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tea history
Monkey-Picked
Oolong
By Thia McKann
Thia McKann owns The Path of
Tea, the only totally organic tea
shop in Houston, Texas. She is the
only Certified Tea Master in Texas.
The shop is located at
2340 W Alabama, Houston, TX,
www.thepathoftea.com
Monkey-picked tea? Is there really a tea that is picked
by monkey hands instead of human hands? Though this Another Chinese legend says that the Goddess of Mercy
sounds crazy, most tea lovers have seen Monkey-Picked appeared in a dream to a local farmer and told him to
Oolong for sale and wondered if it was real. Are there look in the cave behind her temple. There he found a sin-
actually specially trained monkeys picking tea some- gle tea shoot, which he planted and cultivated. From that
where on a remote mountain in China? Did a monkey time, the tea has been known as Iron Goddess.
witness a human picking tea and then imitate the action? Oolong teas have some wonderful health benefits. They
Were monkeys used in order to get to tea on the side are fabulous mood elevators. They also can affect the
of treacherous cliffs that humans couldn’t reach? Is this way the liver metabolizes fat resulting in weight-loss.
fact, or fiction? Oolong teas have about 15% of the caffeine found in cof-

fee. They are served in many Chinese restaurants because
Perhaps years ago there were some trained monkeys, they can cut the level of triglyceride in the blood which
but today only one tea company still claims their tea is can help relieve bloating from over-eating. It has also
picked this way. However, no photographs exist of those been reported that Oolong tea might encourage T Cell
famous picking monkeys. Of the thousands of teas avail- production. Oolongs are great for anti-aging. Many peo-
able from China, none is more controversial than Mon- ple really go “ape” for this amazing tea!
key-Picked oolong. The legends about how this tea came
into being are as old as the tea itself. Today, monkey-picked simply means the highest qual-
ity Ti Quan Yin tea available. Picked during the spring
Lets focus on one of China’s most famous teas: Monkey- and fall from higher elevations than other Ti Quan Yin
Picked Ti Kuan Yin Oolong (also called Te Guan Yin). grades, the monkey-picked grade is entirely handmade
The origin of this oolong tea dates to the early 18th cen- by family artisans. Monkey-picked tea is like a calling
tury, when the Tie Guan Yin varietal of tea plant was card to a tea grower, and it represents the philosophy
discovered in Fujian province. Legend has it that mon- of his processing. To a traditional Chinese tea merchant
keys were trained by monks to pick the choicest leaves the term monkey-picked would not be used lightly and
from wild tea trees growing in the Wuyi Mountains of would describe the most prized teas. Only the top two
Fujian Province. This monkey-picked tea was presented leaves and the bud are picked for the best Ti Quan Yin
as tribute to Emperor Qian Long in 1741 and, for many teas. These wonderful teas are totally hand processed
years, was enjoyed exclusively by his Court. Over time, which gives the tea a high spirit. The highest grade Ti
as the tea became more accessible to the general popula- Quan Yin teas are oxidized until 30% of the leaves are
tion, it provided inspiration for poets, artists, and black while 70% remains green. The taste is alluring with
philosophers. a fresh orchid aroma, a bold fruity flavor and a sweet,
lingering finish. This tea really lends itself to the Gong Fu
Ti Quan Yin means Iron Goddess or Iron Bodhisatt- style of brewing, making many infusions. Whether this
va; the leaves are dark like iron yet the taste is light and tea is picked by a monkey or a man, give it a try. You
ethereal, like the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Quan Yin. will be so glad you did.
www.teaintexas.com | may - june 2009
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