Each of the many tea varietals grown across Fujian Province has its history. Steeped in folklore and rooted in the red-brown soil are tea plants that have been cultivated for generations, and bearing witness to great change in the world around. Think of Tie Guanyin, the “Iron Goddess” and Huangjin Gui, “Golden Osmanthus.” Consider Mei Zhan, a varietal that originated in Lutian Township of Anxi County. Its name can be traced to a line from a poem: “The Plum Blossom is the Queen of All Flowers 梅占百花魁” There are several legends about the origin of this tea, for example:
A folktale recalls that during the late Ming (1368 – 1644) or early Qing (1644 – 1911) era, a hard-working and pious farming couple from Lutian reached their early forties, but remained childless. One evening, as the couple hosted a Buddhist monk seeking alms, the visitor remarked that they seemed successful in life, prosperous, and with a well-appointed home and productive fields. Why, he asked, did they carry sadness in them? They explained their situation, in hope of his sage counsel, but he offered none. He left them that night, and continued on his way. Shortly thereafter, as the couple slept, they each had a vision of Buddha, instructing them to find the two tea trees clinging to Tiger Ridge outside their village, and to make tea from their leaves. In the morning, the couple were astonished that they had experienced the very same dream. Right away, they went to the location revealed to them the previous night, climbing high in the mountain, and found the two trees that had been revealed. They harvested the leaves, made tea, and immediately felt a change inside of themselves; spirits lifted, troubles vanished. The next year, they welcomed a healthy son. One month later, they celebrated the child’s birth in a banquet for the entire village, where the tea was named Mei Zhan. The couple gave the tea to plant all around the village, and shared the story of its marvelous power.
Mei Zhan is often prepared as an oolong tea, but is remarkably adaptable, and can be made into excellent white, green, and black teas as well.
There are more stories to tell. I will steep another cup.