Page 1

The Agony of


CONTENT ďż˝ An Introduction

1 A Mysterious Infusion

2 Instruments of His Crime

3 Camellia sinensis

4 The First Cup is for Your Enemies

5 What a Tea Situation

6 Chemically Delicious

introduction i

introduction ii

the epic nature of tea has made it to be so difficult to write about. it contains so many cultural layers within the chinese culture and political strands in


that it has become one of the

most intriguing topics for historians, scientists, or poets to shed light on. it is one of the most popular beverages in the world and still has a mysterious quality to its history.

a mysterious infusion

a mysterious infusion


Most legends involving stories are just stories

a mysterious infusion

Whether or not we choose to believe them is up to us and to declipher what is true and what is not. However, we do know Emperor Qi Wudi received a large amount of tea offerings when he died.


a mysterious infusion

it’s origins


onetheless, till this day, tea is used by some Chinese as a gift to the dead - a ball of red paper with a tea leaf between the dead person’s lips.

Chinese are known for their wild legends, even the twelve zodiac animals is one we still believe might help set up some romantic dating match between a horse and a dog. In the same way, some legends consider tea to be from China. It is possible the origins were from China, but it is believed to have come from India first. Some legends say the emperor Shennung found tea when leaves fell in his cup of boiling water, while some legends have Buddha introducing tea instead.


No one knows how the tea bush came about, but tea coming from China or India is a known fact. Kan-lu , a Chinese scholar, went to India to study Buddhism and brought back seven tea plants and planted them on a mountain in Szechwan, which is in India. If the story is true, it makes the origins from India instead of China like most speculated. Villagers that live in that area are evidence of tea evolving from India. The indigenous ways of making tea, not only as a beverage, but as a chewing snack with oils, salt, garlic, sesame, or mixed fish or animal fats are still used in those geographic areas. In William Uker’s 1935 treatise, the existence of tea can be found in hilly regions of northeastern India, Southern China, Northern Laos, Myanmar (now Burma) and Thailand.

Between 273 and 2698 BC

a mysterious infusion

emperor shen nung is known to have brewed the first cup of tea “The Divine Farmer” happened to be sitting outside on a windy sunny day. A gust of wind landed a few tea leaves from the tea bush nearby into his boiling cup of water. He tasted it and found it so refreshing and aromatic. According to China’s daily life neccessities. There are seven: wood, oil, rice, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea is one of seven. So, another claim is the aroma of theburning tea bush he was using for fuel lead him to the possibility of making tea.


another version is where shen nung or villagers fall ill and he tried out 75 different herbs

The only one to cure him was the tea leaf. Another is having a whole village ill from eating wild herbs they picked. Shen Nung is of course the first agriculturalist and discovered the medicinal properties by testing out various concoctions. He may just not have existed like Robin Hood, but the origins of how he came upon tea is highly debatable.

instruments of his crime

his crime


Some myths about the origins of tea stem from Buddhism.


idea of self-sacrifice and wakefulness

is highlighted in this eerie legend.

tea is strongly integrated into a daily monk’s life, all thanks to bodhidharma, the founder of zen.

his crime


This Indian prince is a mythological figure known to be painted and drawn with thick brows and a broad girth. He has influenced monk’s rituals with tea. Legend has him crossing the Yangtze river on a single bamboo reed. After he reached Luoyang, just in reaches of the Yellow river, he founded the Zen of Buddhism at Shaolin Temple, where he invented what is known today as Shaolin Kung Fu fighting.

his crime


he meditated for nine years until his shadow stuck to the wall.

The version of the story in Engelbert Kaempfer’s History of Japan has the dharma sleeping for a long duration of his meditation. Once he awoke the next morning, “full of Sorrow for breaking his solemn vow, he cut off both his eye-brows, those instruments of his crime, and with indignation threw them to the ground: Returning the next day to the same place, behold, out of his eyebrows were grown two beautiful tea scrubs. Darma eating some of the leaves, was presently filled with new joy, and strength to pursue his divine meditations.

his crime


Another version is where his eyelashes fell into a cauldron and green leaves spontaneously grew.

camelia sinensis

camelia sinensis


camelia sinensis


all green, black, oolong, and white tea is derived from the same tea plant known as camellia sinensis.

