In the course of several years spent writing about tea at this site, at my own site, and various others, I’ve read and reviewed quite a few tea books and have encountered a lot of other titles in passing. On the whole they seem to fall into a few main categories. There are the broad overviews about tea, which attempt to summarize the whole story of the beverage and culture in one handy volume. It’s a feat that some authors have managed to pull off quite nicely. There are also those books that are more geared to delivering recipes, whether for tea-based drinks or dishes made with tea as an ingredient.
Another main category consists of those less numerous volumes that deal with the spiritual (for lack of a better term) aspects of tea drinking and tea culture. One of the earliest of these, dating from more than a century ago, is Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea. Another volume with a decidedly Asian bent is The Chinese Art of Tea, which was published in 1985, by the prominent Asian scholar John Blofeld.
More recently, in 2011, we’ve seen the release of an interesting work by Asian scholar Daniel Reid, who wrote The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea. It follows hot on the heels of The Way of Tea, by Aaron Fisher, which was published the year before. While the title of the latter volume does not indicate any particular slant toward Asian tea culture, it does approach its subject matter from that direction, as do the other books mentioned here.
Like Blofeld and Reid, who were both noted for their writings on the Asian tradition of Taoism, Fisher also takes a look at the links between this particular way of life and tea. In his opening chapter, The Tao of Tea, he notes, “drinking tea with Tao is about letting go all our ‘stuff’ and just being ourselves as we really are, in our true nature.”
You’re not going to find a whole lot of information here on tea history and the more nuts and bolts type of information that other authors of tea books focus on. Which is not surprising, given that the sub-title of Fisher’s work is “Reflections on a Life With Tea.” It’s a relatively brief book overall, combining an introduction with twelve short chapters of the author’s thoughts on the more esoteric aspects of tea. The other chapters in Fisher’s book, Calm Joy, Quietude, Presence, Clarity, and Completion, are indicative of the approach he takes toward tea and tea culture.
If you’re looking for a tea-related thought worth remembering, then try this one, which the author offers near the end of this volume, “there is so much that just cannot be said, though it can be shared in a cup of tea.”
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