Anyone who has been drinking fine teas for awhile and who has been exploring beyond the basic black has surely come across some teas with “monkey” in their name. But there is more to monkeys and tea than just this. In this Year of the Monkey (in the Chinese zodiac), we wanted to show how monkeys and tea go together in our modern world.
Some Teas with Monkey Names
Let’s start with these teas whose names include “monkey” for various reasons:
Some Monkey Legends
Monkeys and humans have had close relations for a long time. Monkeys are very imitative and can form close attachments with humans they live near. Including them in the lore about something that humans like very much, such as tea, seems only natural.
Legends about monkeys have been part of tea growing countries, especially India and China, and therefore a part of the world of tea. One Chinese legend is about how 1000 Day Flower Green Tea was created. The King of Monkeys was demoted for eating all the Empress’ ripe peaches and, to make up for it, learned from some sympathetic monks to sew tea leaves together in the shape of peaches. These pleased the Empress, who restored him to his regal position.
Also, the idea of monkeys actually picking tea leaves has persisted for quite a few centuries. The veracity of such claims is highly questionable in spite of a company selling a tea actually named “Monkey Picked Tea.” One story says that this idea came about from a “tall tale” that a Chinese tea grower told a visiting British writer in 1793 in reply to him asking how tea was picked. This was when the Chinese were still the only tea growers in the world and wanted to keep their tea secrets to themselves. Another story states that, monkeys being the great imitators of human behavior that they are, they began picking tea leaves as they saw monks and other humans around them doing.
In other instances, teas are named after how the processed leaves appear. Gunpowder tea is a well-known example, since the tightly rolled leaves look like tiny gun pellets. White Monkey Paw Green Tea is so named because the processed leaves are said to resemble monkey paws. Not sure I see that, but when you’ve just spent long hours processing tea, your eyes could start playing tricks on you.
Monkeys in the Chinese Zodiac
For people born in either 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016: You are intelligent and witty, and well-liked due to your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality. You tend to be opportunistic and distrustful of other people. You often have success in any field you try. (Good news for those of you growing, producing, selling, and enjoying tea.)
So, Do Monkeys Really Pick Tea?
Monkey-picked tea is one of those tales told to gullible outsiders. Or is it? Some tea vendors swear that it’s true. There are others who not only say they do not, but consider the label “monkey picked” demeaning to the hard-working humans who spend their days in the tea fields doing the actual picking. Still others claim that “monkey picked” refers to a top tier tea made from typically wild thicker leaves or rarer more precious leaves and buds.
Never mind. No matter which is true, monkey tea is “more fun than a barrel of…”
Be witty. Steep up a potful of monkey tea. Then, sit back and sip the fun!