The beautiful mountain flowers received their name from G.J Camel, a Czech botantist who found 120 species of the same quality.

camelia sinensis


camelia sinensis



tea leaf has symmetrical shape of an ellipse with pointed ends, with a narrow stalk connected.

The texture feels smooth and leathery. During the spring season, the white fragrant flowers stem a few inches on top of the dark evergreen leaves as the stalk can grow up to 45 feet. The top tropic Southeast Asia and the valleys of the Himalaya mountains make the perfect climate grounds for the famous tea plants.

camelia sinensis


tea is plucked during spring and autumn, but spring is the best season because purity is essential part of the strict harvesting production rules.

camelia sinensis

Tea pluckers were mostly young girls,

For 3 weeks, their diet consisted of no

only virgins, and pure. Some wore gloves

garlic, onion, spices, or any foods with

to not contaminate leaves. Even without

strong odors to avoid contaimination

gloves, they had to have fingernails at a

with their breaths.

certain length to be able to pluck the delicate young leaves from the top of the bush without touching them with their fingers.


Emperors were unaware of the blackened hands or the perennially sore fingers of the young tea pluckers. Emperors were unaware of the blackened hands or the perennially sore fingers of the young tea pluckers, who never even dreamt of tasting imperial tea.

The only emperopr who did care was Hui-tsung who ruled the Middle Kingdom. He put art before politics which lead to his kingdom being taken over by nomadic tribes. He ended up being exiled and died. Had he been exiled at a tea plantation, he might have brewed white dragon brains and discussed tea with the tea pluckers.

The rare


were picked by

camelia sinensis


the tall tea trees from the wild where plucked by mon-

monkeys keys. monkeys scrambled

up the trees, 30-40 ft tall, and the people provoked

them by throwing stones at them. in realiation,

the monkeys tore off tree branches and threw them back at people.

the first cup is for your enemies

your enemies


ďż˝ Chinese supplies by difficulties of language. Any Chinamen

Foreign traders had been prevented from trading directly to caught teaching any Chinese language to a barbarian could be executed. Westerners had to rely on interpreters. But these “interpreters� often had a less than perfect command of English or any other Euro language in use in Canton.

your enemies


violence broke between foreigners and westerners all the time. the chinese would burn dutch, greek, and e n g l i s h fa c t o r i e s . t h e fa m o u s e n g l i s h merchant charles compton was notorious f o r b e a t i n g h i s fa c t o ry workers. in response, the chinese burned d o w n h i s fa c t o ry w h i l e chanting,

“kill the foreign devils!�

172 9 the Chinese government court ordered opium to be banned

1840 Opium wars

Somehow, it kept being smuggled into the country through mountain routes. The Chinese court held the foreigners acountable for the opium and held an encampment hostage for ransom for $6 million dollars, when the opium was surrendered and the hostages releases, the mandarin fouled 3 million lbs worth of opium with salt and lime to wash it down the Pearl River. In response, the British sent a navy and battled China. China lost and in return gave up Hong Kong island with more trading ports. With the Opium war giving britian more Chinese territory, they can now penetrate Chinese interior cities. The problem was, if China legalized opium, it would put an end to the economic triangle, as England would no longer have moneyto pay for their tea. England couldn’t afford it, and what they needed was to gain the knowledge that chinese traditonal manufacturers had: Tea. The finest teas in the world.

your enemies



o get it, the task required a plant hunter, a gardener, a theif, a spy. Robert Fortune. His mission was to study the rare tea plants of the Chinese — or so he thought. Legend has Robert Fortune travelling to some of the best factories and cities in China. He made notes of the process, the soil, the rare traditional manufacturing of the leaves. One of the mysteries in England was the popularity of the “blue teas� in England.

your enemies


on oct 1848, upon arriving at a green tea factory by the yangtze river, fortune with his assistant wang was let into his factory with ease. he found out tea was not easy to process at all and for 200 years, europe had been addicted to this tea.

your enemies


The process of tea consists of drying, firiing, rolling, and fermenting for black teas. The green teas were left to be exposed in the sun for one to two fours. After the long process it is decided on the quality. No matter the quality control, tea is a dirty process because it is left on the ground, in the dust, where rodents and insects has access, where the first cup is said to be for the demons or “for your enemies�. Pouring out the first batch is a Chinese habit to warm the cup, unlike the Britains who would typically ignore pouring it out and let it cool. According to the Chinese, cold tea is a sin.

your enemies


as the story keeps going,fortune found some

workers in the factory with some blue tipped fingers during the final processing stages.

