March 6 2012
The British and Tea. Like a horse and carriage, yes? We love it, we really do. However… I can’t help but feel that the general tea drinker has been losing touch with their roots. We never used to drink dust in a teabag with milk, no sir. We were used to the finer things… it was Oolongs and green teas that first graced our teapots – a far cry from the usual brew we’re used to today, rather than a cup from the exotic misty hills of the Far East.
China has the ‘big ten’, the key ten teas that it is famed for, and all of these teas have a beautiful legend or two behind them. So, I thought I’d share one of my favorites with you. Are you sitting comfortably?
This is the story of Iron Goddess tea, or Tie Guan Yin, a Chinese Oolong. The Iron Goddess is also known as the goddess of Mercy or Compassion. Bear that in mind, there’ll be a test later*. There are two different stories surrounding the creation of this tea, the Wei and the Wang, and today I’m going to share the Wei with you:
Tucked away in the Fujian province of China, there was a crumbling temple to the Iron Goddess, which housed an Iron Statue in her honour. Every day, on his way to and from work in the fields, a Mr. Wei would remark to himself on the state of temple, shaking his head thinking how something simply must be done.
Now, Mr. Wei was by no means a rich man so couldn’t afford to rebuild the temple himself, so instead, twice a month he decided to bring some incense and sweep the temple clean with his broom. He repeated these tasks month after month after month until eventually, the Iron Goddess appeared to him in a dream. In this dream she told him that there was a cave behind the temple, and in this cave lay some treasure that he would share with other people.
So the next morning, leaping out of bed, Mr. Wei explored behind the temple and there, just as the Goddess had told him, was the cave. As he entered he saw, pushing up through the ground, a single tea shoot. He gently cultivated the plant until it grew into a great tea bush which produced some of the finest tea that China had ever seen. He gave cuttings from the plant to all of his friends and neighbours who sold the tea as Tie Guan Yin, the Iron Goddess of Compassion. Soon Mr. Wei and all those around him were prospering wonderfully, and fixed the temple which soon became a pillar of the community and, as one teller puts perfectly, a beacon for the region. So, for every day after that, Mr. Wei would feel joy in his heart when he walked to his fields, admiring the beautiful temple.
I can just smell those tea leaves now… lovely. I’ve been enamoured with the story of this tea for a few years now, and I’m thrilled after three years of looking to finally find it! Now to sit back with my cup of Oolong and unearth some more stories.
* Please note there will not be a test later. That would be mean.