Review: A Tea Reader by K. Munichiello

by Jason Walker on October 31, 2011

in Uncategorized

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A Tea Reader is a welcome addition to the tea book genre, mainly because it blends much of the praiseworthy from the various branches of tea-writings. In its pages, the path is broad enough to move from tea as tangential toward the direct epiphany tea delivers.

Though it may seem simple, writing a good tea-book is challenging. There at least three ways in which the literary work can stumble off the path toward an unfruitful demise.

The first is the tea history. There is already such an abundant selection of tea history books that they begin to become indistinguishable. The earliest popular works in this realm were warmly received, and so others followed. Same facts were relayed and stories re-told. Often these works were more of a history of the discovery of tea, or the business of tea.

The second pitfall is somewhat ichi-go ichi-e, the attempt to encapsulate individual, personal experience and then evoke the same psychological, spiritual, emotional reaction in the reader. Ichi-go, ichi-e, roughly translated as “one time, one meeting,” reveals that unique and often fleeting element when sensory input and Mind converge. To a certain degree, even tea books that try to capture a lifetime of tea experience can trip over this stumbling block. The experience is observed but never completely shared.

Many tea writers also trip over the landmine of using tangential tea as a glue for the work. In these products, references to tea can become forced when another cohesive element (e.g. wine, coffee, etc.) would have worked just as well. To some degree, interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences can fall under this category. Many of the tea-evoked thoughts/feelings could have just as easily been encountered doing anything from using a new backscratcher to tasting that locally grown fingerling potato from the farmer’s market.

A Tea Reader successfully avoids falling headfirst into the traps. While there are encounters with tea and references to literary works, there is enough here to capture the reader’s attention without taking it hostage. If you tire of the granddaughter’s recollections of grandmother’s teacups, move on to a Qing dynasty poem. Or gain perspective from someone who works in the world of tea. Appreciating tea is like stepping into Heraclitus’s ever-new stream, and A Tea Reader allows readers to step into the waters from any starting point.

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Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Operated by Jason Walker.

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