Giving A Whole New Meaning To Monkey Business

December 16, 2008 by trooce 

Foo Joy TeaI’m sure many of you, like me, were glued to the TV last week, wowed by the spectacle of the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics.  The dancers, the special effects, the long procession of athletes walking in to the stadium – I haven’t seen a line that long since I stood in line waiting to buy the new


Yet, in the days that followed, despite the dominance of swimmer Michael Phelps or the Chinese team’s success in gymnastics, the brilliance of the occasion didn’t hold my attention as much as a little known compan

y doing business in China that gets very little attention but is actually no less awe-inspiring.

I’m referring, of course, to the tea-picking monkeys of Sichuan.

I learned about the existence of this monkey business during a random meeting a few weeks back.  During the meeting, as we were listening to the latest month’s sales projections, I glanced over at one of the canisters of tea sitting on the conference table.  There, sitting next to the other non-descript teas, was a canister of tea called, “The Monkey Picked Ti Kuan Yin”.  

In the description, it read:

The legend of tea-plucking monkeys comes from the inaccessibility of mountain grown teas.  Nurtured by clouds and mist, Ti Kuan Yin has an intense aroma and a complex, long-lasting finish.

In that moment, all my thoughts about the meeting disappeared and at once I became intrigued at the idea that in my tea cup, I was drinking tea made from tea leaves plucked by a monkey in a forest thousands of miles away.

A few thoughts:  1) How did the tea farmer initially decide that they were going to use animals to help them pluck tea leaves and how did they end up with a monkey?  I mean, at some point someone came to the conclusion, “OK, no more ladders.  No more long poles with knives on the end.  From here on in, we’re using animals.  Now where can we find a monkey?”

Actually, my guess is that they had to work their way up to a monkey.  I mean, why go through the cost and effort of acquiring a monkey when, say, a squirrel can climb a tree just as well as a monkey and is already climbing your tea trees?

In an attempt to confirm my hypothesis, I’m planning to employ the local squirrels in my backyard for a little manual labor.  While I have no tealeaf plants for them to pick, I figure that they are perfectly suited to clean out the gutters of my house.  I will report on my progress with this at a later date.

Now back to the monkeys.

At some point, the tea farmer decides to use monkeys to pick tea leaves.  So, my next question is, how do you train a monkey to pluck tea leaves?  Now don’t get me wrong, I know that monkeys are capable of doing a lot of things – carnival tricks, sign language, etc., but picking tea leaves?

I imagine the training sessions involve a lot of frustration and patience for the tea farmer.

Bungo!  Get over here!  Drop that banana and get over here now!  How many times do I have to tell you?  I only want tea leaves!  Nothing else!  What did you bring me this time?  A shoe!  One shoe!  You’ve been monkeying around all day!  Today alone you’ve brought me three tea leaves, a rock, four sticks, a dead mouse and this shoe.  Bungo!  Stop scratching yourself and pay attention!  You never see Bingo, Bango or Devin making these kind of mistakes.  Now you shape up or no more bananas and you can go back into the jungle to eat bananas whenever you want! Get back to work you cotton-pickin’, tea-leaf pickin’ monkey!

The funny thing is that this company is actively promoting their tea and how monkeys picked the tea leaves.  I wonder how it would go over here if the next time you pick a bottle of ketchup and in bold print it read, “The finest ketchup made from tomatoes picked by our own band of monkeys!”  

Last thought:  now that the Chinese have proven themselves in gymnastics while still having monkeys climbing tea leaves from trees humans can’t climb, wouldn’t this be the perfect time for the ultimate face off?  

Now that’s a sporting event I’d pay to go see.



One Response to “Giving A Whole New Meaning To Monkey Business”
  1. LOVE the essay, well written, funny and interesting, I may just have to find a monkey to do my laundry!

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