The Book Of Tea By Kakuzo Okakura (Review) | Pdf Download

My Review of Kakuzo's The Book Of Tea - PDF Download Link


This short shall I say booklet or manuscript (pdf download link here: https://tug.org/texshowcase/partofTheBookofTea.pdf - when I tested it the pdf of all 21 pages came up) that I bought the other month has taken me weeks to read because it is so philosophical, so I've read passages and reflected on them for a day or two before reading on. Some of my favorite passages and quotes, I'll mention herein, because they contain words and thoughts that I had not considered, so first of all I'll say this is a book that will make you think differently, and everyone loves that idea in 2020 right, the year of nootropics / smart drugs, though it is not a jet fuel for the brain, more of a watching the snow like it is the first time kind of reading. 
Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

The Beginning Of Tea, As an Art & Religion


The Book of Tea starts with this: "Tea began as medicine and grew into a beverage....it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements." I love the way that is stated. It goes on to discuss teaism as if it is a religion to the Japanese, "No student of Japanese culture could ever ignore its presence." 

"Why not consecrate ourselves to the queen of the Camelias...." That indicates a path of peace, drink tea, make peace with ourselves and the world. A nice thought. 

It points out a contrast between East and West (mind you it was 1906): "You have gain expansion at the cost of restlessness; we have created a harmony which is weak against aggression."

"Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things." The next time I have tea, my mind will go outside and play, like I am seven again, with these lines fresh in my heart. 

"Each preparation of the (tea) leaves has its individuality, its special affinity with water and heat, its own method of telling a story." In this way, the way I dropped a tea bag of ginger and tumeric this morning into a mug and two minutes later by microwave it was ready defies the entire spirit of teaism. 

"The Buddhists used (tea) it extensively to prevent drowsiness during their long hours of meditation." I had read about tea being used for meditation, but that it is mentioned in The Book Of Tea reinforces its importance. 

Evolution Of Tea Types Over Chinese Dynasties


It insinuates that the poets of the southern dynasties referred to tea as "froth of the liquid jade." This  was obviously in the era when tea was made by frothing it like a modern day matcha (interesting to see the Chinese sound for tea, cha, 茶 is the character in the word mat"cha") The evolution of tea takes us from when it was boiled into cakes, to powdered and whipped, to finally when it was steeped, which marked the "distinct emotional impulses of the Tang (the earliest tea Classic era boiling tea), the Sung (the Romantic era of powdering tea), and the Ming the Naturalistic era of steeping tea) dynasties of China." 

On the Selecting The Best Leaves For Tea And The Best Color For Teacups


Luwuh, a poet, author of the Chaking, the Holy Scripture of Tea, created The Code of Tea, which in three volumes and ten chapters informs on the selection of tea leaves from the Camelia Sinensis bush, and how the best quality leaves should have notable creases and curl, and unfold "like a mist rising out of a ravine" and "gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr", and "be wet and soft like fine earth newly swept by rain." 

Luwuh considered a blue tea cup the best because it imbued the beverage with additional greenness, where a white tea cup would make tea look too pinkish. Because this was the case with cake tea that was boiled the color preference changed to " heavy bowls of blue-black and dark brown" when the Sung dynasty began powdering tea, and then again with the Mings and their light white porcelain for the steeped tea. 

Zen & Taoist Tea Rituals

When the Zen monks claimed tea, we see such understandings arise, such as focus on the process of drinking tea, not the completion, and a shift from a poetical past time to one of the methods of self realization. Zen tea masters obsessed with cleaning every particle of dust from exorbitantly priced tea houses built to look aged, "intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty". "Teaism was daosim in disguise." Tea reflects then the mood of the universe, points to the Great Transition. Drinking tea was utterly useless, which freed man from the bonds of proving oneself in order to get ahead, "why do men and women like to advertise themselves so much? Is it not but an instinct derived from the days of slavery?"


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