Tea is one of the most heavily consumed beverages in the world. The relationship between tea drinking and human health is becoming a subject of intense study by scientists throughout the world. In this paper, we first provide a comprehensive analysis of the medical literature on tea published in China during the past 20 years, and then highlight some recent studies in China on the relationship between tea and several human diseases. During the period 1982–2002, 691 research papers related to tea and health have been published in 290 Chinese journals. These studies showed that tea and tea constituents have various biological activities and suggested that tea drinking might be beneficial to human health. Tea has potential in the prevention or adjuvant treatment of several diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. The trend and future direction in medical research on tea in China are also briefly discussed.