Monday, May 11, 2009

DID YOU KNOW: How did Oolong get its name?

My Facebook friend, Daniel Hong, works with Yunxiang Tea, who have this description of the "Legend of Oolong Tea" on their Web site. I will share the whole thing here for posterity. I did have to type the entire thing, which was embedded in Flash. But I'm a good transcriptionist, so have no fear: the ESL charm will remain intact.

The Naming of Oolong Tea
Oolong tea's homeown is a small village in Anxi county of Fujian Province. In this village lived many tea planters. At that time, people knew little about making tea. They just picked up fresh tea leaves, then baked them directly to be dry tea. One day, a boy named Wulong (similar spelling of oolong) who also lived in this village saw a pretty little bird perching on a tree. Wulong was so excited that he shot the bird with a catapult [I think they mean slingshot. --Ed.] on his way back from picking tea-leaves. The little bird dropped off the tree with a screaming of sadness. Wulong then run up to pick up the bird. However, the bird was just inquired and moved hard its wings to fly away. Wulong who is determined to capture the bird, run after the little bird. When he is running, the pack basket was sliding up and down. So the tea-leaves in the basket kept rolling and knocking each other. Wulong run for quite a while but failed to catch the bird. At the sight of the sunset, Wulong had to give up and returned home. He got so tired for tracking the bird that he didn't make tea at that day. The day after tomorrow, Wulong made tea and took a taste try. Surprisingly, the tea was so different from before. The new tea had strong aroma and tasted sweet and mellow. People were curious about how he can made such a nice tea. At first Wulong had no idea about the reason. Finally, he remembered that when he was tracing the bird the tea-leaves kept knocking and that such tea-leaves was left away for a day before being processed. He told people about this story. Although people had doubts about this story, they did try and got the same good result. From then on, thanks to its special aroma and mellowness, tea produced by this village sold very well. The village people named this tea Oolong to express their gratefulness.

What's funny about this legend is that it has the ring of truth to it, because it's so uneven and prosaic. The great sage This-or-That, or Emperor Whosit did not have a flash of divine wisdom to suddenly invent oolong; rather, a hungry little boy who chased a bird for dinner, until he had-- he thought-- ruined his day's labor of tea picking. And he never even caught the bird!

Thank you, Yunxiang Tea, for giving me this story to share and enjoy the next time I drink a cup of Wulong's tea.

(Image is called, "Birds," and was painted by Emperor Sung Huizong.)