Friday, September 25, 2009

Just drink it

My latest tea reading is a novel, The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery. The author is a longtime student of the Japanese tea ceremony, and she sets her debut novel in the mid-19th century, focusing on the lives of two women — a young French girl and a Japanese maiden — just as Japan begins opening to the West. The Japanese family at the center of the story are descendants of the country's founding tea master, Sen Rikyu.

Reminded me of one of my favorite Sen Rikyu passages, describing the simplicity of tea:

Tea is nothing but this:
First, you heat the water.
Then you make the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know.

It's like a prelude to Keats' transcribing the voice of the urn: " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Of course, that word "properly" is the real rub, and people have been arguing about what constitutes the proper imbibing of tea. Then there are those of us who accept any cup of tea as a proper one.

1 comment:

  1. Drink it properly? I have mixed feelings about that. I'm glad I had this pointed out to me here because I've heard these lines before but never realized the challenge. I'm also a bit distraught at what it implies. My guess is it puts some responsibility on the drinker in the ceremony to match that of the one who prepares the tea. --Teaternity