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Book Reviews

The Way of Tea, (a way to a Kensho with tea?)

Kensho - a Zen term for a type of enlightenment.

If had had to describe the effect of this book on me, it would have to have been a form of enlightenment. It might just be I read this book at the proper time, and many different things fell together, but let me use the picture to help elaborate on how this book helped open my eyes to tea.

This book focuses extensively on appreciating tea for tea, and not attaching value to things real or perceived, just let them help make tea for you wonderful. The three Adagio tins in the picture are left over from a series of sampler packs I got over a year ago, simply put I did not like them, upon first taste and I set them aside basically forgetting about them. The Yixing in the picture was one of the two yixings I got on my first purchase, something I always considered as a bad purchase, and I resigned to the fact of placing it on a shelf for a bit of decoration.

But, somehow this book inspired me to try again, well as the yixing is incredibly large for my usual brewing, I looked at the adagio tins, and said, this would make a great teapot for casual brewing Hong cha (red tea). So I got it out and it made an absolutely delicious brew. But my mind was not on the quality of the leaf, nor the fact that the teapot was unable to pour without leaking even rather close to empty. My mind was on taking the tea for what it was.

This brings up a point that Tim over at the Mandarins Tea Blog wrote about the other day involving leaving prejudices about tea or basically everything behind before brewing the tea, and just let the leaf speak for you.

This book will teach you how to enjoy tea for tea, and it might just help you along the way to enlightenment as to the big picture of tea.

This book is not for you if you are not into the spiritual aspect of tea, or feel a scientific approach to tea is the only way to get good results.

I hope you get a chance to pick up this book, it truly a joy to read.

Edit July 26th 2010

I re-read this book in a rather short amount of time, and I must say I still find it incredibly thought provoking on how to live a life with tea, and best enjoy the tea.  Should you pick up the book, I encourage you to work your way through the monster of a second chapter, and I see little problem in putting a book mark in the second chapter to read one of the later quicker chapters, as the second chapter is almost itself a stand alone book.

But as is said in the book, but I feel I should restate it here. Make sure you spend as much time with a cup of tea, as you spend with the book.

The Korean Way of Tea

by Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee

This book was one of the first books to come out with its intended purpose, and really it remains the only one. Korea as a Tea producing nation often is overlooked in the grand scheme of things quite possibly because their tea production is incredibly minimal compared to the major nations of China, Japan and India. But that being said Korea being located basically right between China and Japan has had its fair share of influence from both nations, and this book shows how Korea's tea culture is a hybrid of both, but still incredibly unique to itself.

This book is an incredibly quick read, and if you are the least bit interested in learning the basics of Korea's tea culture, it will be hard to put down. Not only is it full of amazing information, it also has a wealth of interesting and eye catching photographs.

The only real flaw I have with this book, is the section on the Brief History of Tea in China. The fault is not with the authors' presentation, but rather with the fact that as I have been reading many tea books lately, when ever a book gives a run down of Tea in China they all focus on the same people and their contributions. While I do not doubt the featured figures influence on Chinese tea, I just wish this book hadn't devoted a chapter to Chinese tea, as it is "The Korean Way of Tea." I say that because every book on Chinese tea culture and history will include just as much if not more on those figures.

But as a whole this book is incredibly informative and enjoyable. For days after I read it I would pick it up and sit down and read through a section or two, or just look through the photographs again, simply because I found it that wonderful

edit: 9/22

 I read this book twice within the first week of acquiring it, and several months later, I picked it up once more. I did not get far before I hit this amazing phrase on page 11, "If you have never tasted Korean green tea, yo might be wondering what if anything, could justify writing a whole book about it."  And now that I have had my share of Korean greens, I feel like I can far better understand that phrase than I ever did in the past.  How it is simply amazing  that the tea can seem so magical.

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