Tea stories and Legends are an important part of the beauty of tea through the ages! Scroll down to read some of the stories we’ve collected about various teas available in our online store. Are they true? You decide – but aren’t legends fun, none-the-less?! (Check back occasionally, as we’ll keep adding stories as we learn them – and if you know a story you’d like to share, please “Contact Us” using the link at the top right of this page).
According to legend, the white tea tree was discovered by a girl named Langu from Fuding county in Fujian, China where the beautiful Taimu Mountain is located. Originally, this mountain was known as “Mt. Caishan”, and Langu, a very kind and benevolent person, lived in its foothills. While taking refuge in a cave on the mountain, Langu discovered a special tea tree whose young buds were covered with silvery hair during spring. When widespread epidemic outbroke in the village, she used the very special tea buds and the leaves from this special tree to cure the disease.
As legend has it, Langu lived a long life and achieved immortality for her good deeds. It is said that she ascended to heaven riding a nine-colour dragon-horse on July 7th of the moon calendar. Since that time, Langu has been looked upon as a goddess (“Taimu”, meaning, pre-grandmother). Yaodi (Emperor in legend) felt indebted for her help, and changed Mt. Caishan’s name to Mt. Taimushan (Taimu Mountain). Today, Taimu Mountain is the famous area of white tea production in Fuding (see also, the Legend of Silver Needle white tea).
Legend has it that during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, in Fujian Province’s Anxi County there was a dilapidated temple that was dedicated to the Buddhist Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. A poor farmer named Wei Yin, on his way to his fields’ everyday, would pass the temple and noticed its deteriorating state. He felt something needed to be done. The farmer was quite poor and didn’t have the means to restore the temple, so instead he brought a broom and incense to the temple. He thoroughly cleaned the temple and burned the incense in offering to Guanyin. He did this twice a month for many months. One night in a dream, the Bodhisattva Guanyin appeared to him and told him of a cave located behind the temple. Guanyin told him that a treasure was waiting in the cave for him. He was told to take this treasure and share it with others.
When he woke up, Old Wei headed straight to the temple and found the cave which he had never noticed before. Growing in the cave was a single tea shoot. He took the shoot home, planted it, and nurtured it until it grew into a large bush. The tea he made from this bush was fantastic and unlike any tea he had ever tasted. He knew that this tree was indeed a treasure. He gave cuttings of the bush to all of his neighbors and began selling the plant as Tieguanyin, or Iron Goddess of Mercy. The tree of legend still exists and is considered a national treasure. Located near the tree, carved into the cliff is the name of the farmer who, according to legend, found the original tree.
This is the legend of Xin Yang Mao Jian – Xin Yang being the original place in China where this style of tea making was born. A long time ago in China, there was a strange disease in Xin Yang which afflicted all of the local people, that could not be cured by medicine at that time. A young village girl searched and searched for help to cure her village.
One day, the young village girl came upon an old man, who told her that if she could cross 99 mountains to find a very special tree and return to her village with the leaves in 10 days, her village would be cured.
So the village girl took up her crusade to save her fellow villagers, and crossed the 99 mountains and found the special tree. However, when she found it, she had no energy to walk the long distance back to her village. The guardian of the special tree took pity on the girl and turned her into a bird, which carried the tea leaves and seeds of that special tree home to her village. The villagers were all cured by the leaves and the local villagers began to plant this tree, which became a large tea garden.
Lover’s Leap Ceylon is from a tea garden in the foothills directly below the Lovers Leap waterfall in Nuwara Eilya district. The Lover’s Leap waterfall bears a tragic legend of two lovers, for which this estate borrows it’s name. Legend has it that there was once a Prince, who came upon a beautiful maiden while out hunting. The two immediately fell deeply in love, but the lovers were forbidden to marry, as the maiden was not of aristocratic descent. Devastated at the idea of living apart, and determined to be together for eternity, the couple climbed to the top of the waterfall, and pledging their eternal love to one another, held hands and lept to their death.
The Margaret’s Hope Tea Estate was originally established as “Bara Ringtong” in 1830. The garden came to be known as Margaret’s Hope Estate in 1927 in honour of the estate owner’s young daughter. As the story goes, that at this time in the early 20th century, the estate owner and his wife lived in England and had one child, a daughter named, “Margaret”, whom the owner dearly loved. The owner brought his family to vacation at the Darjeeling estate, and it was truly a beautiful place to be, as to be among the mountains and the tea gardens was a rural luxury in comparison to the normal busy and crowded life in London. Margaret fell in deeply in love with the garden! Upon embarking back to England, Margaret vowed to return. Tragically, however, she fell seriously ill the ship during the voyage home and died soon after – her hope to return to Bara Ringong, died along with her. Her father renamed his estate to honor the memory of his daughter, Margaret, and her love for the land. It is said, that Margaret’s spirit still roams the estate bungalow, entering through the main guestroom and leaving from the study, through the verandah to the tennis courts.
The name Keemun comes from Qimen county in southern Anhui province, where almost all the mountains are covered with tea bushes. Qimen county produced only green tea until the mid 1870’s. Around that time a young man in the civil service lost his job. Despite being totally heartbroken and completely embarrassed by his shame, he remembered what his father told him – ‘A skill is a better guarantor of a living than precarious officialdom’. Following this advice, the young man packed up his courage and his bags to travel to Fujian Province to learn the secrets of black tea manufacturing. Upon his return to Qimen in 1875 he set up three factories to produce black tea. The black tea method was perfectly suited to the tea leaves produced in this warm moist climate with well drained sandy soil. Before long, the superb flavor of Keemuns became very popular around the world.