Back in England, people believed the Chinese were throwing in dirt, sawdust, and recycling used teas for the “white devils”. As much as Britain loved Chinese tea, they each did not trust each other. Fortune realized through the process how the Chinese prepared iron ferrocynide into the mixture, a painting pigment. When cyanide is ingested, it binds to iron inside the cells, interfering with body’s will to produce energy and a negative alarming effect on the heart and lungs during aerobic respiration. High doses can cause seizures, comas, or cardiac arrests—an instant kill.

so is this how the chinese were slowly taking revenge on the barbarians?

1847 Fortune found another discovery

As horrifying as it all sounds, the story ends when Fortune found out the Chinese added it simply because they thought foreigners wanted their tea to look really green.

“No wonder the Chinese consider the natives of the West to be a race of barbarians,� Fortune remarked.

When he returned to Britain, his theft of the trade lead to the British having an advantage to China. Robert Fortune died in 1880. For unknown reasons, his wife burned all his papers and personal effects upon his death.

what a tea situation

what a tea situation



n 1610, the Dutch were the first to bring tea back into Europe. The widespread popularity eventually landed in Paris. However, popularity among the upper classes may have been

the kiss of death for tea in France. In 1789, a screaming french mob, angered by a noble class that did nothing but do what most politicans do with crippling taxes and make war, attacked the Bastille prison.

what a tea situation

By the time the violence stopped, the king and queen had lost their heads and so did a lot of other rich dukes. And with it, Tea, a symbol of royalty, went the away with the royalty.


According to a top-secret Cold War document only recently made public, the British military harbored deep concerns for the country’s state of readiness in the event of a Soviet attack. They were deeply worried over their “tea situation”. They estimated 75 percent of their tea supply would be threatened.

what a tea situation



burden of responsibility is placed on

the wrong people:the non-organix companies should be the ones required to list on their tea packages all the pesticides, herbicides, and cheimcals they use. the organic, sustainable growers should be the ones who, in addition to making the effort of doing the right thing, also have to jump through hoops to prove they are doing it correct�


lee hoffmann, tea expert

what a tea situation

“The tea bushes that produced this excellent tea were sprayed with dicofol, endosulfan, ethion, propargite, tetradifon as well as chlorpyrifos — methyl, cypermethrin, deltmethrin, fennitothion, flucythrinate, methidathion, and permethrin. Enjoy your tea!”


f our labels said that, not many people would buy it. Although one would believe tea to be very organic, tea just like any other plant is haven to the farmers who use pesticides.

Especially during our century, more and more are used. The Tea Fair Trade focuses on giving back to the farmers who use traditional methods and grow tea correctly without the use of today’s technologies. Like an old saying goes, Once the soil is dead, the tea is dead.


chemically delicious

chemically delicious


A myth surrounding is perhaps the fact it is just as pure as regular tea, but it is not however. It begun in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s fair where Richard Blechynden was worried about the lack of customers that came to taste his indian black teas on a sunny hot day. He tried something new. He poured ice into a glass and hot tea on top. Behold, ice tea was born, or so the story goes. Some historians account ice tea being created long before that, but Richard Blechynden is credited for the new start of America’s finest trends. The beginnings of poor quality ice teas with processed sweeteners in packaged bottles! Some companies made the ice teas so sweetened with high fructose corn syrup that people were better off with soda.

chemically delicious

ice tea is america’s favorite type of tea drink “Better yet! Don’t drink it at all”



agony of the leaves�

the term used to indicate the unfurling of the tea leaf during steeping

designed by Tara Sripunvoraskul for University of Tennessee —Knoxville // Typography 400 written by Tara Sripunvoraskul adapted from Book of Tea, For All the Tea in China photos taken from Book of Tea and by Tara Sripunvoraskul fonts used were Hoefler Text, Historic Felltype, Requin Text

The Agony of Tea: a history of tea  

A brief history book highlighting the controversial and interesting facts about tea. The Agony of Tea is a 55 page book with the controversi...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you