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11 More Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About Tea - Part Two

As a deeply dedicated reader for The Tea on Tea, you have probably spent the past few months anxiously awaiting the second part to 11 More Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About Tea.

Well, luckily for you, it's finally here. Notebooks at the ready!

1. Firstly, the caffeine present in tea serves two main purposes. Not only does it kill off the pests which try to snack on the tea leaves, but it also helps to strengthen the memory of the pollinating insects so that they can return year after year.

2. Have you ever wondered how Da Hong Pao came into being? Well, it is said that nine dragons used to roam the land around Wuyishan, China, until the fateful day when a god killed them all, turning their bodies into black rock cliffs. To commemorate this event, the god then planted several tea bushes high on these cliffs, far away from any mortal beings.

One day, a wandering monk noticed these tea bushes and whipped out a secret monkey from his robes, who then snuck up the trees and picked a bunch of leaves. These leaves were later used by the monk to heal a scholar at his monastery, and that scholar then used them to heal the emperor. Obviously, the magical tea bushes then had to be protected.

As such, the emperor offered the scholar a large red cloth to protect the leaves, and Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea was born. Now, it is the most expensive tea in the world, worth more than 30 times its weight in gold. On average, just one gram of these tea leaves cost $1,400.

3. Did you know that there’s a type of pu’erh called Panda Dung tea, which is fertilised with the caca of pandas? This is another suuuper expensive tea as the producers believe that 70 percent of the nutrients in the panda’s poop are undigested, resulting in a high level of amino acids and polyphenols making their way into the ground, and thus, the tea leaves.

4. You may already have guessed it from the meagre quality and unhealthy plastic levels present, but the teabag isn’t actually meant to exist. Whilst the idea for a leaf-holding-bag had been patented several years before, an American merchant called Thomas Sullivan is said to have created the teabag in 1908 by accident.

Thomas would hand out samples of tea in small silk pouches to potential customers with the idea that they should decant them from the bag and reuse the silk - but the customers returned empty-handed and ready for another bag. That teabag turned into the little pouch we all know and hate today!

5. Taoists claim that tea is an important ingredient in the elixir of immortality, and Buddhists believe that there are four solid ways to concentrate the mind: walking, sitting quietly, feeding fish, and drinking tea.

6. Tea leaves are placed into coffins of the deceased in Japan and Myanmar.

7. You may have already been a part of a Chinese tea ceremony (gong fu cha) where the drinkers rap on the table with two knuckles after receiving the tea, and wondered what on earth this means. Well, it is said that a long time ago, a Chinese emperor wanted to pretend he was a commoner to see what peasant life was all about.

As such, he disguised himself as a merchant and headed out with one of his guards (or several courtiers and concubines, depending on who's telling the story). Together, they stopped at an inn, where the Emperor poured a cup of tea for his guard. Shocked, the guard wanted to bow to acknowledge his gratitude, but obviously couldn't give up the Emperor's secret. So instead, he made knees of his index and middle finger and rapped it on the table in thanks.

The secret didn't seem to stay that way for very long - as now drinkers all around the world acknowledge the tea pourer in the same manner.

8. It takes five to seven years of growing for a new tea plant to be ready to plucked.

9. Tea leaves in ancient China were often encased in bamboo, ensuring that they were protected on long journeys along tea-trading routes

10. During ancient China, tea leaves from the first harvest of the highest prized tea gardens were given to the emperor as a gift. This "tribute" tradition has evolved into the current practice of China celebrating 10 famous teas each year, with the winning list changing on an annual basis.

11. Taxi drivers in China have jars of green tea in their cup holders.


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