Scientific name: Camellia sinensis
Tea originated in a vast region of South-East Asia, including China, Japan, Burma, India and other areas. The tea plant and the method of preparing the drink were shrouded in a fair amount of secrecy among Oriental peoples, to such an extent that until the nineteenth century it was thought that black tea and green tea were produced from direct plants.The Portuguese probably first came across the drink in the Canton region, and used the local word (ch'a).
As is commonly know, tea as a beverage was introduced to the English court by the Portuguese queen D. Catarina de Bragança, daughter of the king João IV, which leads one to believe that it was already known in Portugal at the time, although it was from far widespread. The same cannot be said of the plant and the method of preparing the tea. It would appear, from details dating from the nineteenth century, that at time it was not generally known in Portugal how to prepare the drink. As for the plant, there are records of tea plant's existence in Angra do Heroísmo, in the Azores, at the beginning of that century, and its introduction to Brazil at the beginning of the nineteenth century is confirmed - although the date is open to question - when King João VI travelled to Rio de Janeiro as a result of the French invasions, and received tea plant as a gift from Chinese emperor.
From Brazil tea then reached the island of São Miguel in Azores, and continental Portugal, where attempts were made to grow it in the north, centre and south. Plants still exist to this day dating from that time, although they are now abandoned, the largest know group being that on Alto do Chá or «Tea Peak», in the Sintra mountains.
The cultivation of Tea in Africa was set in motion by the English from India. Tea was brought from former Nyassaland (Malawi) to Mozambique in about 1914, and it underwent a certain amount of expansion there. Records exist of the plant being introduced to Angola, but growing never took off.