Musée Guimet, Paris
October 3, 2012 – January 7, 2013
6 Place d'Iéna, 75116 Paris
+33 1 47 23 58 03

Born in China, tea has become a universal, popular drink over the course of the centuries. “Le Thé – Histoires d’une boisson millénaire”, a major exhibition at the Musée Guimet, tells the story of how the beverage spread across the Asian continent, how it is cultivated and used, and the commercial stakes involved.

A product derived from camellia, wild tea thrived in China’s southwest and was grown
as a shrub around the early years of the Christian ear. The drink extracted from its leaves
gradually spread throughout East Asia. In the course of its two millennia-long history, its
consumption went through three distinct phases. The first, “The age of the boiled tea” during the Tang period (618-907), now corresponds to an endangered mode of preparation, except in Mongolia and Tibet, where the tea broth is eaten mixed with milk or butter and flavored with spices.

“The age of whipped tea” during the Song period (960 - 1279) created a kind of foam, is still the preserve of Japan, with the chanoyu or “tea ceremony”. Born in Buddhist monasteries around the eighth century in China and Korea, this ritual was exported to the Japanese archipelago, where it reached the status of a liturgy.

Finally, “The age of brewed tea” of the Ming era (1368-1644) appeared among Chinese scholars. This method of preparation enhances the subtle flavors of the tea leaves, giving birth, under the Qing (1644-1911), to gongfucha: refined crockery and codified gestures to obtain a wide range of flavors. This practice is still in use nowadays.