Tea World

Lesson 1

Discovery of Tea

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Well, tea had its genesis in China many centuries ago. The legendary origin of tea as taken from Chinese sources dates back approximately to 2737 B.C.In mythology, there are many legends regarding the discovery of the tea plant. According to one such legend, tea was discovered roughly 5,000 years ago by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. Shen Nung, the legendary Emperor of China and inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine was drinking a bowl of just boiled water due to a decree that his subjects must boil water before drinking it. When he was boiling the water, a single leaf from the nearby tree blew into the emperor's pot of boiling water. The emperor took a sip of the brew and found that not only did the leaf improve the taste of the water, but it seemed to have a stimulative effect on the body. The rest, as they say, is the history of the world's favourite beverage.  

A Chinese legend credits the Indian monk and founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism Bodhidharama for the discovery of tea. During a pilgrimage to China, the Buddha was said to have taken a vow to meditate without rest for nine years. But, after some time, he fell asleep. Upon awakening, he is said to have torn off his eyelids and thrown them to the ground out of frustration. Supposedly, the eyelids took root and germinated into plants that sprouted leaves with an eyelid shape. He then chewed the leaves of this plant, and his fatigue vanished. The plant, of course, is said to be the first tea plant, which he carried with him to China.

Some more Tea Stories

Another story recounts the origin of tea in China,Ti Kuan Yin. According to the legend, Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, presented tea as a gift to a devout farmer who diligently maintained her old, dilapidated temple. Inside the temple was Kuan Yin's elegant iron statue to which followers prayed for enlightenment. One day, however, the iron statue appeared to come alive. Shocked, the farmer fell to his knees and the goddess whispered, "The key for your future is just outside this temple. Nourish it with tenderness; it will support you and yours for generations to come." Unable to contain his curiosity, he went outside and found a withered, straggly bush.

After much care, the bush grew rich and full, with thick green leaves. Experimenting, the farmer dried the leaves in a stone wok. They soon turned a smooth charcoal black, just like the statue of Kuan Yin. The nectar produced from leaves fired in this way was ambrosial and fragrant, like the finest blossoms. It was more delicious than any other drink that ever touched his lips. Thus, the magical Ti Kuan Yin - "the tea of Kuan Yin" - came into being. 

Thus, you may find many stories on the origin of tea. Although tea-drinking originated in China, the origin is obscured by a mass of legends. The first authentic reference to tea is found in an ancient Chinese dictionary which was revised about the year A.D. 350 by Kuo P’o, a celebrated Chinese scholar. At that time, a medicinal decoction was made by boiling tea leaves. Use of tea as a beverage started towards the close of sixth century. A recent archaeological investigation has revealed that people in China were enjoying the brew for around 6000 years. The findings from a decade-long excavation by a Chinese research team who investigated the Tianluo Mountain, in the city of Yuyao in East China confirms that the Chinese tea heritage is pushed back 3,000 years further than previously thought. This discovery makes the popular drink older than the pyramids, the oldest of which was believed to be created around 2650 BC.

The first exclusive book on tea, Ch’a Ching or Tea Classic was published about A.D. 780 by Lu Yu, a noted author and expert on tea who described various kinds of tea, its cultivation, manufacturing along with the different tea growing districts of China in this book.

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