Leaf People In A Bean World


Is this how tea began? This painting recalls the legend that Chinese Emperor Chen Nung accidentally invented tea when a few leaves from a nearby plant wafted into his pot of hot water.

Legend has it that one spring day in 2737 BC, Chinese Emperor Chen Nung (or Shennong) was out for a walk and, feeling tired, paused for a rest. As was his custom, he boiled his water before drinking it, but on this particular day a breeze caused some leaves from a nearby plant to waft into his pot of water. Chen Nung, whose name means “Divine Farmer,” was an avid and adventurous herbalist who was not at all averse to trying new things; drinking the concoction, he found it tasty and rejuvenating. The leaves were from the plant now known officially as Camellia sinensis – in common parlance, tea.

Today, tea is the second most popular beverage on Earth, surpassed only by plain water.

In fact, in some cultures, tea holds a status far above that of a mere beverage; it is a part of the very social fabric. In the United Kingdom and many former members of the British Empire, tea is at the center of the customary afternoon snack or small meal. Japan has developed a tea ceremony so intricate that it can last as long as four hours.

Read the entire article in the March 2012 issue

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