Once upon a time, you could safely say that the art of tea and the Chinese art of tea were the same thing, given that the Chinese are credited with being the first people to drink our beloved beverage. But even though tea drinking eventually spread to other countries it’s worth noting that the Chinese culture of tea drinking is still a strong one. There’s also the fact that the Chinese are the world’s top producers of the stuff, including a number of varieties that are considered by many to be among the best available.
Harmony encapsulates the core belief of the Chinese art of tea. No doubt this was rooted in Taoist Yin-Yang belief but there are practical applications of this pillar in the art of tea.
During the brewing ceremony, it is all about achieving harmony between water temperature, steeping time and quantity of tea leaves to brew tea that is not too bland but not bitter；to bring out the full flavor of the tea without masking the subtle undertones.
The ‘Fairness cup’ allows the brewer to achieve harmony between the varying concentration levels of the tea liquid so that all guests can enjoy the tea in equal measure.
Second Pillar of the Art of Tea- Tranquility
Chinese tea is about achieving inner peace and tranquility- allowing the brewer and his guest to enter into an oasis of relaxation.
For example, the Oolong tea ceremony often starts with lighting an aromatic incense, to enable the attendees to achieve calm and peace. The unhurried steps and the acts of observing, smelling and finally tasting the tea are all geared towards relaxing the guest, putting the drinker in the right frame of mind to enjoy his or her tea.
Third Pillar of the Art of Tea- Fulfillment
Different people may drink tea for different purposes. The art of tea becomes a means of helping the drinker achieve their definition of fulfillment which may vary based on their status, culture or religious belief.
Throughout Chinese royalty and aristocracy focus on the ‘Preciousness of tea’- their intent is to flaunt their wealth and social status by offering the finest teas. This trend sustains till today which explains why the Pre-Ming Dragonwell tea was recently sold at prices per kg higher than that of gold.
On the more spiritual side of things are chapters devoted to Poems and Songs of Tea, A Manual for Practising the Artless Art, and Tea and the Tao. Blofeld winds up things with a chapter devoted to tea’s potential health benefits, a chapter that predates much of the flood of interest in tea and health that we’ve been deluged with over the last decade or so.
Blofeld’s book was an important pioneering work on tea and tea culture in China, but it’s interesting to note that it was hardly the last such work. In 1990, authors Kit Chow and Ione Kramer released the appropriately titled All the Tea in China. More recently, in 2011, Daniel Reid, another noted scholar of all things Asian, released a volume titled The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea.