Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea
Our name comes from a poem that was written during the Tang Dynasty by Lu Tong, a hermit. He was so moved by a gift of Chinese tea that he wrote this poem:The first cup kisses away my thirst, and my loneliness is quelled by the second. The third gives insight worthy of ancient scrolls, and the fourth exiles my troubles. My body becomes lighter with the fifth, and the sixth sends word from immortals. But the seventh—oh the seventh cup— if I drink you, a wind will hurry my wings toward the sacred island.
—Lu Tong (795－835 A.D.) (trans. Christopher Nelson*)
In those days the most precious tea was the first tea that reached the Emperor in Xian, then the capital in central China. Spring could not be declared until the Emperor tasted the first tea of the year. As soon as the tea was harvested, it was sent by horse at full gallop to the Emperor.
The tea was given to Lu Tong by a local official named Meng Jian Yi. Lu Tong wrote his poem to thank Meng Jian Yi. The seven bowls (cups) segment is only a small part of a much larger poem, but the most quoted part. The tea itself was Gu Zhu Zi Sun (Purple Bamboo Shoot) and was pressed into a cake in what is now Yixing, an area famous for its clay pots. Gu Zhu Zi Sun was the Imperial Tribute Tea of the time.
Unfortunately, Lu Tong had made enemies of some very powerful eunuchs in the imperial court, because he had written a poem satirizing them. He was killed at the young age of forty in September of 835 in an ironic accident. He was mistaken for a family member of Prime Minister Wang Ya in a failed attempt at cleaning up eunuch power that left 1,000 people dead.
We are in this business because we too continue to be moved by tea, the people who make it, and the culture that surrounds it.
– Austin Hodge
Seven Cups Founder
*Christopher Nelson is the author of Blue House (PSA, 2009). He earned his MFA and was a Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. His on-line collection of interviews with poets on the craft can be read at Christopher Nelson’s Poetry Blog. He may also be found writing in Seven Cups Tucson tea house.