The Book of Tea

The first sentence in “The Book of Tea” by Okakura Kakuzo states, “Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” The next sentence starts with, “In China…” starting with China and then tracing it through several countries to show how tea was received and what became the prevailing tea culture of the particular culture that was interacting with it. In a sense, the question we find being answered is what did this country bring to tea. Or how did a particular country or culture add to the culture of tea as a whole.

When we diverge on a path of learning about tea, we learn from the tea, but we also start to learn from other everyday cues in our environment. Just as the person who starts to become interested in sailing, the feel of the wind hitting their face carries more information than before. Plants of all kinds contain clues. When I walk, I have a habit of grabbing bits of some of the more aromatic plants as I pass. I mash them up between my thumb and forefinger using my thumbnail to cut and the fingertips to smash. I mindlessly pulverize the bit of plant matter only to, equally as mindlessly, toss it in a random direction. Now after I make sure my fingers are free of the plant matter, I smell. My brain lights up. I don’t really know what is happening, and I don’t think I am learning anything. This is just a habit, so I don’t think too much about it. When I started getting into Babe Ruth tea, I was on a walk. I mindlessly plucked some rosemary from a huge rosemary plant as I passed. Upon sniffing… I realized I was learning. But I have realized that I am learning as I do this. The realization that I was learning something for this is one of the things that kept me doing it all these years.