Tea, it is a common beverage that not all my like but all do know it. It has been poured for such a long time that mankind’s history seems intertwined with it. However, the significance of the drink goes even deeper than that, as is shown in The Book of Tea.
I’m unsure whether or not to call The Book of Tea a genuine book. When reading the text, it’s as if reading a 100-page long poem, or a monologue. Although there is a lot of information shared with the reader the combination of words and the rhythm of the sentences that Okakura uses almost require spoken instead of written words from time to time. This makes reading The Book of Tea an interesting, but also a bit of a tiring experience.
I like tea. I drink it a lot, mostly at the office. It is supposedly healthy for you and it sure tastes a lot better than plain water. I also knew beforehand that there is a long history and cultural value to tea and the drinking of it, but I highly underestimated how deep this value goes in some Asian cultures and how Europe differs in this history and value. To Europe, tea was “just a drink” that also earned some money by trading it. To read about the stories behind tea in Eastern cultures is enlightening to the concept of tea ceremonies, and even to the high standard on which tea is judged before it even makes it to a pot of boiling water.
Connecting tea with the teachings of Zen and Taoism was something I never would have considered without The Book of Tea, and this information is the most hard to process as it is full of metaphores and long links to the past. However, it is also what makes the book interesting. The Book of Tea might be in base about tea, but in essence it’s also about life and the art of relaxing, peace, and serenity. And that written in a 100 page long poem
The Book of Tea
‘Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.’ In this charming book from 1906, Okakura explores Zen, Taoism, Tea Masters and the significance of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Kakuzo Okakura. The Book of Tea / Penguin / 9780141191843