If you keep tabs on the great wide world of tea, you’ll probably have noticed that the swell of interest in tea in the West lately has given birth to a number of great books on the subject with more sure to follow. After all, tea is rather a vast topic and not one that can be dispensed with in the space of a few volumes.
If you’d like to look back to what some authors of yesteryear had to say about tea, you’d do well to start with The Classic Of Tea, by Lu Yu, a Chinese scholar of ancient times. Although, the last time I checked, this pioneering volume wasn’t the easiest to track down.
A work by another Asian scholar, The Book Of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura, is also worth taking a look at and is not nearly so tricky to locate. The book has been in print continuously since it was first published in 1906 and is still available in a variety of printed and electronic editions, including one at Project Gutenberg.
This is not the time or place to debate whether The Book Of Tea is one of the most influential books ever written on the topic, but most observers will probably agree that it ranks very high on the list. Okakura’s work is a slim volume that introduces readers to his opinionated notions and his concept of Teaism and takes a look at how tea became such an indispensable part of Japanese life, both as a beverage and on a more spiritual level.
Not surprisingly, given the role of tea in Japanese culture and the Japanese tea ceremony, much of what Okakura discusses in this modest work has to do with the link between spirituality and tea. Among the topics covered, great schools of tea, prominent tea masters of yesteryear and the link between tea and Taoism and Zen (which the author refers to as Zennism).
Don’t forget to check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!