The Chinese Legend
According to Chinese legend, the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung is considered to have discovered tea. Drinking water was boiled and flavoured with plant additives in China as early as 3000 B.C. Legend has it that Shen-Nung discovered tea when one day leaves of a shrub in the palace garden fell into his drinking water. The water turned golden brown and the emperor drank the drink, which came about by luck.
The Indian Legend
According to Indian legend, a fakir named Dharma discovered tea while trying to devote himself to the Buddhist faith for seven years without sleep. After some time, the fakir was overcome with an unbelievable feeling of fatigue and in his misery, seized some branches of the shrub under which he had collapsed. He put the leaves in his mouth in the hope of staying awake by chewing on them, and in fact his fatigue vanished and Fakir Dharma was able to finish what he started out to do.
The Japanese Legend
The Japanese also have their own legend of the discovery of tea. The penitent Bodhidarma vowed to meditate for 7 years and not sleep. Despite his oath, he fell asleep one night and when he woke up the next morning, he was so angry at his failure that he cut off his eyelids and threw them to earth. When the eyelids touched the ground, they took root and a big bush grew there over time. When Bodhidarma saw this, he prepared a drink from the leaves that was very invigorating and stimulating. Everyone who had heard of this miracle also prepared a drink from the leaves of the bush. This is how tea became known in Japan and was regarded as a ‘divine gift’. Even today, the same character is used for eyelid and tea in Japanese script.