10 December 2007

Thing Number Two

Hot tea.

It's an amazing thing, fresh steeped in the morning, and much less abrasive than the flavor of most coffee.

If you're not familiar with the story of tea and its meanings in both Eastern and Western culture, you might be interested in reading The Book of Tea, which discusses these things as an aside to a fascinating account of tea's significance in Shintoism. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the tea-cup. It is the only Asiatic ceremonial which commands universal esteem. The white man has scoffed at our religion and our morals, but has accepted the brown beverage without hesitation. The afternoon tea is now an important function in Western society. In the delicate clatter of trays and saucers, in the soft rustle of feminine hospitality, in the common catechism about cream and sugar, we know that the Worship of Tea is established beyond question. The philosophic resignation of the guest to the fate awaiting him in the dubious decoction proclaims that in this single instance the Oriental spirit reigns supreme.

Without question, I enjoy my morning tea. But as I drink it, I sometimes also imagine I taste in it the agonized labor of generations of Asians slaving to produce a product to be sold, enjoyed, and profited from by a despotic people on the far side of the world. So I guess tea sometimes leaves a bitter aftertaste in more ways than one.

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