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Chinese Tea Mythology: Monkey Picked Tea (Part 2)

What’s in a name?

Monkey Picked Oolong
Monkey Picked Oolong

Upon further investigating, I found that there are other legends about the origin of the name “Monkey Picked.”

According to some, the name originated in 1793 when an Englishman by the name of Aeneaus Anderson came to China.   The Englishman was told by the Chinese that the tea was picked by monkeys in order to keep the Englishman in the dark about information that they did not want to divulge.  Aeneaus believed the story without question and continued the legend as he wrote about his voyage.

Others believe that this tea was handpicked for the Chinese Emperors of the Song, Ming and Ching dynasties.  When the tea was distributed to the public it kept the name that may have signified that the tea was once ‘out of reach’ to the average joe.

Either way – it appears that the name was a marketing ploy.

When I first came a crossed Monkey Picked, it was (by far) the most expensive tea.  I lamented not being able to purchase such a wonderful tea at the time.  But at a whopping $25 for a mere 2 oz was just not in my budget at the time.

It makes you wonder – why is this tea so expensive?  Is it because it is picked by monkeys? Er…well….supposedly picked by monkeys?

There is a well known story concerning a salesman profiting from the legend.  One day a customer walked into a tea store, looking for something to buy. “What do you have that’s good?” He asked. The salesman, deducing this customer had more in his wallet than most offered the Monkey Picked tea. As he explained to the customer, the monkeys could reach the highest leaves on the tree, enabling the collection of the sweetest, most vibrant teas you could buy. Great for health and stamina he told the customer. So the customer happily forked over his money for the Monkey Picked tea. Little did the customer know he was buying tea he could get almost anywhere for a fraction of the cost. The salesman had found a way to make extra profit from someone who knew very little about what they were buying.

I find that very interesting and quite believable.

What I find even more interesting are the irate rants of people concerning the perpetuation of this legend:

Not A Monkey
Not A Monkey

Yes, there are people that are genuinely upset that the tea pickers are referred to as monkeys for the sake of calling it ‘monkey picked.’  This is ignoring that fact that we have yet to prove whether or not the tea has been picked by monkeys.  That I will leave for you to decide, dear reader.  As for me, I put my money on the Macaque.

What do you think? Do you think it’s right to continue this possible farce?


If you liked this story on Monkey Picked Tea, check out the original.