even predates the oldest known “unambiguous textual reference to the consumption of tea as a beverage” from 59 B.C.
Not only that, but the authors claim this tea is pretty damn fancy. “The tea buds are the small, unopened leaves of the tea plant, and are often considered to be of better quality than the larger, older tea leaves,” they write – meaning Jing Di can now probably be identified as the world’s oldest tea snob, surely shooting him up the list of hipster’s most admired Chinese emperors.
According to Smithsonian, the findings also have additional historical implications, suggesting that tea trading may also be older than previously known. Still, despite finding the oldest tea leaves, the actual origins of beverage are still unknown – though I’m guessing it was just some ancient Chinese dude going, “I don’t want a coffee because it will get me too wired. What else you got?”