Perhaps no plant has played such a big role in the history of mankind, like Camellia sinensis or simply a tea bush. Archaeological data show that tea was used as a drink in China in the 2nd century BC. in some provinces, and the ubiquitous distribution in Asia of tea was received in the 5th century AD. With the development of trade routes along the route of the Great Silk Road, the first lots of tea began to arrive in Western countries, and tea was distributed worldwide during the Great Discoveries. This plant influenced the economies of whole states, was the key to the prosperity of the commercial empires, had a significant impact on people’s lives: not least because of the habit of boiling water for brewing the drink, which contributed to the destruction of the pathogenic bacteria that were in it.
So what makes tea leaves so popular in the world and makes mankind drink tea for already three millennia?
The decoding of the genome of Camellia sinensis has shown how unique the biology of this plant is. The task of deciphering the group of scientists was extremely complicated and took about 5 years – the length of the genome of the tea tree, which is at least 4 times greater than that of some other plants (for example, coffee).
The size of the genome is overestimated due to the high proportion of repeating self-replicating elements called retrotransposons. Scientists believe that these repetitions arose because of the long evolutionary path, which is about 50 million years! On 80% of the genome of the tea bush consists precisely of these repeating elements.
During the decoding of the tea genome, the genes responsible for the production of catechin, theanine (organic substances, which are the strongest antioxidants and relaxants) and caffeine were discovered. All these substances, simultaneously present in the tea leaf, ensure the calmness of the nervous system, and at the same time, cheerfulness after taking this drink. In many respects it is these three substances that form the unique taste of tea, so loved by people in all countries, and its useful properties.