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Chapter 1 Origin
Tea is a precious evergreen grown in the south. Its height could be 1 chi (chi is an ancient unit of length – 1 chi is about 30 cm), 2 chi, or as tall as 10 chi. In the east of Sichuan Province and the west of Hubei Province, there are trees whose main trunk requires two people hand in hand to encircle it. The branches have to be chopped down in order to pluck the tea leaves.
The tea tree looks like a gua lu tree. The tea leaves look like gardenia leaves. The flowers look like white multifloral roses. The fruit looks like palm fruit. The stem looks like a clove tree’s stem. The roots look like a walnut tree’s roots.
The character for tea is 茶, its radical can be grass (艹), it can be wood (木), or both.
Tea can be called cha (茶), jia (槚), she (蔎), ming (茗), or chuan (荈).
The best soil for growing tea is fully weathered granite. Sandy soil is acceptable, and compacted soil is the worst. If the soil was not well prepared for the tea plants, or the tea plant is not growing vigorously after transplanting, try taking care of the plant the way you would a melon. The tea plant can usually be harvested 3 years after its planting. Wild tea is better than garden tea. Tea trees grown on the sunny side of the mountain under forest: purple ones are better than green ones; bamboo shaped leaves are better than tooth shaped leaves; curved ones are better than flat ones. Tea grown on the shady side of the mountain is not worth plucking because it has a stale property. Drinking it might cause disease in the belly.
It’s best to drink tea as a beverage because of its cold property. For people who are frugal and follow noble rules, should they feel hot, thirsty, stale, have a headache, dry eyes, fatigue, or joint discomfort, simply drinking a few sips of tea is like drinking ghee, or sweet dew.
If the tea wasn’t plucked in time, the tea processing wasn’t detailed enough, or there are wild foreign plants mixed in, it will make people sick.
Choose tea is as hard as choosing ginseng. The best ginseng is from Shangdang (now in Shanxi Province). Baekje, Silla also has good ginseng. Ginseng from Goguryeo is okay (3 ancient kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula). Ginseng from Zezho, Yizhou, Youzhou and Tanzhou (now part of Shanxi, Hebei, Beijing area) have no medicinal effect. If drinking ji ni (a plant that looks like ginseng but has no medicinal effect), not ginseng, then it won’t even cure the disease. Once you understand the hardship of choosing ginseng, then you know how hard it is to choose tea.