Tea for Emperors and Tibet – Part 1/5

My weekend cup of Numi Organic Pu’erh tea reaches back into China and Tibet’s history almost two thousand years. The journey this tea takes starts in China’s Southwest Yunnan province along the border of Laos and Vietnam.

There are several varieties of tea — white, black, scented and green to name a few.

The mountainous region of southwest China in Yunnan Province produces a special tea called “Puer”.

The custom with “Puer” is to pick new tea and drink old tea. This refers to a practice unique for “Puer” tea of aging the tea in storage to obtain the unique flavor.

In addition, modern science has recognized “Puer” for its health benefits beyond black tea.


Chinese Puer tea – Part 1/3

In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan.

Historical records say that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases. After they drank the boiled tea, it is believed that the troops were cured.

The leaves came from a tea tree in Yunnan. Over time, tea drinking for health benefits became a tradition in other areas of China including Tibet.

There is an old saying in Tibet. “Better three days without food than a day without tea.” Historical records show that Tibetans started drinking tea during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) in 641.

Tibet does not grow tea trees, so the famous Tea Horse Road from Tibet to Yunnan was opened. Over the centuries, tens of thousands of horses were traded with China for tea.

In the early 19th century, Emperor Daoguang named “Puer” tea as a “Divine Tribute to the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Continued on January 18, 2012 in Tea for Emperors and Tibet – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This five-part series of posts on “Tea for Emperors and Tibet” first appeared May 2010, as The Magic of “Puer” Tea, The Tea Horse Road, and Kambucha Fermented Tea.

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One Response to Tea for Emperors and Tibet – Part 1/5

  1. Craig Hill says:

    This is interesting. I did a story about the Tibetan Quarter in Chengdu last year, and found the culture fascinating. I’ll come back to look at more of this. Thanks.

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