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Taunus Spring

leaves, tea, leaf, china, height, inches and numerous

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TAUNUS SPRING. See article on table and medicinal MINERAL WATERS. TAUTOG: another title, from the Indian word taut, for the BLACKFISH ( which see) .


The first discovery of the virtue of the beverage obtained by infusing the tea leaf in water, is hidden in the obscurity of ancient history. One Chinese tradition gives the credit to some Buddhist priests, who, unable to use the brackish water near their temple, steeped in it the leaves of a shrub growing in the vicinity, with the inten tion of correcting its unpleasant properties. The experiment was so successful that they spread the news among their neighbors and subsequently engaged in extensive cultivation of the plant.

Another record attributes its discovery, about 2737 B. C., to Chin-Nung, a cele brated scholar and philosopher, to whom nearly all agricultural and medical knowl edge is traced in China. In replenishing a fire made of the branches of the tea plant, some of the leaves fell into the vessel in which he was boiling water for his evening meal. The consumption of the beverage thus formed—the first "pot of tea"—proved so exhilarating in effect that he formed the habit of so using the leaves. Later, he imparted to others the knowledge thus accidentally gained, and in a short time it became the common property of the empire.

China is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of the tea industry. Some writers reason that the honor belongs to India or Japan, but other authorities name the thirteenth century as seeing the first use of the leaf in the latter country.

Tea was brought to Europe in the sixteenth century, the Dutch East India Com pany introducing it into Holland. The first authenticated mention of it in England is in the year 1657—at which time it was considered a very rare luxury. It was known as early as 1680 in the American colonies, selling at from five dollars to six dollars a pound for the cheapest varieties. Its use was for many years widely condemned by writers and preachers, who attributed to it numerous qualities inimical to health, morals and the public order, but that attitude was long ago relegated to oblivion and the enormous quantity now consumed places it among the most important of food articles. Its title conies from Te, the Chinese name for it in Amoy dialect. In other

parts of China, it is known at Ta, Cha, Dzo, etc.

The tea shrub is an evergreen somewhat similar in appearance to the camellia, to which it is botanically related. The Assam type in its wild state grows to a height of fifteen to thirty feet, with numerous branches and a wealth of lance-like leaves, which often attain a length of six to nine inches. The China varieties and the numerous crosses are more dwarf in habit and of smaller leaf. The rather large, white, fragrant flowers grow singly, or two together, in the arils of the leaves. Under cultivation, the shrubs are not allowed to exceed four or five feet in height, and flower ing is permitted only for seed purposes.

The plant, raised from seed in the nurseries, is set out in the fields or "gardens" when about twelve inches high. It bears its first crop when about four years old— according to locality, soil, etc.—but a year or more before the crop is expected it is cut down to a height of a foot or less. It is again cut down to about twenty-four inches three months before gathering—the object being to make the bush spread and to stimulate the fullest possible growth of the "flushes" or young shoots which fur nish the tender, succulent new leaves desired. After this operation it is "picked" regu larly for two years—the bushes putting forth new "flushes" at frequent intervals— when it is again pruned back to allow it to rest. With proper care and under favor able conditions, its bearing life is practically unlimited.

The picking is generally delegated to women and children. Each has a basket strung by a cord over the head or attached to the waist in such a manner as to leave both hands free for plucking. Only the new shoots are gathered, and care is taken to avoid damaging the leaf-bud in the aril below the leaves taken, as that in its turn soon develops into a new "flush." The whole flush may be taken or only the choicer upper part, according both to the size of the shoot and the minimum grade leaf desired. The rapidity and accuracy of the experienced picker is almost incredible.

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