"Cha-No-Yu" by A.L. Sadler
The tale in the above post came to my attention in "Cha-No-Yu:The Japanese Tea Ceremony" by A.L. Sadler. It is a great book on the history of the tea ceremony and philosophy of tea in Japan. It was originally written in the 1930's and spends a lot of time on the specifics of the tea rooms, utensils and art involved in the Japanese tea ceremony. I strongly suggest it to anyone who might feel that the Japanese have some crazy rules about their ceremony and take the fun out of enjoying a cup. That may be the way that some people do it but after reading this book it was very clear that the great masters had a different view when they were creating it. Yes they were very specific in every detail but it was done for the enjoyment of tea not in spite of it. A quote by Sen no Rikyu sums it up best:
"Tea is nought but this.
First you make the water boil,
Then infuse the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know."
That is quite an oversimplification of what he meant though. He was referring to the essence of it but used the specifics of it. It starts with preparing it. If the person making it sucks at doing so the tea will suck as well and the whole point of having tea is to enjoy it. Thus they came to have some very specific methods of making tea properly. The drinking of tea properly is the part that people in modern times miss out on the most.
When done best (not necessarily properly) the tea ceremony involves all of the senses and takes nothing for granted. It begins before an invitation is sent and ends with death. That is to say that it should be planned as an event that will become a part of your life.
The key to success is in each individual person. It can be accomplished by a peaceful conversation in the midst of a crisis. Like taking your mother to a local cafe after grandma died. With the beauty of the flower in the vase on display at a Japanese ceremony. Even a walk on the beach alone at sunset barefoot with a cup of Jasmine Pearls on your 30th birthday would be considered an exceptional achievement in the enjoyment of tea. To truly enjoy a cup of tea is much harder to plan for than one might think, yet often comes without any planning whatsoever.
If this has peaked your interest in Tea in Japan you might want to check this page out.
Now go have a cup.