As premium tea has experienced something of a resurgence in popularity in recent years, there has also been a corresponding increase in books on related topics.
None of which is anything new, really. One of the first writers to expound upon the various fine points of tea and tea culture wielded his pen about 1,200 years ago. The Classic of Tea, by Chinese tea master Lu Yu (733-804) is not readily available to English readers nowadays, but it still can be argued that it’s one of the more influential works ever written on the subject of tea.
Referred to as the Father of Tea, the Sage of Tea, or the Tea Saint, among other things, the orphaned Lu Yu was adopted in childhood by Buddhist monks. According to some accounts, Lu Yu was employed as a clown and a comedian for a time before turning his attentions to more sober and scholarly pursuits.
An article by latter-day tea scholar James Norwood Pratt states that Lu Yu’s The Classic of Tea — known variously as Ch’a Ching, Cha Jing, and the Tea Classic — was a product of “five years of hermithood.” A comprehensive look at tea history, production and the tea culture of Tang-era China, the book’s ten chapters take a look at everything from the origins of tea, harvesting and processing, teaware, famous tea drinkers and more.
While Lu Yu passed on many centuries ago there are many indicators of his considerable influence still surviving today. Among them are the Lu Yu Tea House in Flushing, New York, the Lu Yu Tea Institute in Taiwan, which has been in operation since 1970, and the Lu Yu Tea Culture Festival. Used English-language translations of The Classic of Tea are somewhat hard to come by these days and often fetch prices of at least $100, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to read Chinese you can access the work online for free.
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