What is the Art of Tea?
With a set of rituals and traditions that revolve around the preparation, serving, and consumption of tea, the art of tea emphasizes mindfulness, aesthetics, and the appreciation of the subtleties of tea and its surroundings. Tea masters and enthusiasts engage in this art to explore the diverse world of teas, the nuances of brewing, and the meditative aspects of tea-drinking. It's a means of fostering connection, inner calm, and a deeper understanding of tea's cultural and sensory dimensions.
To understand what this means to you, lets start with the word itself: Tea
The Chinese character for tea is "茶"
(chá), and its components offer insights into the essence of tea. The character consists of two parts: 艹 (cǎo), which means "grass" or "plant," and 余 (yú), which means "remaining" or "surplus." The top part, 艹, implies the botanical nature of tea, as tea leaves come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The bottom part, 余, could be interpreted as the remaining or surplus leaves after processing, which is the part used to make tea.
Overall, the character 茶 reflects the idea that tea is derived from the plant kingdom, emphasizing its botanical origins and the process of using the remaining leaves to brew this beloved beverage.
Story of Shen Nong
Chinese legend attributes the discovery of tea to Emperor Shen Nong, a mythical figure and ancient herbalist who lived around 2737 BCE. According to the legend, while Emperor Shen Nong was boiling water in his garden, a tea leaf from a nearby Camellia sinensis tree blew into his pot. The leaves infused with the hot water, creating a fragrant and delightful beverage. Intrigued by the aroma and taste, the emperor decided to investigate further and explore the potential health benefits of this newfound drink.
Tea to facilitate enlightenment
China has a culture of valuing education. Even from ancient times, China is widely recognized for having one of the first national exam systems in the world. This system, known as the Imperial Examination System, was established during the Sui Dynasty (581-618 CE) and further developed during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).
It became a prominent feature of Chinese governance for over a thousand years, enduring until the early 20th century. The Imperial Examination System was a way to select and appoint officials based on their knowledge of Confucian classics and other subjects, rather than through hereditary or aristocratic means. This system played a significant role in shaping China's bureaucracy, education, and most interestingly the tea culture
So it's easy to see Scholars held a prominent and highly respected position in society. This Included Historians, musicans, and most notably poets of the arts
Highly educated individuals who pursued knowledge, wisdom, and mastery in various fields such as literature, history, philosophy, and the arts. Tea was most loved among Chinese Scholars, as Tea symbolized a connection to one’s own mind. The fragrant cup of elixir was believed to enhance ur state of mind to promote critical and spiritual thoughts. Tea drinking was seen as an expression of self-cultivation and a way to attain inner peace.
China's Most Influencial Poets
…But I send my aspirations to Cao and Liu,
Without daring to ask who shall ascend the throne.
Tea, like ripples, spreads across the river and sky,
No need to visit the palace of Wu….
A Night Thought on Terrace Tower 台榭夜思 by 杜甫 (Dufu)
In grand elegance, you possess grace,
A tall pillar with a handsome face.
Exquisite and clear, your flavor imparts,
A hundred flavors, all derived from the mountains….
茶歌 - 陆游 (The song of Tea - by Lu You)
Classical Artist #1
insert poem and some history
Classical artist #2
insert poem and some history
Tea as Royal Tribute
Such beliefs of tea's power was even utilized by the emperors. Most notably during the Tang and Song dynasties, the highest-quality oolong teas were presented to the imperial Emperor’s court as tribute from tea-producing regions. This practice symbolized the esteem, and value was placed highly on oolong tea.
These influential scholars loved tea so much. Drinking tea opened their minds to higher levels of thinking, concentration, and enlightenment. So it was no secret to the public (who emulated off these scholars) →
Tea to socialize
Tea drinking in ancient China quickly became a ceremonial and social activity. Where there’s tea, there were Tea Houses! Chinese Teahouses (or 茶馆 cha guan) began as simply places to indulge in tea. Soon however, they became places where communities gather for news, entertainment, and tea (pun intended). The public hangout spot. A source of social vitality
By the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, considered China’s golden age, Teahouses outnumbered restaurants!
Penny for your Thoughts? Storytelling in the Teahouse
Storytelling, held in tea rooms, were spoken “novels.” These stories were told in ways similar to the penny novels of 19th century England where a small printed chapter was issued each week which readers would eagerly await to buy, penny in hand. In the Chinese tradition, these “novels” were performed live by professional storytellers, often twice a day.
Incorporating all the tools of enchantment: acting, singing, and speaking, they wove a story, revealing only a segment each day which enticed customers to return over and over to hear all the chapters that would make up the complete “novel” over several months’ time.
Tea to Forge Bonds
By the Ming and Qing Dyanty, it was common practice to all chinese homes. Tea became an integrated part of life.
To the chinese, tea was a wand to a serenity of peace. Perhaps its the fragility of tea requires the user to be calm and relaxed. The serenous makes one imtrospect about the world around them. Mindfulness.
Tea quickly spread accross the world to ma ny countries. Most notably to Great Britain, where the most afforable tea, Black Tea, became ingrained in British Life.
See how you can take part!
After the cultural revolution ravaged China's people to denounce all things classic culture, the common place art of tea was erased as well.
While tea leaves today are widespread throughout the world and easily assessible to many, its purpose behind each cup was forgetten. To most people today, it's just like coffee: only a beverage. When in reality, it's a wand to serenity and calming of the soul.
Greeneastern collaborated with Tea master Liu to upkeep tradition, the values that made tea so widespread today. If not for what tea once was, what the british discovered it to be, it's likely such a beverage would have never become so popular.
Drink your tea, with purpose! -->