Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Christmas tale

Once upon a time, a poor prince fled his country, because a rich and evil tyrant had taken the throne of his father. He left his castle in a hurry on a cold December night. Except some cloths, food and his toothbrush, he only took a tea set and a wooden Christmas figurine with him.

The poor prince headed east, traveling by night on dangerous roads in order to escape the army of the evil tyrant. A year later, the day before Christmas, he arrived in a dark and wild foreign forest. He had managed to keep his freedom, but was lost and starving. His only possessions were his tea set and the wooden wise man. He never sold them, even when it meant not eating for a couple of days and spending the night outside like now.

The trees in this forest very tall and old. The prince climbed up the tallest one to see in which direction he should go. From the top of that ancient tree, he could see some smoke rising from a hut a few miles further south. The air was particularly fragrant and pure up there. The big leaves of this tree seemed to absorb all these wonderful scents. Thus, the prince picked several hands full of them and put them in his bag.

It took him several hours of hiking through this thick forest until he reached the hut, exhausted and hungry. He heard the sobs of a young damsel inside the hut. He knocked on the door and asked why she was crying. "My father is old and dying. My elder brothers and sisters have long left us to find jobs in the city. I am alone to take care of him and I am afraid he won't make it through this night." The prince was moved by her tears and kind heart. He remembered that his mother would always prepare some tea for him when he was sick. "Let me prepare some tea for your father. Maybe it can ease some of his pain on his ultimate journey."

She agreed and let the prince set up his tea set in the hut. His tea jar was almost empty, though, and the prince feared he was giving his hostess false hopes. That's when he noticed a wonderful smell coming from the bag of fresh leaves he had picked on top of the old tree. They had oxidized during his journey. He dried the leaves the best he could next to the stove on which the kettle was heating the water. The fragrances of these leaves intensified further and filled the room with a breeze of warmth and hope.

The sun had set quickly. The fire in the stove made small cracking sounds piercing the silence from time to time. A few candles provided just enough light for him to see his tea ware. The prince brewed these leaves together with the last leaves from his own jar praying and wishing for a miracle.
During this Christmas night, the prince brewed these leaves ten times and more. The old farmer could barely drink the first cup, but quickly finished the next ones and then fell into a deep sleep. Then, his daughter also shared a cup with the prince and fell asleep next to her father. The prince continued to drink from the tea late into the night. As he was about to grab his last cup, he heard a voice coming from his wooden figurine.

"Prince, your prayers have been answered. Your teapot will be able to brew whatever feeling you wish to obtain. As long as you use it to do good, its magic will remain. Use it to do harm, and its this spell will be broken. Further, the spirit of the leaves you have drunk has granted you proficiency in the language of tea. A simple smell of leaves will be enough to tell you where they come from, when they were harvested, how they were processed and how best to brew them." 
When the prince woke up on Christmas morning, the damsel had already prepared a delicious breakfast for him and her father. The farmer had regained much strength and thanked the poor prince for saving his life. He offered him to stay with them as long as he wished and learn from him how to make tea from the wild trees in the forest. He accepted and worked hard with the tea farmer to learn everything he knew. Thanks to his gift of mastering the language of tea, they were able to choose the most suitable time to make perfect teas in each season. And when he brewed those teas with his teapot, he was able to make them so tasty and satisfying that they sold out every time.
A year later, the prince married the farmer's daughter who adored him not so secretly since she first met him. His fame and wealth grew rapidly. The king of these lands summoned him to court to see him perform his wonders. He submitted three teas to the prince to test his skill. "This first tea is a hairy Bi Luo Chun green tea that comes from the lake Tai. It was harvested at the end of March of this year. It was stored in a pewter jar. It is fresh as morning dew with the light aromas of delicate lilies. It further bears the scents of pipa fruits because several pipa trees are growing next to these bushes." The king's servants confirmed that this was correct.

"The second tea is a puerh that comes from an old tree growing on a steep cliff. It is exposed to rain, wind and sunshine. That's why it has deep, powerful roots to survive. This spring tea from last year was stored in your library, because I smell scents of paper. It's a tea you like to drink to stay awake while reading." The king laughed and congratulated him again for his correct observations.

"The third tea is an Oolong that comes from Taiwan's highest peak, Da Yu Ling. It was not harvested this spring, but last winter when the aromas are milder and the taste sweeter. This tea has scents of plum, because the jar it is stored in had been used to store plums in the past and hadn't been properly cleaned." This answer was quite an embarrassment at the court. The tea was supposed to be from this spring and only new jars were allowed to store tea. When the king ordered to see the jar, a servant confessed he had made a mistake and used a jar that had stored plums previously! Everybody was stunned and cheered the skills of the prince.   
The king enjoyed the tea brewed by the prince in his teapot immensely and asked him to work at the court with his wife and her father. The prince agreed and became the king's special tea maker. He would go with him on travels to visit other kings in neighboring countries. His teas would create deep bonds of friendship between the king and his neighbors.

One day, their travel took them back to the land of his ancestors. The old and rich tyrant had long forgotten about him and nobody recognized him in the capital. That was a unique opportunity to make a deadly tea for the ruthless dictator, avenge his family and bring freedom to his countrymen. This would break his teapot's magic, though, and the prince hesitated about what to do.

The moment of preparing the tea for both regents arrived. The prince chose a very old and rare puerh, preheated his teapot and then brewed it with all his heart, his passion, his years of exile and the blessings he received. When the tyrant tasted this tea, he fell silent and closed his eyes. Everybody waited anxiously for his reaction. After a minute or so, a tear coursed down his cheek followed by many more. The hate that had filled his soul had been vanquished by the love contained in this cup. As he opened his eyes again, he recognized the prince and asked everybody in the court to bow and hail their new and rightful king!

The prince ascended the throne and had many children with his loving wife. And they all lived happily ever after enjoying the real magic of tea!  

1 comment:

isabella said...

Thanks for the tale and the wonderful pictures. KR, Isabella