While I write about tea here at Steeped in Tradition, I am more known for my mystery writing which appears on my cozy mystery blog, Cozy Up With Kathy. I was recently waiting for two books to arrive that I needed to review and I didn't want to start reading another full length mystery. I prefer to only read one book at a time, at least only one work of fiction at a time, and at least one of the books would arrive before I could finish a new one. However, I can't NOT be reading. I needed something, so I began to browse through my kindle checking out past purchases. I found THE BOOK OF TEA already downloaded and waiting. Surely that was a sign.
THE BOOK OF TEA by Okakura Kakuzo is delightful little book published in 1906 that talks about the history and philosophy of the beverage developing into Teaism. The book is divided into seven sections: The Cup of Humanity, The Schools of Tea, Taoism and Zennism, The Tea-Room, Art Appreciation, Flowers, and Tea-Masters. Okakura (his surname) imparts such vast knowledge, but does so in an utterly charming and witty way. He had me laughing out loud several times He also has me second guessing the choice to ever cut flowers again!
Okakura describes how tea use has developed, how it has changed in "modern" times; although his "modern" was well over 100 years ago. It's interesting to note how religion has altered tea and tea use as well. Well versed in art (Okakura was a primary founder of the Tokyo Fine Arts School and was later curator of the Oriental art division of the Boston Museum of Fine Art) he also addresses the art of Teaism and art appreciation in general. The addition of lore not only adds interest, the ancient stories highlight different aspects Okakura is teaching...and forces you to see connections and think, as any philosophy is wont to do.
Okakura discusses tea as an art form and a religion. What's interesting to note is that he wrote this book in English for a Western audience. While you can certainly purchase this book (I'd love a hard copy of my own) you can find several pdf and e-versions available for free. If you're at all interested in tea, culture, and philosophy this is a book that should not be missed!