The Soul & Spirit of Tea

'The Soul & Spirit of Tea' delves into the power of tea on many levels
The Soul & Spirit of Tea STEEPED IN HARMONY: 'The Soul & Spirit of Tea' delves into the power of tea on many levels.

Tea as a bridge to synchronicities. Tea as the creative muse that harmonizes one's inner conflicts. The similarities between tea, poetry and music. Tea as that which improves solitude or brings everyone together. The relationship of tea to alchemy. Such are the flavors of The Soul & Spirit of Tea: 21 Tea Inspired Essays for the Early Twenty-First Century. After ceremoniously participating in this book, I feel like a native son who's finally come home.

Working independently of anyone else, I wrote about these themes quite a bit last year, either literally or metaphorically, all while assuming I was probably crazy. It often felt like I was the only one embroidering these ancient cosmic threads. Maybe I was just goofy with euphoria that I'd found yet another creative device to fuel the engine. Through the muse of tea, I could shatter the space-time continuum, merging past and future, each one expanding and snapping back like a rubber band to the present. I could channel ancient Chinese hermits in my writing and use tea to enhance my solitude.

Well, turns out I was not crazy and I was not the only one. Plenty of authors articulate those exact themes and more in the The Soul & Spirit of Tea, this luminous collection, this abundant, flavorful, esoteric blend of essays, this "tea-ching book of changes." As with tea, the book unfolds on many levels. You can choose whichever of those to experience in whichever order. In my case, Leonard Cohen, synchronicities and the Isle of Crete—all of which I had very recently just discussed with friends—all appeared in the first few pages, so that was enough for me to steep some more leaves and let everything sink in. This is what great art, and great tea, tends to do: it makes you realize that you're not alone.

"Thumbs up" or "thumbs down" seems a little too dualistic for my palette, as I tend to rely on my own direct experience. In this case, I've ingested the steam and the subtleties (subtitles?) emerging from the whole ceremony. It's all about the tea, for example: A Taoist priest discusses the alchemy of tea. A musician writes about tea as a conduit to creativity. Other essays dedicate themselves to the importance of water and terroir. Ecology, architecture, wine, politics and song—it's all in here. The solitude is better already.

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