Tea (Camellia sinensis) has been grown wild from India to China for over 4.500 years. Emperor Shen Nung, who is also reported to have introduced the principles of agriculture to ancient China, is credited to have discovered the potion in 2737 BCE. It was also the Chinese who introduced it to Japan via Korea around 800 CE and to the English in 1657. The genus name Camellia has been given in honour of a 17th century Jesuit botanist, Camellius.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe turned its collective back on cheap ale and well water to drink more tea and by the mid-1700’s tea was flowing freely down the throat of both the rich and poor Europeans. It was then that British East India Company, having secured for itself the vital Indian trading ports of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, routed the rival French East India Company in Southern India. Being leading traders in India for the next century, they shipped home timber, silk, china and porcelain along with China tea. While most nations make tea in a kettle, the British developed a passion for serving tea from a China pot. The trouble was, in the late 1600’s the quality of the local ceramics would not cope with near-boiling water. The solution arrived from China tea. Porcelain, invented and perfected in China 1.500 years before the Europeans mastered the craft, was carried as ballast load to offset the lightweight cargo of tea.  
All this was a one sided business much to the displeasure of the British. China was a self-sufficient civilization that barely acknowledged the West and had no need to trade commodities, technologies or ideas with its remote western neighbours. The ruling Mandarins ensured that Chinese borders remained closed. Frustrated by China’s resistance, the Western nations cynically created their own trade routes and came up with the idea of exchanging tea for opium with devastating results to the Chinese social system.
By the 18th century, North Americans were also enjoying their tea as much as anyone. One December day in 1773, the Charles River in Boston Massachusetts, suddenly darkened with spreading tea leaves. It appeared that a group of Mohawk Indians had clambered aboard three vessels moored in the dock, systematically slit open the entire cargo of tea and dumped them in the river. These tea jackers were not Indians but white protesters in costume. They were protesting against their self-styled rulers, the British, to impose a tax on goods exported to America, specifically Tea. Britain has dropped tea taxes at home, in an attempt to put an end to the lucrative tea smuggling trade, which was costing them dear. To show Britain what it could do with its tea, the protesters turned Boston harbor into a slime of tea. King George III refused to budge on the Tea Tax proposals. Boston’s Tea Party was followed by similar protests in New York, Annapolis, Charleston etc. and loyal American ladies declined tea at their afternoon parties. Britain shut the port of Boston down. The British Crown mistakes would not be forgotten: when on July 4th 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress, it not only proclaimed America’s independence from Britain but also reminded congressmen of King George’s ‘tyrannical acts’.   
In 2009, the United Nations expressed concern over ‘land grabbing’ by many rich nations to grow food as a substitute for fossil fuels: biofuels. The UN had predicted that outsourcing food production and using intensive farming methods to grow it would create food shortages and environmental problems in the host countries. When South Korean car manufacturer, Daewoo, took out a 99-year lease on 3.2 million acres of Madagascan farmland, it led to civil unrest.
 This plantation problem is a classic case of history repeating itself. In the 19th century, tea growers had expropriated the land in their respective territories, clearing the lands in order to establish plantations of Tea. The crop displaced local communities, destroyed local ecosystems and was always harvested on the cheap, with labour shipped from countries like India. These same people would one day demand self-determination and civil rights.
It would appear that Tea has helped change history both at home and abroad as it has shifted the social equilibrium in the countries where it has been grown.