Extract taken from “The East India Company Book of Tea” by Anthony Wild.
There are many legends about the discovery of tea, none of which have solid foundations in historical fact. But the world requires an explanation for the discovery of one of its most popular drinks, and the ancient Chinese story of the Emperor Wan Tu is by far the best…
The Emperor of China, Wan Tu, an evil, cruel, and despotic ruler, was overthrown by his first minister and banished to a remote southern part of China.
He sat in the shade of a large bush, plotting his revenge.
Driven by poverty to drinking only hot water, he was delighted one day when some of the leaves of the bush fell into his saucepan of boiling water and he discovered that the resulting brew was tasty, refreshing, and relaxing. It cleared his mind so effectively that he sat under the bush for seven years, drinking it, learning to regret his former tyrannies, and vowing to make amends.
He named the drink ‘tai’, meaning peace, in recognition of its effect on him.
He returned to the capital city in disguise and became a valued advisor to his former minister. He was so wise and so beloved by the people that when the minister died, he was chosen as his successor, and ruled justly for many years, introducing tea to the nation.
Only on his deathbed did Wan Tu reveal his true identity, and to honour the wonderful changes that tea had wrought in him, the poet Lu Yu wrote the Tai Chin, the famous book of tea in the 8th Century.
There are other legends - another Emperor Shen Nung was thought to have discovered tea in a similar way, but 3000 years earlier.