Monday 13 August 2012

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura 1863-1913

"Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eigth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism--Teaism.
Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We are currently cruising at 30,000 feet with a flight time of 11 1/2 hours to Santiago Chile from Auckland, New Zealand.

I have never written a blog post at this height before. I hope it comes close to living up to it.  We have just spent a couple of hours walking around the Auckland, New Zealand airport which is very nice.

So far everything is on track for arriving in Chile on time.  Once airborne and having permission to turn on electronic devices I fired up the kindle and proceeded to read The Book of Tea written by Kakuzo Okakura who lived from 1863 to 1913.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book as I was not too familiar with it or the author.  It is a very interesting historical look at tea.  Tea as it relates to literature, politics, religion, traditions and cultures. I am finding this short book to be interesting reading. 

Upon researching the author a bit more it is interesting to note that though he was a Japanese man, he learned English at a young age and proceeded to write and publish this book in English rather than Japanese.

He discussed tea as it relates to humanity around the world, the history of tea in literature as far back as 800 AD when it is thought to have been written of for the first time, and discovering information about it from the far eastern countries.  

He discussed that although tea originally began as a medicine and then went on to become a popular drink, that tea is more than a drink.  He believed it can create harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the purity of enlightenment.  He developed the art of tea known as "teaism."  

He then continued to discuss its use in various religious and spiritual practices starting with Taoism and Zennism.  He goes into a bit more detail than I would like about these practices mainly because it took a great deal of concentration on my part and I find the vast number of interruptions on an overseas flight quite distracting. Not to mention the crying baby in the cabin area ahead of us.

The book is quite a short book but I found it a very soothing read during quite a hectic day.

Go to this link to read an interesting article from the Guardian magazine about this book if you would like more information.

(Photos are stock photos from the web as I read this book on a Kindle and who wants to see countless photos of Kindles? I thought there was a pleasant assortment of covers on line.)
"Ahhh- lovely"


  1. Hi there, I am so glad I am on your mailing list. I love all things Asian and will have to read the Book of Tea. I am just finishing "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" written by Jamie Ford and it has stimulated my curiosity about what happened to the Japanese in America during WW2. food for thought!
    Penny Boden

  2. Thank you for your comment.I have to say I have read much more about the Americans in the hands of the Japanese during WWII than the Japanese in the hands of the Americans. It would be interesting to read more of the other side but of course all of it is so very sad. Enjoy your travels. Pam


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