A few months ago I mentioned that the teahouse near me, Tea Kuan Yin1, had “monkey picked tea” on the menu. A while after that I was listening to archives of The Splendid Table and thier tea expert Bill Waddington2 spoke about tea lore3, including monkey picked tea. According to him tea merchants has tricked English buyers that the best tea was that which was hand picked by monkeys, but it was completely made up. He said that tea merchants still sell tea using this descriptor and “don’t deny the rumors”. Doing a Google search for monkey picked tea turns up a variety of stories, ranging from
“These well cared for monkeys are famous in their native China and are specially trained by their owners to pick rare, wild tea plants in inaccessible places, such as cliff faces.”
“Legend has it that monkeys were trained by monks to collect the leaves from the branches of the wild tea trees growing on steep mountainsides. Our monkey-picked tea was picked and processed by masterful human hands using techniques at least two centuries old.”
and this description, specifically about Ti Kuan Yin so now we know where my teahouse takes it’s name
“When first discovered, this tea was growing wild on the cliffs of the Wuji mountains and very difficult to harvest. Local monks trained monkeys to climb the cliffs and pick the tender leaves. Although today the plants have been replanted for easier harvest…”
Anyone know anything more about monkey picked tea? Does the name actually refer to a flush? Has anyone tried it?
1 They have free wireless, I love them.
3 To listen to the segment go to this page, find the January 19th show “Another Look At Coffee”, the segment begins at 23.10.