Day 18. Why tea is important.
Today I was contemplating what exactly it is about tea that has led me to view it with such importance. In a many ways I’m not totally sure. It tastes great, sure. It is good for you, no doubt. But there are some intangibles that make it worth leaving the great city of New York, putting many things on hold, and going out to try connect the dots in Japan.
First, I have noticed tea has been at the center of some truly unique experiences. Chatting with a friend in a during a rainstorm about how important “leading your own life” is. Having a nighttime Japanese tea ceremony by candlelight. Making matcha for Celebrities. Drinking it alone. Drinking chai on a Bollywood movie set with people I can’t speak to, but totally understand. I guess it’s that saying, “it’s everywhere you want to be” (sorry mastercard or whoever). Tea has had a way of showing up in the places I seem most interested in being. I like spending time with people…But I also love time being alone. Tea is at home in both situations.
Second is the culture surrounding tea. It has roots in the east and ties to traditions I have been drawn to from an early age. Toaism, Buddhism and Hinduism have a lot of concepts that make sense to me and tea seems to be central to much of their history. From it’s discovery by Shen Neng in China in 2737 B.C., it’s entrance in to Japan by buddhist monks in 805 A.D., and the development of tea ceremony by Zen Priest Sen-No-Rikyu in the 1500’s, it’s heavily tied to deep thought. Contemplation just seems a very natural counterpart to tea drinking.
Third, farmers make tea. The art of farming is one of the most respected professions in my eyes. A mysterious pursuit full of hard work, serious knowledge and intuition, and an almost supernatural understanding of the land and their surroundings. Those are all on my list of noble pursuits!
4th. Tea is tied to rebellion. Tea I think, in some ways, has always signified a counterculture of sorts. Think Boston tea party, the current tea party (agree or not, they are rebelling), and the act of just being a tea drinker in a world of coffee drinkers (I’m totally down with coffee too, relax!). It is a little more of an outlier beverage it seems in the west, even though it is the most widely drank beverage in the world after water.
And those intangibles I wrote about earlier. Those are probably the biggest draw. Like music and art, the experience of tea is never the same twice. Each years crops are different depending on a host of variables (rain, drought, heat, cold, bugs…etc). Brewing is a mystery in itself. I can drink the same tea everyday and have totally different experiences. I sincerely hope some of these mysteries are never answered as the pursuit, again like painting, archery, design, dancing, writing etc…We just keep searching for it whether or not we find the answers.
I guess that is why tea is important.