Kermit the Frog, Verdigris, cactus, pickles, and emeralds are vivid displays of green. But how does green tea fit into the color scheme? Nearly all green tea come from China and Japan both filled with legendary history. In ancient times there was always a fine line between scholarly truth and the stories told near the home fires. Dragons and fairies, monkeys and talking teapots tug at our imaginations.
Shall we start with dragons? Even to this day you can visit the Dragon Well Temple built over 1,700 years ago. Behind the temple is a simple well. In the ancient past, a benevolent dragon lived in the well. He controlled the weather and ensured that the area had enough rain. Locals would pray to the dragon and bring him offerings to bless the rarest of Green Teas, Dragon Well Tea or Long Jing Tea as it is known in Chinese. It’s unique flavor, may be the sensory delight of the Chinese dragon whose long and sinuous twisting body can be seen in the surface of the well water.
Over 2,000 years ago a very special green tea was acclaimed in the famous book; "The Class of Tea" written by Lu Yu during the Tang Dynasty. With a slight grassy fragrance and a sweet aroma that leaves a wonderful long-lasting aftertaste in your mouth, this bud and single newly formed leaf are at their peak with the Spring harvest. This green tea is seldom seen outside of China. It is believed that Xin Yang Mao Jian Tea came from the heavens and nine fairies brought the tea down to earth to bestow on the human race. Those lucky enough to experience this rarity are in for a treat. When you brew the tea, you will see the image of nine fairies dancing in the steam.
In a tea bowl or chawan, whisking the emerald-green tea powder Matcha is drunk the same way today as it was in the 8th century by Emperors and Samurai. Its name o-cha means honorable tea. “in my own hands I hold a bowl of tea; I see all of nature represented its green color. Closing my eyes, I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart. Silently, sitting alone, drinking tea, I feel these become part of me. Sharing this bowl of tea with others, they, too, become one with it and nature.”
There came a time in early British history that the closed ports of China became to much of a temptation to be left alone. The green teas were excellent and therefore meant a financially profitable commodity to share with the outside world. The British conspired to steal tea plants to grow their own tea and reap financial rewards. The services of a scientist and other scull drudgery proved dangerous but successful. Now that they had the tea, the British East India Company surpassed the Dutch traders to monopolize the trade routes and become the sole legitimate supplier to the American colonies. Green tea was the tea of choice, purchased at the local pharmacy still for its medicinal benefits. Colonial women would carry their teacups in bags on their hips to the apothecary so they could sample the latest arrival of tea. Green tea became extremely popular and was used against the colonists as a tactical weapon resulting in a nighttime tea party in Boston Harbor!
Tea is a miracle of vegetation that has become a treasure of the world as a medicine, beverage, currency, and communication a wellspring of empires, industries, and arts. Tea is second only to water itself as mankind’s favored beverage today. Of course, that means there is more to share with you during this Hot Tea Month. See you next Tuesday in the Dailies!