I recently received this book with the subtitle Discover Happiness and Contentment in a Perfect Cup of Tea as a gift to my Kindle digital library. Given that books about tea are numerous and many of them passed through my hands, I thought that nothing can surprise me anymore. However, this thin book convinced me that this is not so. As an avid tea drinker and lover of Japanese culture, I have been studying the Urasenke-style Japanese tea ceremony. I have read a huge amount of literature on Japanese tea and customs but I have overlooked the original tea culture of ancient China, for which I am somewhat ashamed as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This book has helped me at least partially fill the gap in my knowledge.
The author of the book, Warren Peltier, known also by his Chinese name 夏雲峰 Xia Yun Feng, moves between Chinese and Western cultures with extraordinary ease. With many parts of Classical Chinese tea books translated into English, he extracts the quintessence of knowledge and generously shares it. All can learn about making tea including how to prepare the fire required to heat the water, the kinds of water, utensils, and how to enjoy this ancient art.
The book is divided into 6 chapters:
THE ART OF TEA
WATER FOR TEA
PREPARING FIRE FOR TEA
THE TASTE OF TEA
Each chapter is then further divided into subsections.
The last one about tea etiquette covers sacrificial offerings, tea and guests, tea and marriage, and other customs associated with drinking tea. The book is very well-organised and informative. Some people might think of it as a bit dryly written lacking passion. However, when we take into account how thoroughly researched the book is, I personally do not see a problem with it.
Here is a short inspirational snippet from the book:
Proprieties for Tasting Tea
First condition: No important matters. When you can transcend the ordinariness of everyday life, and be free from the vulgarities of a mundane world, be free and unrestrained, natural and leisurely, you can better enjoy tea.
Second condition: fine guests. One who is able to appreciate the aesthetics of tea, and appreciate art, and has noble interest in such activities, naturally will understand and realize the value of tea.
Third condition: Tranquil and elegant sitting area. When drinking tea in quiet and tasteful surroundings, calm and quiet atmosphere, may you be at ease and unconcerned about the affairs of the world for a moment.
Fourth condition: Poetry recital. Poetic verse instills an atmosphere conducive to tea drinking; tea helps cultivate a poetic mind.
Fifth condition: Writing poems. Tea aids clear thought and is helpful when putting ink on paper, whether to pen a poem or jotting down impressions and ideas.
Sixth condition: leisurely stroll. Taking a walk through the yard or garden path to view nature scenes like a flowing stream, a thicket of bamboos, a gnarled tree, or a wayward flower can help gather your composure; cultivate a frame of mind conducive to drinking tea; and aid in endless delight when it comes time to drink tea.
Seventh condition: Awaking from slumber. Upon awakening, drinking some tea right away aids in purifying the mind and soul and refreshes the mouth.
Eighth condition: relieving hangovers. Drinking fragrant tea aids in relieving the pains of a hangover and helps one sober up faster.
Ninth condition: Qing-gong scenery. As in a qing-gong painting, there should be tea snacks, fruit, and flowers to enhance tea enjoyment.
Tenth condition: refined quarters. The tea drinking space must be pleasant and elegant to foster a positive sentiment for tea drinking, adding to the pleasure of drinking tea. A tastefully decorated room will liven up an empty space to create a solemn and respectful atmosphere for tea preparation and drinking.
Eleventh condition: Intimate understanding. In brewing and sipping tea, try to foster in yourself and others a deep understanding of tea. You must become intimately involved in tea to prepare and drink it properly. In this way, can you raise your skill, virtue, learning and appreciation of tea.
Twelfth condition: Appreciating thing s. When you are knowledgeable and clear about the Way of Tea, will you then have the requisite experience to judge tea quality and appreciate tea. Tea is not about drinking, rather it’s about tasting. Examine and judge the tea’s flavor, color, fragrance, and shape; learn to appreciate the aesthetic and usefulness of the tea utensils.
Thirteenth condition: Cultured servant. When there are intelligent and well-mannered tea servants to attend to tea service, throughout all aspects of tea service, from boiling water to serving the tea, great care and mindfulness should be taken to prepare tea properly.
Peltier, Warren. Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Ancient Chinese Tea Masters (pp. 87-89). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.
See links to purchase below:
Buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The Ancient Art of Tea: Discover the Secret of Happiness (Amazon.co.uk)
Tea as a Way of Life can be found here.
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