Recently, I attended a community event at which hot tea was prepared by a catering business that shall remain anonymous. I am often drawn to elusive phenomena, but this time it was merely my negligible curiosity that induced me to inquire about the kind of tea being served. The inattentive server pointed to a big punch bowl with about 20 tea bags bundled together, steeping in hot water from an unknown source. What was more interesting was that he poured my cup of tea from a teapot! I hate to admit it, but this “novel” tea was flavorful in its own way.
While waiting for my appointment at a law firm in Orange County, California, I was led to the pantry by the receptionist, where I saw a Keurig Brewer – the most sophisticated I have seen so far. Among the 10-plus beverage selections, there were only two teas – mango tea and chai tea. I had never been offered the choice of tea with a Keurig Brewer, so I took one K-Cup from each box, went back to the waiting area, and opened one to examine its contents. These tea K-Cups are much less commonplace because the convenient traditional tea bags never lose their popularity. Moreover, why invest in a Keurig when a primitive water warmer accomplishes the same task? On the other hand, if a Keurig is available, why not include some tea K-Cups along with the coffee ones in the selection?
Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) is clearly an indispensable character in any Japanese historical drama depicting the Sengoku period, or Warring States period, as demonstrated again in the latest NHK Taiga Drama G?: Hime-tachi no Sengoku. (I wrote my November 2009 post with the realization that I would re-visit the topic in future posts.) In an episode of the new drama, the visiting Tokugawa Ieyasu, who would later triumph in the Battle of Sekigahara and found the distinguished Tokugawa Shogunate, complimented the tea Sen no Rikyu prepared as the best in Japan. This subtitling in English was quite appropriate; in the original Japanese dialogue, Ieyasu actually praised Sen no Rikyu’s tea as the best in the world. No one’s tea could be deemed the world’s best in the 16th Century when global communication was sparse and sometimes intolerable.
Sen no Rikyu, being perpetually philosophical and wistful, in turn, repined and commented on his deteriorating relationship with Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi no longer favored a warped tea cup; the heart of Hideyoshi’s administration had deviated from the heart of tea appreciation.
This past July, I went to Yogurtland, the self-serve yogurt parlor chain, because of a prominent advertisement for an upcoming Hello Kitty visit. Instead of being greeted by Hello Kitty, I was presented with a Hello Kitty spoon for my yogurt and numerous Hello Kitty merchandise with Yogurtland logos. This visit was followed by a search of Hello Kitty apps in the iTunes store. Like all tea-related observations recorded in this post, a new Hello Kitty wallpaper showing Hello Kitty sipping from a tea cup sought me out.