Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Who made the first cup of tea?

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

Did you ever wonder who made the first cup of tea?

Tea (and indeed tea time) is very close to my heart. In fact, so much so that it is the subject of my series for the month of July - Tea time!

The first thing I have learned, in my research of this delightful topic is that tea might just have been a happy accident.

Legend has it, that the Chinese emperor Shennong, was the first person to may a cup of tea - way back in 2737 BC.  Apparently, the emperor was sitting beneath a Camellia sinensis tree while his servant boiled drinking water. Some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shennong, who was a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The resulting drink was what we now call tea.


Shennong is also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains. He was a legendary ruler of China and a cultural hero. Shennong is thought to have taught the ancient Chinese not only their practices of agriculture, but also the use of herbal drugs. Some say that the emperor tested the medical properties of various herbs on himself. Legend has it that the god of agriculture would chew the leaves, stems, and roots of various plants to discover medicinal herbs. If he consumed a poisonous plant, he would chew tea leaves to counteract the poison.

So tea might well have been a happy accident. But thanks to that accident we continue to enjoy tea all over the world thousands and thousands of years later.

Artists know all about happy accidents. Sometimes I think the happy accident is really our stock in trade. It is a willingness to experiment. An allowing. Being open to what is. Making the most of what you have. So many reasons art is just practice for life.

So why not make a cup of tea, get out some art supplies and see what happy accidents you come up with?

Explore the rest of the Tea Time posts here


or see the available kitchen related art prints and originals in the shop.