Bet you’ve heard that old saying. Well, read on …
I was waiting at the doctor’s office recently. After about 10 minutes I began to search for something to read and I came across a most interesting magazine story about, yes, all the tea in China. According to this story, written by Lisa See, in the National Geographical Travel Magazine, “Tea drinking is infused throughout every aspect of life in China. It’s a part of every day and for every level of society.”
I continued to read, and took a swig of my trusty Diet Citrus Green Tea (in the Lipton brand), when I read a quote by one of the native Chinese tea grower, Mr. Ahbu. He said, “If you don’t love tea, you can’t make good tea.”
Wait a minute; wait-a-minute … Thomas J. Lipton was an Irishman, who arrived in New York City with $8 bucks in his pocket, seeking his future and in 1890 purchased tea gardens from Ceylon, now Sri Kanka, with the slogan, “Direct from the tea gardens to the tea pot.” He made millions.
For all of his success, the tea was not from China, at that time. And for the life of me, I cannot find the word China on my green tea bottle today. But could the Chinese tea taste be any better? I read further.
The tea in China was discovered in 2737 B.C. by Emperor Shen Nung and it was quite by accident. It seems dried tea leaves blew into the guy’s boiling pot of water and “whallah” the tea craving was birthed, maybe even took place on the Great Wall of China? However, don’t quote me on the last part.
From that point forward, competing tea gardens, manned by individual families, have been at it. Of course today, many of the homegrown businesses have gone commercial but according to the story I read, family competiveness is still full blown.
I read more. “Tea is also central to China’s three great schools of philosophical thought. Confucius taught that tea could help people understand their inner disposition. Buddhists believe that drinking tea is one of the four ways to concentrate the mind – along with walking, feeding fish, and sitting quietly.”
Then the magazine story told about Tea Master Chen, who is a national personality. When he arrives to an area whether a tea-tasting, tea party or an investment seminar (investing in the tea business, of course), he is greeted with great fanfare.
“He sweeps in with all of the charisma of a movie star.” The story emphasized his preference for loose fitting pants that billow about his legs and an untucked shirt, wearing kung fu slippers in order to remain relaxed for the important job of Tea Master. I decided he is not exactly a Brad Pitt but then I remember perhaps Brad doesn’t have a fetish for tea and there, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference.
Next, the Tea Master suggested a trip to the Tea Horse Ancient Road Scenic District located in Menghal County. I read further and the magazine story revealed that this is the place-of-places for China tea lovers, where there are tea terraces with re-creations of tea warehouses, rooms for processing the stuff and where men and horses ate and rested as though they were part of a tea caravan of a thousand years ago.
Back then the men carried 150-pound packs of tea on their backs and the backs of their horses through rain, snow, heat and humidity overland to Hong Cong and other places, but the most important route was to Tibet. The tea was traded especially for war horses, thus the name Tea Horse Road.
I was enthralled and then the nurse called my name. With a sigh, I grabbed my Lipton Green Tea bottle and put the magazine back on the waiting room table and as I walked away, I remembered the Tea Master’s profound statement. “Tea is alive, and every sip, through the powerful senses of taste and smell, opens our hearts to remember, family, love and hardships overcome.”
Yes, for all the tea in China, make mine Lipton Green Tea.
Anne B. McKee is a Mississippi historian, writer and storyteller. She is listed on the Mississippi Humanities Speakers Bureau and Mississippi Arts Commission’s Performing Artist and Teaching Artist Rosters. See her web site: www.annemckeestoryteller.com