Many of the specialty teas grown and produced in China are associated with folklore and legend. 100 Monkeys, a rare White Mao Feng tea from Hunan is no exception. In certain villages of that province, a pot of this tea is purported to ward off evil spirits. This belief stems from a centuries old tale that centers on an old tea grower and his wife who worked a small plot of land high in the hills. So the story goes, the couple was being terrorized by a renegade band of monkeys. Time and again, they woke up to discover that the night’s flush of new tea shoots had been pulled apart by the nimble thieves. They tried everything to stop the monkeys, from covering the crop with netting, to buying two large dogs to scare the group away. Nothing seemed to work.
In desperation the husband decided that he would have to travel over the mountains to a remote cave where it was rumored that a shaman lived whom he could ask for help. The man packed his bag and set off. Upon reaching the cave, he explained his problem to the holy man. The holy man told him that he should go away and come back in 3 days for the solution to his dilemma. 3 days later the man returned and was given a recipe for a new type of tea written on a parchment. The holy man explained that since the monkeys always came looking for tea, if he gave them 100 pounds of this produced tea they would depart and never return. The grower thanked the holy man and set off for home. On the way he studied the new recipe, which was very complex. The tea was a variety of Mao Feng, which in English means white downy tips, (“mao” means white down and “feng” means tips.)
The production method involved 11 steps – 4 stages of frying, 3 stages of kneading, followed by 4 stages of baking – it was worth a shot. The man and his wife spent the next week producing the new tea. Once they had 100 pounds, they left it out in a wooden chest near their tea patch. That night as usual they heard the monkeys descend on the farm, shrieking, and pounding the earth. The next morning, they rushed outside to find that the chest was empty. The monkeys had taken the tea, and as the legend goes, never returned again.
Whether or not you believe this ancient tale there is one thing you can be sure of – this is a spectacular Chinese tea. Somewhat stronger than many other white teas – you don’t think a light tea would ward off evil spirits or monkeys do you? – 100 Monkeys produces a profoundly complex cup. The tea leaves can be brewed a number of times and with each infusion subtle changes to the cup can be detected. This is truly one tea that you will wish to appreciate over and over – whether you’ve got a monkey to get off your back or not!