Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Hot Tea Month - The Way of Tea by Aaron Fisher

While preparing my second cup of tea for 2011, a nice Hibiscus Herbal Tea with Key Lime from The Republic of Tea, my thoughts go back to my recently read book, The Way of Tea by Aaron Fisher. This is a book for those who take their tea quite seriously, the ones who “live” their tea. Fisher explains to his readers that The Way of Tea, or Cha Do, is not merely dunking a bag into a cup filled with hot water and sipping every so often, but rather employing all senses towards that cup while being in the present moment: to be of the Tao. In the beginning of the book, he tells of the history of tea, of how it was first used for medicinal purposes then later used by tea sages or “cloudwalkers” in China, people who basically studied the Leaf and its many properties. From there, he explains how camellia sinensis made its way to Japan, the rest of Asia and then to the West thanks to the British. Through the years, tea became more than just leaves in a boiling cup of water; it became a way of life, a source for health and of a still and calm mind. For, if one’s mind is muddied with the problems of the day, how can they enjoy their cup of tea? Better still, how can they prepare tea for themselves and their guests? That is where the Tao comes into focus; a still mind prepares the rest of the body for a singular experience to remind them of the ever-changing present. To be of the Tao is to let go of the Past and to not worry about the uncertain Future. All we can focus on is the Present, for that is what is before us in our cup of tea. When I visited Phoenix, Arizona last year for my birthday, I had the pleasure to take part in a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Arizona Matsuri, an experience I had wanted to do ever since I began drinking tea. The ceremony was conducted in absolute silence as the viewers watched the young woman prepare tea in quiet confidence. Every move meant something to the pleasure of the tea in whole. When we received our cups of matcha, I followed the instructions on how to receive my cup and drank the grassy and bitter elixir with pleasure and calmness in my heart. I was, in short, experiencing Cha Do. Because of that experience and reading Fisher’s excellent book, I began taking tea seriously and making it a part of my life. With every cup, I enter my inner tearoom and calm my mind. Sometimes it is not easy but when it is done, my cup becomes so much more. The Way of Tea is not an easy idea to do in today’s world of noise and muddied thoughts, but thanks to Fisher, it is possible for all to experience, if we so desire it.

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