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A Mercifully Brief History of Tea: (Some Notes for a Lecture I Almost Gave at My Alma Mater, Podunk University)

Food Humor from Doug DuCap: A Mercifully Brief History of Tea

Book Excerpts and Food Articles by Doug DuCapAccording to legend, tea was invented one day when the Buddha’s eyelids suddenly fell off and landed in Lao Tzu’s roiling pot of Hot Water, which was at the time the Chinese National Beverage.

“Hey, cut that out!” Lao Tzu, the Father of Taoism (and several dozen illegitimate children) was heard to exclaim to the Buddha. After sampling the drink, however, he was pleasantly surprised at the delightful taste and aroma.

“Holy Cats!” Lao Tzu cried, “And I thought Hot Water was tasty!”

Tea For Tao Brand Tea: After Second Break FlavorSubsequent tests with the Buddha’s other facial bits (ears - too waxy; lips - too gummy; nose - never mind) proved inferior. Eyelids were the thing.

Lao Tzu, known behind his back as “Lousy Lao” because he never put his hand in his pouch to buy a round for the locals at the Hot Water Bar & Grill, tried to keep the discovery for himself, but soon the news spread far and wide, and demand was such that the Buddha spent so much time shedding and regenerating eyelids that the only time he could meditate was during his half-hour lunch and two fifteen-minute cigarette breaks per shift.

Soon, connoisseurs were clamoring for specialty eyelids, such as Early Morning (the most delicately flavored) and After Second Break (said to have an exotic, delightfully smoky aroma.)

Despite all his effort and sacrifice, the Buddha refused to accept payment for his eyelids. Lao Tzu, who publicly praised the Buddha’s selflessness and generosity but privately considered him a total schmuck, seized an opportunity to make a killing. Lao began to “tack” a variety of special handling fees onto all shipments. These were called “Ex-Eyes Tacks” (later corrupted to Excise Tax), and soon Lao Tzu was up to his own eyes in moolah.

Eventually though, the eyelid gravy train screeched to a halt. One day, after years of nine-to-five-ing his life away (and watching Lao Tzu blow obscene sums of money on booze, dance hall floozies, and hideously expensive Feng Shui doodads), the Buddha suddenly had a Revelation in the middle of Second Break. “Screw this,” he said, flicking away a Lucky Strike, “I’m going back to India”

Yin Yang Luck Strike Buddha CigarettesFortunately, the Chinese discovered shortly thereafter that the leaves of the tea plant also made a pretty decent cuppa, and began drinking that instead. (Incidentally, after years of wanton extravagance that left him nearly destitute, Lao Tzu sobered up and opened a very successful chain of ‘Think-4-Less’ Discount Philosophy Marts throughout the Middle Kingdom.)

Tea drinking went on in this fashion for hundreds of years, with the notable exceptions of the Tang Dynasty (618 AD to 907 AD), when the Emperor suddenly outlawed tea and decreed that everyone must switch to drinking an orange-flavored, chemical-laden drink “product” (a bribery and kickback scandal ensued after the Emperor also decreed that all official documents must end with the line “This Dynasty brought to you by General Foods ™”, but nothing came of it), and the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD to 1644 AD), when the Chinese inexplicably began drinking tea out of vases.

In England, that other famously tea-addicted nation, tea drinking didn’t really catch on until the late 1600’s. I was puzzled as to why, and consulted with noted authority Professor Reggie “Ripper” Biggs, former Strangeways Prison guard and current president of Eastender University in London, to find out.

“Welw, we hadda invent the bloody stuff, din’t we?” Professor Biggs said between mouthfuls of lager and eel pie. “An’ the dainty li’ul bloody teacups ta pu’ it in, right?” When I incautiously pointed out that both tea and porcelain originated in China, Professor Biggs leapt out of his chair.

Ancient Chinese Hot Water Bar and Grill“Bollocks!” he thundered, half-chewed bits of eel flying in all directions. “Oo d’you fink you are, comin’ in ‘ere lecturing me about English bloody tea? You’re not wirf a cuppa warm piss, you colonist. Y’know wot you want, mate?,” Professor Biggs said, producing a rubber truncheon from his desk drawer, “You want a bitta sortin’ out.”

I took this to be one of those subtle English hints that the interview was at an end, and that perhaps it might be best if I attempted to pursue my research elsewhere, or at least attempted to make it out of the office with my skeletal system intact.

Boston Tea Party (and Kegger)
Even though America is considered elsewhere to be a nation of leather-tongued coffee guzzlers, tea figures prominently in American history. In 1773, King George II of England, who was a big fan of Lao Tzu’s blockbuster get-rich-quick book, Tao Te Ka-Ching!, decided to try the old “ex-eyes tacks” scam on tea shipments to the American colonies.

The colonists weren’t about to fall for that, so a bunch of them, disguised not very convincingly as ‘wild’ Indians (the modern equivalent would be a group of Shriners trying to look like urban gangstas), dumped an entire shipment of tea into Boston Harbor, after which they went out and got totally ale-faced.

The Boston Tea Party, as it came to be known, is widely regarded as the event that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. What is less well known is that this event also marked the end of non-alcoholic beverage consumption in Boston, blah, blah, blah…

***At this point in writing my lecture notes I didn’t feel any pressing need to continue; I knew that P.U.’s less-than-rapt student body would be sound asleep in their seats anyway, and if I was quiet about it I’d probably have time to slip out for a few beers before they woke up.***

…blah, blah, blah, and that’s the story of how Mittens, an unassuming six-pound Norwegian Forest Cat, became famous for producing the world’s largest hairball.

(NOTE TO SELF: Use marine air horn now to wake students.)

Thank you for your kind attention. If you enjoyed today’s lecture, autographed copies of my latest book, Ich Bien Ein Lachen-Hersteller: The Complete Guide to the Forgotten Comic Operas of Friedrich “Fritz” Nietzsche & Richard “Ritz” Wagner are available in the campus bookstore.

Thanks, you’ve been a great audience.

*

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us tomorrow to read our new recipe for Quick and Creamy Bacon and Asparagus Linguini.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

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(Photo Credit: Story Logo contains imagery from Pennyroyal Tea by R. Motti.)


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