Legends of Tea

Legends to keep you awake!

The Chinese and Koreans seem to have agreed on something. This particular legend. That Chinese Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when some tealeaves accidentally fell into some water he was boiling, and ended up loving it. What an emperor was doing boiling water next to bushes is anybody’s guess. Regardless, the good man has written in his medical diary, all the way back in 2737 BC, that the brew not only quenched thirst but also lessened the desire to sleep. We fully agree, since anybody who kept a medical diary probably didn’t sleep a whole lot.

The Japanese legend is less pretty and involves an Indian monk named Bodhi Dharma, who had (don’t raise your eyebrows) bushy eyebrows. He is said to have meditated for nine years by staring at the wall of a cave. And not the Ajanta Ellora variety, we’re guessing. To battle his occasional bouts of drowsiness, he came up with the novel (and rather painful) idea, of cutting off his eyelids so they wouldn’t close. Where the severed eyelids landed, the first tea bushes appeared. In a cave! We wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t pick this legend to believe.

A brief history (and geography) of Tea

May we be pardoned for saying this, but the British did not discover tea. In fact, they were not even the first Europeans to discover tea. Tea seemed to have set foot in Europe in Amsterdam in 1609. The French began drinking tea (when they weren’t drinking wine), in 1636. In the time of Maria Antoinette, they accompanied tea with macaroons of madeleines but never with milk.

While the Dutch and the French kept this magical brew to themselves, Tea finally arrived in Britain from China in 1652 when Charles II married Portugal’s Catherine of Braganze, thanks to the generosity of the Portuguese. Her dowry included chests of tea and the regions of Bombay and Tangier. We can safely assume that Charles II cherished the former gift to the latter. But the British went on to establish tea industries in India and Sri Lanka.

Tea made an entry in Russia in the 1600s as a gift from the Chinese embassy to Czar Alexis. It certainly seems to have been a popular gift amongst aristocracy. probably due to its innate ability to calm ruffled feathers. In the Americas, Tea first arrived in Canada in 1716. It was imported by the Hudson Bay Company. It took over a year for it to arrive. Our guess is the pirates might have had something to do with it. In the late 1800s, green tea was the most popular tea in the United States. But during World War II, green tea sources became scarce and the Americans began importing tea from India, which produced black tea. And ever since, black tea has been the most popular tea. In a way, we could say that it was the Indians who won the war.