XI'AN, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered the world's oldest tea in the tomb of an emperor who ruled more than 2,100 years ago.
Excavation of the burial site of Emperor Jing of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD) in northwest China's Shaanxi Province began in 1998, but it has taken researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences until now to confirm that carbonized organic matter in the tomb was in fact tea.
They also found pottery figurines, bronze seals, rice and millet in the tomb, according to their research, published in Nature's online journal Scientific Reports last week.
Tea originated in China and was popularized during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), but this discovery proves it was being used by aristocrats much earlier than that.
Opinion is divided on the usage of tea in the Han Dynasty, said Yang Wuzhan, a research fellow with the Shaanxi provincial institute of archaeology. Some believe it was seen as a medicine rather than a drink.