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By Victoria Bisogno, El Club de Té
Across tea’s history, many values have been developed amongst the selected and specialist tea connoisseurs who manufactured, brewed and savoured it. Then those values were transmitted among tea lovers from generation to generation. Now is the time for us to share the good tea-news with the entire world. Let our voice be heard…
Some of the values of tea originated from the culture of the people that produced the enchanting potion, as is the case of China. Other values arose from the philosophy that gave origin to rituals, as demonstrated in Japan. Additionally, different values are being cultivated with modern agriculture that protects the environment and the farmers. Finally, new values are now flourishing everywhere, as a need to balance the fast and chaotic lifestyle of our world nowadays.
It is very noticeable the indelible mark left by Chinese culture when speaking about the value of patience. Fine labour, hours, days and sometimes years of dedication in handcrafted tea utensils such as teapots and bowls show the importance of discipline, hard work and experience when performing a task. We can also see that dedication, handcraft work and time devoted to tea manufacture: producers have to prepare the soil, cultivate and nourish the plant, then wait for the appropriate season to carefully pluck the leaves and process them according to ancient traditions… it may take from four to five years to make the first cup of tea! All of these steps require a great amount of dedication and patience; of which most of us would probably never be ready to invest.
Other cultures such as Indian, highlight the value of harmony with nature and with other people. Connecting your body with your soul, being part of nature… We can also see the growth of the responsible use of natural resources, and fair trade as new values related to tea.
The values of tea in Japan are consolidated in their tea ceremony, which is a reflection of their culture. The Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, is directly related to Zen Buddhism. It is based on four principles: respect, harmony, purity and tranquillity. Respect is represented in the attitude involving host and guests, the use of the utensils, the way the master prepares tea and the way the hosts appreciate the beverage. Harmony has to be present all the time in every single movement and in the relationship of men with nature. During the ritual participants have to maintain constant tranquillity to be able to connect their spirit with nature, which requires previous purification. The value of purity is symbolized by the washing of the hands and mouth before entering the teahouse, and represents the purity of the heart of the participants.
Lastly, we have mentioned the new values arising from present lifestyle. The fast pace life we have, forces us to be constantly thinking of the future, to plan, to be on the lookout for opportunities… tea, in this sense, encourages us not only to get back to those values mentioned above, but also to recover the value of enjoying the present, and appreciating time. A cup of tea is time that we dedicate to ourselves, or to others when inviting friends. A cup of tea forces us to be aware of time: we need to control the brewing time to make the perfect cuppa. Also, tea calls for punctuality, a concept valued in England and other tea drinking countries.
In the same way, other tea producing countries, like Argentina, contribute with a new value: passion. Passion drives us to do things that seem impossible. Passion pushes us to work very hard to overcome difficulties and to create new things: new ways of producing tea, new blends, and new experiences.
The values of tea are the jewels of humanity: they pass from country to country, from generation to generation, from culture to culture, and across time. Patience; harmony with nature, with ourselves and with other people; respect; purity; tranquillity; punctuality; passion… All of these values help to build the tea culture. Tea gives us an opportunity to cultivate these values to make a better world for future generations.