Teatime Stories: Legendary Teas
Curious to learn more about the legends of the tea world? Brew up a cup of your favorite tea and enjoy this teatime story:
It was a typical day in heaven. The sun was shining, and everyone who passed along the golden streets smiled and greeted each other pleasantly, as always. But if you passed down Starview Lane #425, you would have seen something quite out of the ordinary: a hubbub was arising from the Heavenly Tea Room.
The Heavenly Tea Room was the place where everyone went to relax and seek serenity. To hear more than the pleasant music of a harp and the tinkle of the fountain in the center of the Tea Room was quite unusual indeed!
Inside the shop was an even more interesting sight, for the room was bursting with spirits, all talking louder than their neighbor in an attempt to be heard. In one corner a woman in a kimono was arguing with a man with a turban, pointing at the glass cup filled with mint and the silver teapot in front of them.
In another corner a man with a bowler hat was talking so animatedly he threatened to knock over the porcelain teapot which sat between him and a mustached man holding a small cake of dried tea leaves in his outstretched hand. Cherubim in aprons ran frantically between tables, filling teapots and delivering plates of tea treats to all. But everyone was too excited to notice them.
After this uproar had gone on for some time, a woman in an elegant ball gown clambered up on a table not so elegantly, and banged a spoon against a plate. The boiling conversation eventually reduced to a simmer, and the woman cleared her throat.
“Dear tea friends,” she began. “I know that nothing has ever happened like this before, so it is natural for us all to have differing opinions on this matter. But if we are going to do this right, we need to work together!” A murmur of agreement arose from the tables as people noticed the teacups the cherubim had filled, and started to sip their tea.
“It’s not every day that the Emperor of the Upper Realms invites the Heavenly Tea Club to serve tea at his new year’s celebration. In fact, this is the first time in the history of tea that this has occurred!”
She put down the plate and spoon and smoothed her dress, continuing, “Let’s all take turns proposing which tea to serve at the party, and why that is the most appropriate tea for the occasion.” Again, the crowd nodded in agreement.
“Starting with me. As the inventor of afternoon tea, I propose the most appropriate tea to serve the Emperor is a full afternoon tea. What is more ceremonious and beautiful than a full spread of black tea, porcelain tea ware, and dishes of finger sandwiches and scones?”
The crowd started to talk amongst themselves again until a man stood up and bowed. “With all due respect to the Duchess of Bedford, I would argue that the Japanese tea ceremony is the best form of tea to serve the Emperor. What better speaks to both the spiritual and tactile joy of tea than being served a bowl of matcha by a tea master?”
Another man popped up and said in an American accent, “Now see here, no one argues that you are a true tea master, Sen no Rikyu, but I think what we need for this party is something refreshing. With all this sunshine here in heaven it can get a bit warm. So I propose we serve my creation: Iced tea!”
A woman with a luminescent glow rose from her chair to speak next. “Iced tea is very refreshing to be sure, Mr. Blechynden. But for this momentous occasion, I propose serving a tea which was a gift directly from heaven to mankind. The tea named after myself, the Iron Goddess of Mercy, or Tie Kwan Yin, was my gift to a poor farming village, to help them survive. How fitting it would be to celebrate a heavenly gathering with this oolong tea.”
The proposals went on for a while, then reverted to communal bickering and general chaos. The poor cherubim could hardly see straight, they were so busy running to and fro.
Then the door to the tea room opened, and the room suddenly went quiet. Shen Nung, the Divine Farmer, glided into the center of the room.
“Friends, I am disappointed to see how divisive this day has become. Tea is meant to bring people together, not tear them apart. I will bring the tea for the Emperor’s gala. All you need to do is bring your teacup, and an open mind.”
Humbled, the tea club began to disperse and the cherubim breathed a sigh of relief.
The next day came, and the gala was held in the Great Hall. It was more extravagant and beautiful than any other party seen in the upper realms. “The Emperor really outdid himself,” Richard Blechynden commented to the Tie Kwan Yin, who was seated next to him on the long table which reached from one end of the Hall to the other. He looked mournfully at his cup which was yet to be filled. “Though I still think iced tea would’ve been a great addition to the meal.”
Tie Kwan Yin didn’t have time to reply, for it was time for tea. Shen Nung rose and bowed toward the Emperor, seated at the head of the table. “The Tea Club is grateful for this opportunity to share a cup of tea with everyone here today. Just as tea comes in many forms, so the members of the our club are similarly diverse. But one thing ties us together: the love of tea. And so today, instead of serving you one type of tea, we offer you a cup of common ground. The tea from which all tea is born.”
Richard and the Tie Kwan Yin looked into their cups, and discovered that they had magically been filled with steaming water. And at the bottom of each cup was a single green tea bud: the tea from which all tea is born.
Shen Nung continued, “I discovered tea when I was boiling water outdoors, and a tea leaf drifted into my open kettle. Sip this tea and taste the joy, community, and friendship that has sated so many over the centuries.”
Legend has it that the tea that was served that day was the most delicious tea ever tasted. Party goers said that one sip made you feel the accumulated millennia of happiness that all people have experienced from drinking tea. And that each sip made you feel more alive and refreshed.
But legends are just that… so who knows what really happened!