Origins and Myths of Tea
Posted by ANDRA POPESCU
Tea is enjoyed by millions around the world, becoming a part of people’s everyday life. But where did this versatile drink begin? We will dive into understanding the origins and myths of tea.
Legends from China:
Legends from India:
Another popular legend tells of the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, an Indian saint who founded the Zen school of Buddhism. In the year 520 he left India to preach Buddhism in China, where he vowed to meditate for nine years without sleep to make a point to some Zen principles. It is said that towards the end of his meditation, he fell asleep waking up in distress. He was so distraught he cut off his eyelids throwing them to the ground. Legend has it a tea plant grew on this spot to signify his sacrifice. Bodhidharma then used its leaves to brew a stimulating beverage that helped him remain alert during his meditations.
Legends from Japan:
The history of tea emerged in the early 9th century where a Japanese Buddhist monk, Saicho introduced tea to the country. Saicho discovered tea while studying in China, bringing back seeds to Japan where he grew them at his monastery. Starting a trend, other monks began to follow suit sprouting small tea plantations at secluded monasteries. Due to the seclusion, tea didn’t hold its popularity until the 13th century.
The emerge of modern tea custom:
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) a new way of preparing tea was introduced which we continue to use today. This simply involved steeping tea leaves in boiling water. This new process was introduced as the dried tea leaves were rolled and heated in woks stopping the oxidation process. Previous methods involved compressing the leaves into bricks or griding them in a stone mill. This new method also removed the need for a whisk in the brewing process.
In the 17th century a Chinese monk shared this new method of preparing tea during his travels to Japan. Tea merchant Soen Nagatani invented a new Japanese method which involved steaming rather than pan frying the leaves. The steamed green tea leaves were dried and then rolled. This was introduced in the 18th century, to which the type of tea became known as Sencha, now a mainstay in Japanese tea culture.
The origins and myths of tea with Saicho's teas
Saicho uses single-origin Hojicha, Darjeeling and Jasmine teas:Hojicha sparkling tea: In the 1920’s a tea merchant in Kyoto created Hojicha tea. In efforts to make the most of the left-over leaves, stalks, and twigs from the production of green tea he roasted them over charcoal. This shortly proved to be a success with various green tea roasteries creating Hojicha. Many roasters viewed this as a further business opportunity from their green tea waste. The effects of roasting over charcoal creates its deep smoky rounded flavour which you can find in our Hojicha sparkling tea.
Darjeeling sparkling tea: The story of Darjeeling tea began with Tibetan Buddhist monks and summer monsoons. Darjeeling is located in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya where the mid-June downpours soak the mountain soils. Legend has it that a group of Buddhist monks were meditating during the monsoon season, and to unify themselves with the energy from the approaching storm they chanted “Dorje” translating to “thunderbolt and “ling which means “land of”. Overtime Dorje-ling became the name Darjeeling as we know it today. Darjeeling tea’s quality is exceptional due to its terroir and its ideal growing conditions, where you taste the muscatel flavours in our Darjeeling sparkling tea.
Jasmine sparkling tea: Jasmine tea is closely associated with the city of Fuzhou in China, which was introduced during the Han Dynasty (206 BC -220 Ad). The jasmine flower is considered one of the holy flowers in Buddhism, holding deep religious and cultural significance throughout Asia. Jasmine tea is created by storing the hand-picked buds in alternating layers of tea leaves, allowing the jasmine fragrance to release, and be absorbed into either black, white, or green teas. Green tea is amongst the most popular blend of jasmine tea which you can find in our Jasmine sparkling tea.
Tea is enjoyed all over the world, with countless varieties, flavours and forms it is served in. There is a type of tea to suit every taste and mood. While we may never know the true origins and myths of tea, we can appreciate the myths and legends that have helped to shape its history. Tea holds a significant part of Chinese culture, to which they have a saying “Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one”. We continue to shape the story of tea, with our single-origin sparkling teas.