Tea: the Stuff of Legend
October 21, 2015

There are many stories and legends surrounding the origins of tea and its place in culture and society.  This is one of the things we love about tea here at Bean & Bud.  Here are just a few of the legends surrounding this the best of beverages…


Tea only comes from one plant, camellia sinensis, originally only found in China (and taken to India in secret during the opium wars).  One of the legends of how the first tea plants grew concerned Bodhidharma, who is said to have brought Buddhism to China from India.  According to legend, Bodhidarma set himself the task of meditating for 9 years.  Unfortunately he fell asleep after only 7 years and ashamed of himself, he is said to have cut off his eyelids, and as they fell to the floor the first tea trees grew…


Picture1So how and why did we start to drink tea?  One legend has it that China’s second emperor, Shen Nong, who ruled from 2737-2698 BCE liked to drink his water boiled to rid it of impurities. One day when travelling with his army, he rested while his servants prepared his boiled water, and leaves from the tea bush fell into the water whilst the servant was preparing it. The emperor found this drink to be refreshing, and there we have the origins of tea!


Picture2One of our favourite teas and one that has featured on our menu in the past is Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao).   The origins of the name of this tea derive from a legend that the mother of a Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and that emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea originated. Three of these original bushes, growing on a rock on Mount Wuyi and reportedly dating back to the Song Dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated.  Genuine Big Red Robe can only come from one of those four bushes and so unfortunately it is not always possible to obtain and therefore very expensive.  However, our Wuyi Oolong tea is very similar in flavour and provenance and still one of our favourites.


DSCF2291-300x225.jpgAnother of our favourites is Ti Guan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy.  Guan Yin is a bodhisattva, one who is qualified to enter nirvana, but chose to remain on earth to bring all to enlightenment. Statues of her stand in many Buddhist temples, and one legend of how this tea got its name goes that a statue of Guan Yin stood in a rundown temple in central Fujian.  A local peasant, concerned at the state of the temple, decided to clean it and burn incense in offering to the goddess.  One night Guan Yin appeared to the peasant in a dream and told him to look in the cave behind the temple for a treasure. He was to take it for himself but also to share it with others. There he found a single tea shoot which he planted and cultivated into a bush with leaves that produced a singularly fine drink.


Tea also plays a large role in Chinese literature, history and culture.  To learn more, keep an eye out for our tea talks and tastings.  In the meantime work your way through our award-winning tea menu!

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