by chris — Posted in Tea Musings on February 23, 2018

The Story of Oolong Tea

A long time ago, way back in Ancient China, a young farmer and his wife lived on a small plot on the foothills of the Xiping Mountain.  They grew many things on their farm, like most folks did to feed their families, but what the young farmer was most proud of was his tea shrubs.

One day, he was out collecting his tea leaves when he heard a wail coming from inside his house.  Worried something might have happened to his wife, he dropped his basket and ran inside.

“Wife!  Whatever is the matter?” The young farmer pleaded, catching his breath.

“Baby dragon!  Baby dragon!” the wife screamed, pointing to an overturned basket near the hearth.

The man slowly, cautiously approached the basket, gingerly lifting it to avoid any gnarling teeth or slashing claws.

There, sitting as calm and harmless as can be, was a small black lizard, warming himself by the fire.

After a chuckle and some teasing of his wife, the young farmer picked up the tiny lizard and released him into the field near the house.  “Don’t you go too far,” the wife chided, “dinner’s almost ready.”  So the man remained in the house, still laughing about the “terrifying” black dragon.  They finished their meal and the wife poured the young farmer a steaming cup of tea.  Only then did he remember that he’d left his tea basket in his rush.

Evening was falling when he made his way back to the tea shrubs, and he found that the leaves had started to wither and began to lose the vibrant green hue, becoming a tawny brown.

Curious, the farmer went about drying and rolling the tea leaves to bring out the flavor, just as his father and grandfather had taught him, making sure to remove any stems and other bits that could take away from the purity of the leaves.

When he tried the finished product, he found that the bright green, grassy flavor he was accustomed to was replaced with a dark, earthy flavor with small hints of green.  He was delighted.

Excited, the young farmer brought the tea to his wife.  After her first sip, the wide-eyed wife exclaimed enthusiastically, “husband, we need to sell this!”

Word quickly spread of a new tea from the Xiping Mountain, and orders began to rush in.  It’s fame quickly grew until finally tales of the dark tea made its way to the capitol.  When the emperor found out, he told his court, “send a messenger to retrieve a cake of this new tea, I would like it as my tribute.”  This was a great honor.

After weeks of travel over mountains and giant lakes, the messenger finally reached the house of the young farmer, who had now bought the two adjacent farms and hired a whole staff of workers to meet the demand of his new tea.

“The emperor desires a cake of your new dark tea,” said the messenger after a refreshing sip from his gaiwan, “as a royal tribute.”

Stunned, the young farmer fumbled through his collection, finding the perfect cake to offer to his dynast.   Just before the messenger was about to leave, he asked the young farmer, “by the way, what do you call your dark tea, farmer?”

The young farmer thought for a moment and then his face lit up with a grin.  “Oolong cha,” he said with a smile as he looked to his wife – Black Dragon tea.

And that’s the (absolutely not true) story of Oolong tea.