HISTORY AND CONTROVERSY

 

 C A K E -  T E A

"when tea was steamed, crushed in a mortar, made into a cake, boiled together with rice ginger, salt, orange peel, spices, milk, and sometimes onions"

 

tea is medicine, native to southern china // by the fifth century, a beverage //  to taoists, "the elixir of immortality"// to buddhists, the antidote to sleepiness during long hours of meditation // drunk to relieve fatigue, applied on skin to relieve pain // in the seventh century, the practice of tea drinking travelled from china to japan // and the first tea seeds were planted at the foot of a mountain // the tea is a soupy, a boiled mixture, reserved for the highest of ministers // china and japan were friends, then fell off for a while // the story is slow-moving

P O W D E R E D - T E A

 

"cake-tea is roasted before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby's arm and is shredded into powder between pieces of fine paper. salt is put in the first boil, the tea in the second. a dipperful of cold water is poured into the kettle to settle the tea and revive the 'youth of the water'"

 

it was the genius of the tang dynasty // tea is released from its most crude form // (a poet once said one of the most deplorable things in the world is "the utter waste of fine tea through incompetent manipulation") // how could they let it go on like this // here is where the retelling is unclear // was it the zen priest or the poet who is the tea-hero // the poet was born earlier,  squarely when taoism, confucianism and buddhism were cozying up // he who wrote the holy scripture of tea // the best quality of tea leaves must have "creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like fine earth newly swept by rain" 

W H I S K E D - T E A 

 

"the leaves were ground to a fine powder in a small stone mill, and the preparation was whipped in hot water by a delicate whisk made of split bamboo"

 

or was the tea-hero born in the tenth century, the priest who brought zen to japan // the first to grind the tea to be whisked // tea no longer for entertaining the high masters but for religious purposes and a cure for all diseases // tea spread all over plantations // a tool for self-actualization // they sipped and slurped at the bottom of the tea bowl in front of an image of bodhi dharma // but this is where there is speculation // when christianity landed in the sixteenth century by the portuguese // did tea become the secret way to practice the religion of the missionaries // how can tea hold all the religions that ever graced the nation of japan // nevertheless, it was during the sung dynasty that the ritual was born // the rest of the story brings us to steeped tea of the modern world