Some roads lead to Baltimore and some lead to the sports stadium. Some are dirt roads and some are asphalt roads. Some are superhighways or speedy Autobahns or roads where they drive on the wrong side (like in England). And then there is the tea road, the one road guaranteed to lead to happiness.
You won’t find Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, or Dorothy Lamour on this road. They may have gone to Singapore (1940), Zanzibar (1941), Morocco (1942), Utopia (1946), Rio (1947), Bali (1952), and Hong Kong (1962), but quite frankly I’m not talking about an actual, physical road here. It’s more of a metaphorical road, one you travel through time and your senses.
Of course, there is a real tea road.
Long ago before there were semi-trailer trucks, freight trains, and huge cargo tankers, there were wind-driven sailing vessels, pack animals (horses, yaks, camels, etc.), wooden carts, and men’s backs. There were also trade routes. Two of the most famous were called “The Silk Road” and “The Tea Road.” As their names imply, they were main routes for transporting, respectively, silk (beginning around 206 BC) and tea (beginning during the Hang Dynasty that stretched from 618-907 AD) from China and other parts of Asia to Russia, the Mediterranean, Europe, and even parts of North Africa. They wound their way over both land and sea.
There’s a story about a wending road that started as the route a grazing calf took thru a field of grass. Rather than forge a new, straighter path, people found their way thru the tall grass in the field by following the calf’s trail, stepping where the grass had been eaten down or trampled. Trade routes were sometimes like that, winding here and there because the first ones to blaze that trail weren’t sure which way to go or their stubborn pack animals wouldn’t climb the rocky terrain so that they had to follow the longer way around the hill. (I can just hear their “Mr. Ed” voices saying, “No way I’m going up that, Wilbur!”)
There are actually six main routes that are part of the Tea Road (often called the Tea-Horse Road, since horses were usually the pack animal of choice, with yaks being a close second). They went to Beijing from other tea growing Chinese provinces (tea was first and foremost the drink of the Emperor), and into Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Tibet, Lhasa, Nepal, India, Vietman, and Europe (thru the Mediterranean Sea).
Your road to tea happiness doesn’t involve back-talking pack animals, rocky roads around the sides of mountains, braving the elements, staving off bandits, and having your tea spoil en route. As I said, it’s more of a metaphorical road.
Your first step on that road is finding out what tea really is. The next few “miles/kilometers” will be full of trying some teas outside of your normal experience. Kenyan blacks. Darjeeling Spring, Summer, and Autumn flushes. Chinese greens, whites, blacks, oolongs, and pu-erhs. Taiwanese teas. Japanese greens (try a little Gen Mai Cha as your new breakfast tea!). And lots more.
As your journey progresses deeper into the world of tea, you will find yourself peeking into little corners to try a very special tea hidden there (metaphorically speaking). You will discover yourself acquiring a new teaware or two from an antique shop along that road. You will gather with other travelers, either in person or through Twitter, Facebook, and similar sites, and converse freely about tea while imbibing and sharing this most special and versatile brew.
Best of all, you will find a smile on your face much more often when you catch sight of your reflection in a dark window, a mirror, or a still pool of water. In short, you will be happier — at least as far as your tea enjoyment is concerned.
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