Tea Legends – Long Jing

Long ago (I can never resist starting a story that way) in the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor Qianlong Visited West Lake in Hangzhou China on one of his famed holidays. I can only imagine what it’s like to be an Emperor. I’d need a holiday too.

He visited the Hu Gong Temple under Shi Feng Shan (Lion Peek Mountain.) During his visit, he was watching the woman pick tea from bushed that still grow in that area to this day. He became so enamored with their sinuous movements, that he decided to join them. The work, he found, was meditative but it didn’t last long. While engrossed in his work, he received a message that his mother, Empress Dowager Chongqing, was ill and requested his immediate return to Beijing.  In his haste, he shoved the leaves into his sleeve and made hastily back to Beijing.

longjingWhen he knelt at his mother’s bedside she noticed the aroma of the leaves coming from his sleeves. He immediately had it brewed for her.

This tea considered the Chinese national tea by some, is Long Jing – also known as Dragon Well.

It is said that the pressed leaves are meant to mimic the flattened appearance of the leaves Emperor Qianlong brewed for his mother that day.

Even though this is a prized tea throughout China, the leaves harvested at Hu Gong Temple are auctioned off annually for a high price per gram than gold, I had never experienced this tea until very recently.

I had the pleasure of trying the first flush when the leaves are more tender and the roasted quality brought about by pan frying, is heightened. I was also fortunate enough to be presented this tea by my boss, a woman from Chengdu China, who prepared it for me the traditional Chinese way.

This is a tea where I feel the need to relax to be able to appreciate it. You need time to take in the aroma and feel the softness on your tongue. Think of the Emperor and his mother, who were so entranced by the hypnotically aroma and taste of this tea. Think of the patient dedication the woman had to practice in order to harvest the leaves.  To make a ritual out of mundane activities is to fully appreciate the little wonders in our lives.

Tea always tastes best when prepared and enjoyed with care. You can say the same about life as well.

Tea Legends – Ti Kuan Yin

I would love to tell you that I get to sit in coffee shops all day writing blogs and books and drawing pretty pictures, but I do in fact have a day job. It’s a good one, far as they come. I work at a teahouse. The days pass by and I count hours by how many cups I can drink between chatting up the customers.

One of my favorite jobs there, aside from making the tea, is when I get the time to write the blog for the Teahouse. You can find it here.

Tea has such a history it tends to peeks through time in the form of stories and legends. No matter how many I unearth, the legend of Ti Kuan Yin remains my favorite.

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In Fujian’s Shaxian province, during a time of great poverty, there stood a neglected stone temple on the outskirts of a small village. An old farmer frequently visited the temple. He swept away debris, lit incense, and prayed to the Goddess of compassion, Guanyin. One day particularly difficult day, he went to the temple as usual. He finished his sweeping but, when he went to light the incense, the statue of Guanyin sprung to life. The old farmer fell to his knees, at which point the Goddess, in her kind manner, whispered, “The key for your future is just outside this temple. Nourish it with tenderness and it will support you and yours for generations to come.”

Guan YinShe reverted to stone once more.

True to the Goddess’s word, there was a shriveled bush outside the temple doors. From that point onward, the farmer swept the floor as always, lit and incense, and also watered the bush. When the leaves grew plump and healthy the farmer discovered that, when steeped in hot water, it made a refreshing drink. He clipped some branches and brought it to the village where his neighbors could plant it too. After a time the farmer experimented by drying the leaves in a stone wok until they became the dark, iron color. It reminded him so much of the Goddess, he named the tea, Ti Kuan Yin, Tea of the Iron Goddess of Mercy.

 

 

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To this day, it remains one of my favorite Oolong teas. If you want to read the full post I made for the teahouse, click here.

I’m of the sound belief that life isn’t complete without a book, a furry companion, and a warm cup of tea. To be honest, It’s not something I ever thought I would say. I once wrote that our lives are saga’s – an unedited manuscript that some amateur writer is slapping together – hapless of the dull conversation, the pointless scenes,  the unanswered questions, and ginormous plot holes. I think we all know this on some level. We reach a point where we realize and then desperately attempt to make some kind of sense or meaning out of it all.

I know, the story is made in the grand adventures life offers. In the heartbreak and the triumphs. In the difficult decisions and the comedic mishaps. But, life is enjoyed in the still moments where all you have is eyes to see how slowly the world truly turns and a mind to appreciate this.

Tea and the legends around it help me remember this.