Exploring the Obscure Legends and Histories of Tea

Tea has been a part of human culture for centuries, and with it comes a host of stories, legends, and histories. In this lesson, we will dive deeper into some of the more obscure tales associated with tea.

The Indian Tea Story

According to this Indian legend, tea was created by the Buddha himself. During a pilgrimage to China, the Buddha took a vow to meditate without rest for nine years. However, he dozed off and, upon awakening, in frustration, he tore off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. The eyelids took root and germinated into plants that sprouted leaves with an eyelid shape. The Buddha chewed the leaves, and his fatigue vanished. This was said to be the first tea plant that he carried with him to China. While there is no evidence that the Buddha ever went to China, this legend remains an interesting tale.

The Ti Kuan Yin Story

This story tells the origin of a popular tea in China, Ti Kuan Yin. 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 whom followers prayed for enlightenment. One day, the iron statue appeared to come alive, and the goddess whispered to the farmer, “The key for your future is just outside this temple. Nourish it with tenderness; it will support you and yours for generations to come.” Outside, he found a withered, straggly bush that, with much care, grew rich and full with thick green leaves. The farmer dried the leaves in a stone wok and produced the magical Ti Kuan Yin – “the tea of Kuan Yin” – a delicious and fragrant drink.

The Genmai Cha Story

Unlike the other stories, this one lies not in the magic of legends, but in the practicality of economics. The Japanese peasants found it difficult to afford larger quantities of tea and would mix it with roasted rice, a cheap and abundant product. Thus, they were able to make more cups from the same amount of leaves. This tea, Genmai Cha, has outgrown its humble origins to become a favorite of many urban dwellers in both Japan and the West.

The Origin of the Word “Tea”

In China, tea is commonly known as “cha.” However, when tea first reached European markets, it came from the trading port of Amoy in Fujian province of China, where it was called “tey” in the local dialect. In Western Europe and later the United States, the word “tea” stuck, while other countries, such as India, Russia, and Turkey, were introduced to tea as “cha” by traders traveling over-land along the Silk Road.

Closing Thoughts

Tea has a long and storied history, and the tales associated with it are as varied and interesting as the beverage itself. From legends of divine creation to practical economic solutions, the stories of tea continue to fascinate and captivate tea drinkers around the world.

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