Thousands of books have been written about tea, describing its history, origin, variety of types. This drink made by pouring hot water onto the leaves is one of the most fundamental part of Chinese culture. History of tea is a reflection of changes made in Chinese society through ages. Chaye (茶叶), dried leaves of a bush grown mainly in Asia, can be bought in one of a thousands of teahouses, on almost every Chinese street.
Different flavors, smells, destiny and finally prices might be surprising for someone who get used to drink coffee in the morning.
The bush called Camellia sinensis is grown in a big plantations, usually on mountainside. The most expensive white tea (白茶báichá) is made of a the leaves, which are after collecting allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation. The most popular in Asia green tea (绿茶lǜchá) is made from leaves that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing.
Tea is not only used as a drink but also to flavor the food, its belived it has medical properties.
According to the legend tea was discovered by accident by Shennong, Chinese emperor, while boiling water leaf from a wild tea bush fell into vessel, with a great surprise emperor noticed great flavor of a drink, and its refreshing quality.
Personally, after time I have spend in China I still remain coffee fan, but it would be foolishly depreciate the role which tea is having in Chinese society and food culture.