Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Quick jump from Sino to Nippon

Roughly a week ago, I decided I'd done a passable albeit brief overview of black teas, touched on Oolong (back at the ooutset of this teablog lark), and had ignored green long enough.

Knowing that the best way for me to talk about specific teas with specific examples, I ordered a selection of different green and white teas, and went back to my daily grind. Didn't exactly forget about the shipment coming my way from Hamburg, but it certainly wasn't in the forefront of my mind.

It arrived and I tore into the parcel like a kid at Christmas. Or Chanukah or Kwansa or insert appropriate winter solstice holiday here. I was überglücklich.

There's an old Buddhist saying that, 'The taste of ch'an (Zen) and the taste of ch'a (tea) are the same.'

So if I plan to ignore China for the time being and go right to Japan, which I do, then I need to talk about tea ceremony and the history of tea's arrival in the Land of the Rising Sun. There's truly nothing I'd rather be doing right now. I'll try to keep it short for those I can already see yawning.

The way the Japanese prepare tea and present it is an aesthetic experience like nothing else I've ever seen. So exquisite is this experience that I wish all of you could just come with me to the tea shops I visited in Tokyo and Hammamatsu and other places. That was back before I had any idea that I was going to become such a tea whacko. I was there for the experience. Today I'd be there to grill the owner about the tea. You can imagine how tea shop owners cringe when they see me coming back to ask more questions.

But the main point I want to make here is that this tea preparation is a corollary to how the Japanese see life and the things that are important. They prepare the tea carefully and specifically, because that's how they view existence. It'd start sounding a bit esoteric if I went on much longer about this, but I needn't go any further. Here's what one of my favourite books said about this:

'...taking tea was said to be an earthly finger that "pointed to the moon" of enlightenment, the awakening to which all Buddhists aspired.'

from The World of Caffeine by Weinberg/Bealer


  1. Nice to be whisked off to Japan for a little while.

    I wonder though - how does their youth feel about tea? I'd guess that how the Japanese "see life, and things that are important" changes a little from generation to generation? And if that changes, how does that effect tea ceremonies and the experience?
    Young people usually like to move fast, so do still they have the patience for elaborate tea?
    Or do they hanker for Starbucks coffee?

  2. It's a great point Jackie. The chapter in the book I quoted actually talks about the dichotomy of coffee/tea in Japan. I decided to neglect the java side of it in my post. This is a teablog, after all.

    But I will dig deeper into the modern/youth Japanese perspective in a future post. It's an intriguing question and because I have an unhealthy curiosity about The Land of the Rising Sun, I don't need much prodding to go into it more.

    Hope you and my one other reader (Hi, Jana) will still be here for that.


  3. Of course I'll be here. Mustn't miss out on the youth perspective in a future post.

    Off to hunt for more readers; if we get three of them, we're considered a crowd ;)