Reading is admittedly a mighty poor substitute for personal instruction, but all tea lovers are eager to learn how to make the most of their pleasure and here are some starting points.  Part of tea’s appeal is that it encourages us to assimilate foreign ways.  A Japanese wrote in 1829, “Ingen was the first to prepare sencha in a teapot set atop a brazier.”  Ingen, whoever he may have been, was making tea in the latest, newfangled fashion learned from China.  All Japanese ever since have learned to do likewise, so that their old-fashioned whipped tea has been relegated to ceremonial use in chanoyu (“hot water for tea,” the Japanese tea ceremony).  The story of tea is, as much as anything else, the history of a habit, a universal habit by now, but one universally different from one time and culture to the next.

How to make tea – how, indeed?  English, Frisian, Chinese or Kashmiri?  With a samovar, a bamboo whisk, a kung-fu pot, a mug?  You begin to see the dimensions here.  One thing all these ways of making tea have in common is that each of them can be reduced to rules.  That’s the vocational training aspect.  But information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not understanding – that is the fruit of time and education.  But I digress, when I should begin giving directions.

Directions for tea-making exemplify the difference between vocational training and education.  George Orwell devoted one of his better essays to the subject, with precise directions and a wealth of detailed admonishments as codicil, the whole expressing a sound philosophy.  “A Nice Cup of Tea” as a literary accomplishment is greater than the catechism Orwell gives for the strong tea he relished, a little desperately, I feel, but relished heartily.  But perhaps that’s it – like Mr. Orwell, you have to put your heart into making tea if following the directions is to amount to much that matters to you.  Tea-making is a ritual that, like the drink itself, warms the heart somehow.

Read next: Water

Photo “Japanese Tea Ceremony” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “JoshBerglund19” and is being posted unaltered (source)
Photo “Samovars at the De Young” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Selena N. B. H. and is being posted unaltered (source)