2 min read

Chinese Tea Mythology: Monkey Picked Tea

Jane Goodall Would Be Proud…

I first came a crossed the Monkey Picked Tea while in search for good cream tea.  I had never heard of it before but the name intrigued me as did the description of its fruity flavor.  It is an oolong tea known for its orchid aroma.  I was given a pot of this intriguing tea along with my scone, clotted cream and jam.  I was immediately hooked but I had one nagging question: why was it called Monkey Picked Tea?

I had never heard of Monkey Picked Tea before.  I thought that it was a tea specific to this unique store: http://www.wearetea.com/.   Upon performing a little investigation, I was delighted to find that it was a type of tea (much like Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint or English breakfast) but the name itself suggested an important aspect of the tea: it’s picked by monkeys.

Photo of smiling monkey
Monkey Picked Tea

(Photo shamelessly pilfered willy nilly from this fine forum over here.)

Figure 1: This photo is of a Macaque taken by another Macaque…true story.

According to legend, a monk was walking with his monkey in a garden when he felt a particular need for tea.  Unfortunately for the monk, the nearest tea leaves were high and the mountain face where the leaves grew was also too steep.  All hope for delicious tea seemed lost; however, the monkey (having sensed his master’s distress on the lack of tea) took matters into his own little hands and climbed the mountain and tree to fetch tea leaves for his master.  Life was good.

Since then the tradition was continued.   Today, it is said that only a small unnamed village in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province in China continues the tradition.   This village has trained monkeys that climb to the highest level to pick the youngest tea leaves.

According to other tea aficionados the legend was inspired by the children dressed in monkey outfits as they picked the tea leaves.  This is not true.

Whether or not you believe it, dear reader, is up to you.  Personally, I believe the above photo says it all.  A Macaque was given a camera where he proceeded to take hundreds of photos including the cheesy grin above.  I will conveniently ignore the fact that the vast majority of the photos were out of focus.

So, if the legend is not true, where did the name come from?


Like this article on Monkey Picked Tea? Check out the followup, with Part 2.