A long time ago, legend has it that the people who lived at the Fujian province were experiencing a dry spell which was threatening the lives of the villagers. It was believed that a celestial plant was growing in the Taimu mountain in the Fujian area which was guarded by a black dragon. This plant is believed to be able to cure many kinds of illnesses and it will bring up water when the juice of this plant is dropped into the river. Many villages went looking for this special plant but failed and were magicked into rocks in the mountain. A young lady, whose two brothers also went there but were both dead, decided to risk her life. When she reached the mountain, the black dragon attacked her viciously but she cunningly managed to kill the dragon. The young lady then plucked the celestial plant and dropped its juice onto the people who had been turned into rocks, and all they were transformed back into human beings. Thanks to her courage and effort, the villagers were very grateful. They transferred the plant from the mountain and planted it widely in their villages. Due to its silvery white color and needle shape, it was named “Silver Needle”.
The history of this tea is more than 800 years old. According to a legend, once upon a time, a brother and a sister lived on the outskirts of a small village near the Fuzhou city of Fujian Province. Their parents died and poor children worked very hard to get enough food to live by. One winter, brother got very seriously sick and no doctors could help him. Then, one old woman told his sister about a magic dragon who was always helping people in need. The girl decided to find a dragon and, leaving her brother under the old lady’s care, left home looking for him. She wandered for a long time and finally she came to his cave which was surrounded by the jasmine bushes of amazing beauty. She told the dragon about her problem and he promised to help her, saying that the recovery for her brother wouldn’t be easy. Soaring into the sky, the dragon made an ominous cry and a beautiful pearl appeared on his neck, glittering on the sun. A small drop fell from the pearl and onto the ground, where a beautiful tea bush sprouted and started immediately growing. Dragon said to the girl that she should take care of the bush and disappeared. It rained hard the whole day but the girl looked after the bush not leaving its side even for a moment. Finally, small long leaves appeared on the bush. The girl gathered from the most delicate leaves from the top of each branch, dried them next to jasmine flowers, and made delicate beads, like the one that hung around the neck of a dragon. Returning home, she brewed some tea from this magical leaves and their house was filled with the wonderful aroma of jasmine. Having tasted the miracle drink, her brother quickly recovered. Since then, this old legend about the power of a magical dragon and a beautiful pearl is told and re-told amount Chinese families.
One of the many legends explains how Milk Oolong came to be, originates from a tale of long ago, when the moon fell in love with a comet passing through the night sky. The comet, passed by, burned out and vanished (as all comets do). The moon, in her sorrow, caused a great wind to blow through the hills and valleys, bringing about a quick drop in temperature. The next morning, local tea pluckers went out to collect their fresh leaf. To their surprise, when the tea was processed it had developed an amazing milky character, which was attributed to the motherly character of the old moon.
It is said that the origins of Genmaicha can be traced back to one fateful morning in 15th century Japan. A samurai, whose name has since been forgotten, was in a meeting with a group of fellow warlords to discuss a military campaign. Green tea was served as a refreshment, as was the custom then. A servant of the samurai – by the name of Genmai – was in charge to pour the tea. When he came to his master’s cup to pour the tea, a few kernels of roasted rice fell out of his sleeve into the cup of the samurai. The rice, which he had put into his sleeve as a snack to nibble on during the day, proved to be a blessing for many generations of tea lovers to follow. But not so for poor Genmai. In a sudden fit of anger about the “ruin” of his beloved tea (which was an expensive luxury at the time) he drew his katana (sword) and beheaded his servant. Ignoring the blood and corpse, he sat back down at the table and proceeded to drink his tea. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the rice had transformed the tea and – rather than ruining it – had given the tea a flavour far superior to the pure tea. He felt instant remorse about the cruel injustice he had done to his servant and ordered this new tea to be served every morning in commemoration of his late servant. To honour his servant, he named the tea after him: Genmai-cha (lit. tea of Genmai).
Post Script to this legend: A trusted tea industry contact in Japan shared with me that there is no truth to this legend, and says it is not a story known or shared, to his knowledge, among the Japanese (and he is a Japanese tea industry guru). He supposes that this tragically romantic legend was invented by some enthusiast in the Western world in order to sell the tea. My colleague shared that “genmai” actually indicates the roasted brown rice, and that “cha” means tea. So the true meaning is that simple: Genmaicha is roasted brown rice tea! Ah, but we still like the tragic legend – it’s a good story! 🙂
This style of blooming green tea originates in Yunnan’s Tengchong County, home to Tengchong volcano, which last erupted during the Ming Dynasty in 1609. Legend has it that an artisan who lived near the volcano, feeling a tremor, decided to appease the universal forces in order to save his life and his business. He wisely began working with what local produce was available, selecting the blooms of Amaranth, Hibiscus and Lavender, believing their roots in the region’s volcanic soil would lend power to his creation. These he tied in with an exceptional, wiry leafed green tea grown in one of Yunnan’s finest gardens. His technique was to tie the flowers into the tea while it was still damp, so that as the leaves dried, the blooms would become trapped. The artisan believed that concealing the floral burst within the tea would spiritually represent his hope that the volcano’s lava would be forever trapped within the mountain’s rocky shell. Indeed, the Volcano has never erupted since!