People all over the world, if they love to learn, do this one thing. But what can this one thing be…?
People who love to learn ask questions.
I tend to ask the ‘what does it do’ questions before I ask ‘what is it’. Of course both types of question are helpful if we want to learn something new about the world around us. When I began research on the topic of tea I soon became pleasantly surprised. In my research I found myself dabbling in history, geography, science, current events, literature, cultural studies, philosophy and more.
This week I learned that the success of Ceylon tea in the 1800’s was due largely to a Scottish man called James Taylor. Said James Taylor: “I learned [tea manufacturing] mainly from others and from reading but it took a lot of experimenting before I was successful.”
So true of any kind of endeavour I thought. We learn from others, by reading and by experimentation. Actually I was supposed to be looking into The Origin of Tea before I became distracted by Ceylon tea. One of the hazards of research, if you aren’t careful, is that you can start off with an interest in french knitting only to end up an expert in rare fungi.
A clever way to say ‘Tea is surprising’.
Concerning the origins of tea, all seem to agree, tea was discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung.
The day was especially humid when The Emperor, in need of rest and hydration, sat beneath a Camelia sinensis tree. A leaf dropped from the tree into his cup of hot water and not feeling inclined to remove it the Emporer took a sip. What a surprise! This was no ordinary water. The Emperor felt revived and undoubtedly the leaf had something to do with it. Consequently the Emperor ordered the leaves to be collected to be taken back to his palace. Soon, by the Emperor’s experiments, tea came into being.
Myths and legends hold information in much the same way as a pastry holds a filling – within. In the story the origin of tea is a fortuitous encounter and the characteristics of tea are delightfully encased in the typical form of the legend. First tea is surprising. It revives. Tea is also a mysterious substance (at least it was when the story was first told) therefore the leaf requires closer inspection. Finally, tea is to be experimented with. This is how I interpret the story in any case and legends do lend themselves to creative interpretation.
Tea is not coffee in so many ways. If you drink a lot of coffee then a thin floral liquid is not going to do anything for you. You will wonder what all the fuss is about! There are ways to be introduced to tea. (Coming up …) But tomorrow I am off to Russia to visit Valentina and to talk Russian tea and samovars. Until then – cheerful brewing all.