“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
Those who appreciate the greatness of small things will fall in love with this book.
Written by Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea was first published in 1906, and it has never been out of print. It links the role of tea (teaism) to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life.
For teaists and artists alike, The Book of Tea, is arguably one of the most influential books ever written for those looking to infuse the tea spirit into their lives.
Discover the fascinating character of Okakura Kakuzo and the story of how he came to write one of the twentieth century’s most influential books on art, beauty, and simplicity—all steeped in the world’s communal cup of tea.
Yakuza's incredible journey took him from Yokohama to New York, Paris, Bombay, and Boston, where his life intertwined with such luminaries as Rabindranath Tagore, John Singer Sargent, Henry James, John La Farge, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Ezra Pound and Henri Matisse.
His writings influenced the work of such notable artists as Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O'Keeffe. In fact, O'Keeffe requested that The Book of Tea be read to her again and again in her last years.
The Book of Tea is a masterful blend of the history of tea, the Japanese tea ceremony, Taoism and Zennism, flower arranging, architecture, and art appreciation. It emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzo argues that this tea-induced simplicity affected art and architecture.
Acclaimed American tea writer Bruce Richardson includes many historical photographs and color illustrations, along with unique insight into how Okakura's philosophy continues to inspire today’s tea culture.
Richardson includes a chapter on America's thirst for Japanese tea during the late 1800s, illustrated with archival photographs. He also wrote a fascinating chapter on Japanese tea production in the time of Okakura - complete with never before published 1890s photographs.
"A beautiful work of art in tribute to a beautiful work of art."
"I had read about Okakura and visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, but never realized the importance of the relationship between the two and how they embodied the bridge between East and West. Nor, until now, had I taken the time to read the entire book. How I wish that I had read it before I visited Japan where I learned that “Zen is another word for tea.” The chapter titled The Cup of Humanity contains a sentence that seems ripped from today’s headlines, “The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power… Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea." I’m resisting the urge to swallow this book whole, and forcing myself to savor it one cup of tea at a time."
— Elizabeth Knight, author of "Tea with Friends"
Okakura Kakuzo was born in the bustling seaport of Yokohama in 1862, only eight years after Commodore Perry's "Black Ships" pried open Japan's international trade gates. Christian missionaries taught him to speak English and sing Methodist hymns, while Buddhist monks schooled him in Confucianism and drinking green tea.
Woking alongside his teachers at Tokyo University, all imported from New England, Okakura helped save Japan's artistic traditions from being tossed aside in favor of modern western aesthetics.
By the turn of the century, Okakura had made his way to Boston, where he became the Director of the Asian Arts Department at the Museum of Fine Arts and the favorite companion of Back Bay society's grande dame, Isabella Stewart Gardner.
Okakura found tea to be the perfect metaphor for interpreting the Japanese art spirit to a Boston culture thirsty for a counterpoint to America's headlong rush into materialism and wealth.
Bruce Richardson is a tea blender and writer who has been at the forefront of America's tea renaissance for over two decades. He enjoyed a long career as a choral conductor before he put down his baton in favor of a teacup.
Today, he nurtures his artistic spirit by composing new tea blends and speaking at tea and arts events across Amerca. He serves as Tea Master for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, and he writes for Tea Time magazine.