Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters by Warren Peltier, A Tea Book Review

Contrary to popular belief, I do still read...a lot, but lately most my reading has been other subjects and when I read a tea book it is more looking for specific info rather than reading through. Time to change that, and I am starting with The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters by Warren Peltier. Reading the blurb about this book, I admit I was expecting it to be a large scholarly work, I was a bit surprised when I opened my package and found a fairly small book that was not a study on different scholarly works on tea...but more a book of quotes. Ok actually that is not really fair, it is so much more than that.

Not everyone has the head for translating archaic Chinese works, and not everyone likes reading the at times rather dry and dull translations available, so finding an abridged work that has gone through the hard work of translating works into a readable (for a more modern not necessarily academic audience) form and referencing very specific points is extremely useful. The book is organized by thematic sections, like water for tea, ways to heat the tea, tea etiquette, and so forth and these sections are further organized chronologically. This makes straight reading through very easy, and it makes looking for specific things super convenient. And for bonus tea/history/linguistic nerd credit, at the end of the book is all the texts that were translated in their original form, so you can practice your translation or copy it for calligraphy practice, tea room decor time!

The subject matter is extremely fascinating, from both a history and a tea stand, it is wonderful seeing how the philosophy behind tea, its preparation, and its enjoyment changed through the different dynasties. The parts I found most interesting were the sections of water and etiquette, specifically I really enjoyed the list of waters ranked from best to worst, and that it was not necessarily based on taste. For example, in the ranking of water, snow comes in last and not because it tastes rank but because the cold Qi is thought to be harmful, which makes me wonder if I can use it to help with inflammation, similar to drinking cooling teas when I am sick or during the summer.

As you can tell I like this book, it is short and sweet and light on art, but in this case the lack of pictures did not really bother me, I highly recommend reading if you are wanting more information on how tea was prepared throughout Chinese history and how the different dynasty's looked at it culturally.

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