The Legend of Tea

We all crave for our morning tea, without which the day seems incomplete. A steaming cup of tea during a breezy or rainy day seems so pleasurable. Tea is one beverage that has become a culture. Tea is an integral part of Asian, Indian and English cultures. Tea is also not a simple beverage to make; it is made differently in every part of the globe. There are over 3000 ways of making tea, can you believe this? The Japanese and Chinese also celebrate the art of making tea with a traditional ritual known as “Tea ceremony”. How did this legendary beverage appear in this world?

The Origin story.

 The discovery of tea is credited to Bodhidharma, a Zen Buddhist monk. He is known as Daruma in Japan. Bodhidharma is also credited to create Shaolin kungfu. He traveled from India to China around the year 475 CE. Bodhidharma was born as a prince of southern Indian Pallava kingdom. He then was converted to Buddhism in his youth and was instructed by his spiritual master to go to China and preach. Bodhidharma came to China in wearing a simple robe and carrying an alms bowl to observe his vow of poverty. He preached that nirvana or enlightenment can be attained through meditation. He adhered to a routine of harsh self-discipline and extreme asceticism, rigorous practices that he transmitted to his followers. Bodhidharma is accredited to strong vows of uninterrupted meditation, his mediation tales say that he meditated up to an extent where his arms, legs withered away he even lost his shadow. One such vow led to the discovery of tea.

Once Bodhidharma vowed to mediate for nine long years without sleep, he was successful for some years but towards the end of his vow as he sat with eyes closed he fell asleep. Upon awaking, he was furious at his weakness, he in self-disgust savagely tore ripped out his eyelids and threw them to the ground. As the leaf-like lids of flesh lay bloody in the dirt, they sprouted miraculously into tea plants. Bodhidharma then left the place and returned after a few days. To his surprise, he discovered the tea plant. Bodhidharma then happened to Instinctively, plucked a few leaves from the bushes to chew and he felt a revelation as “one who awakens.” His sleep magically disappeared and His mind was much clear and focused, he resumed his meditation. since this day Buddhist monks drink tea to help in meditation.

A God’s Drink

 Shennong or Divine Farmer is a Chinese medicine and agriculture deity.  Shennong was credited with various medicines and farming inventions such as the hoe, the plow, axe, digging wells, agricultural irrigation, etc. Shennong is also thought to be the father of Huang Emperor carried on the secrets of medicine, immortality, and making gold. Shennong, the god of medicine, used to research on medicinal properties of various plants and herbs. He used to experiment herbs on his own body, he also used always have his tea, which was considered an antidote. During one such experiment, he swallowed a yellow flower of a weed, that immediately ruptured his intestines and caused his death. He missed having his antidotal tea. This story shows that the antioxidant and antidotal property of tea was already known. Having thus given his life for humanity, he has since received special honor through his worship as the Medicine King (Yàowáng)

Accidental tea.

Once Chinese emperor Shen Nung , was relaxing under a tree, on a serene warm afternoon. He had asked his attendants to boil some water for him. While the attendant was boiling water, a mild breeze caused some tea leaves to fall in the pot. The servant is a bit lazy decided not to boil another pot of water, he just served the water as it. Drinking the different tasting water the emperor loved the refreshing experience, making the world’s first cup of afternoon tea.

 Tea in literature

Lu Yu (733-804), a Buddhist monk During the Tang dynasty, composed  Ch’a Ching, worlds first and earliest treaties on tea. He describes types of teas, their mythology, and philosophy, uses and preparation methods. He wrote the treaties with a spiritual aesthetic that reflected Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian school of thought. These treaties served as building blocks for the tea ceremony and a whole sacred faith on the tea.  Following the tang dynasty came the romantic age of tea led by Sung dynasty (960-1280 AD.), many types of poetry and artistic references to tea were created during this age. Later in the Victorian age, the artistic, philosophy and emotional representation were carried on by early British and European writers, artists and philosophers.

Legend of Iced Tea

During the 19th century, tea drinking became an integral part of American social life. In the 1904s world’s fair in St. Louis, Missouri, A tea merchant was selling some hot tea samples. Since it was a hot sunny day he was not receiving a great response. He then thought of borrowing some ice from a nearby ice cream vendor and added it to the pot where he was brewing tea.  When he started to serve ice cold tea, it suddenly became a big hit.



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