Origin of Tea

[Zhi Tea, July 20th, 2007]

Tea’s origins are cloaked in mythology and steeped in legend. Most scholars agree that the first tea trees sprouted in southwestern China over 5,000 years ago. Story has it that some tea leaves fluttered into Divine Emperor Shen Nong’s pot of boiling water, much to his surprise.  The ever inquisitive and curious monarch took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and its restorative properties.

Shen Nong, the Chinese patron saint of agriculture, then began to experiment with the medicinal benefits of tea.

According to a Tang Dynasty legend which spread along with Buddhism, Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen school of Buddhism based on meditation, known as "Ch'an". After meditating in front of a wall for nine years, he accidentally fell asleep. He woke up in such disgust at his weakness, he cut off his eyelids and they fell to the ground and took root, growing into tea bushes.   Sometimes, the second story is retold with Guatama Buddha in place of Bodhidharma.  In another variant of the first mentioned myth, Gautama Buddha discovered tea when some leaves had fallen into boiling water.

Whether or not these legends have any basis in fact, tea has played a significant role in Asian culture for centuries as a staple beverage, a curative, and a symbol of status. It is not surprising its discovery is ascribed to religious or royal origins.

The indigenous people of this region, in present day Yunnan province, were the first to domesticate and cultivate the tea plant. Over millennia, tea culture spread throughout China, thriving in and around Buddhist temples where monks used tea to enhance their concentration during long meditation sessions.

History buffs can delve deeper into the mystery of tea by going here:  Tea History

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