When writing and/or speaking about tea in Burma, or any other country for that matter, it is inevitable to depart on the journey into the realm of tea in China – in south-west China to be precise – for that is as I will explain in the following definitely from where tea is originally coming from.
The discussion on whether or not the history of Burmese tea and the drinking of tea in Burma have originated in China has probably more to do with at least some Bamars’/Burmans’ reluctance to admit that the origin of tea is China and that the drinking of tea was adopted by them later from the Shan, than with tea, tea drinking and tea culture itself. The facts are that tea both as plant and beverage was discovered and had become important part of Chinese and later Shan culture already at a time when no Bamar/Burman had ever set foot into what is nowadays Burma (since 1989 also called Myanmar).
In other words the first kingdom of the Bamar the ‘kingdom of Pagan’ (that was actually founded by the Pyu, and while we are at it, Anawrahta, the 42nd king of Pagan who is by the Bamar/Burman considered the founder of the 1st Burman kingdom was a Pyu, not a Bamar/Burman) did back then not exist what is already the definite answer to the question of the origin of tea, tea drinking and tea culture in Burma; Burma or any predecessor of it simply didn’t exist in or during the era in question, period. But why are there still people (not so many of them, though) who in the face of all facts and logic say that Burmese tea, tea drinking and tea culture are not originated in China? Short answer: Because the area that was in pre-Bamar time inhabited by the Shan is now laying partly within the far north east of Burma. However, that these areas are nowadays located within Burma’s boundaries does not necessarily mean that the exact area in which Camellia sinensis was initially found and from where it then spread to India, through all of south-east Asia and, finally, throughout the world lies within north-east Burma. It is possible but it is also possible that Camellia sinensis – translated from Latin into English the name means ‘Tea flower’ (camellia) ‘from China’ (sinensis) – has at a later point in time extended into the area now covered by the north-eastern part of Burma.