Tea & Samuarai
Tea & emergence of Samurai
The gradual emergence of a new warrior class “Samurai” (8th-19th century) indoctrinated in the concepts of absolute commitment of loyalty unto death to their lords, single minded discipline & superior physical courage bordering madness put forth by the newly emerging ideology of “Bushido” began to shatter the social fabric & imperial reign of Japan during the 11th and 12th centuries. With the deep seated belief that the increasing turmoil in Japan could be calmed by a spiritual renewal (as we believe today, that the end to violence borne of ignorance could be achieved by means of education & rehabilitation), Japanese Buddhist priest Myoan Eisai (1141- 1215) spent his life promoting Zen Buddhism and the secular use of tea as a Buddhist ritual, as well as an elixir capable of curing many ills and even extending life. Many Buddhist monks closed ranks with Eisai in a crusade to bring the spirit of Zen Buddhism and the virtues of tea to the masses.
Tea, a medium of spiritual enlightenment
Eisai’s unflagging devotion to studying the virtues & merits of tea led him to inscribe the first treatise on tea in Japan, a two-volume treatise entitled Kissa Yojo Ki (Preservation of Health Through Drinking Tea) in the year 1211. His outstanding promotion of the ritualistic preparation of tea was essentially the genesis of Cha-no-yu in Japan.
Eisai’s propagation of tea was to meet with glorious success. It even produced a result that wasn’t originally intended: his followers began to view the habit of consuming tea as an alternative means of spiritual enlightenment. It would, however, be another two centuries before an official Japanese Tea Ceremonywould be formalized with a deep sense of aesthetics & the concept of humility imbued therein.
Zen & Samurai
With the spread of traditions, the reverence towards the Buddhist monks, the pioneers of traditions, by the populace begun to grow in leaps & bounds. As in china, the Japanese feudal lords were to become restless over the sphere of influence Buddhist Temples had over the populace. Eventually the Samurai were ordered to put the Buddhist temples to fire & sword. Ironically, the raging flames of insane violence made Buddhist monks even more influential.
Caffeine & Tannin in Tea
The beverage of Tea has the quality of being refreshing & calming at once. Once the boiling water is poured into tea leaves, for the first couple of minutes, the caffeine is drawn out; in the very next minute Tanin is drawn out. The unique combination of the two chemical compounds accounts for the quality of the beverage of tea.
The Samurai encounter Buddhist monks
The Samurai, the fierce warriors in calamitous era, honor bound to hold their lives subservient to the unwavering loyalty towards their feudal lords had assumed the Zen Buddhist monks would run for their lives at the first sight of blood. But then the Buddhist monks indoctrinated in the impermanence of all worldly matters couldn’t be ruffled from their serenity even in the face of mindless violence. The Samurai, who had been simmering with violence at all times, who had thought of the ordinary populace & monks as living testimony to cowardice, were taken aback to witness that there were means other than violence which would make one infused with indomitable courage.
Some of the Buddhist monks continued to meditate even as their temples were raging with fire & their fellow monks were put to sword. Such was the lasting impression of the phenomenon made on the Samurai, who aspired to be on par with the nobility & imperial court of Japan in terms of literary skills & intellectual faculties during the 11th & 12th centuries, took to Zen Buddhism with great fervor.
During the 13th century, upper class Samurai were already highly literate as a result of introduction of Confucianism from China during the 7th to 9th centuries. The practice of Zen Buddhism by Samurai resulted in them overcoming the fear of death & tendency towards killing at a mere whim. The 13th century also saw the formalization of Bushido, the Japanese code of conduct of Samurai warriors. In time the Samurai were to become an outstanding community among the most zealous disciples of Zen and tea.
The Samuari takes to Zen & tea
The Samurai found Zen as well as tea served a purpose in their very existence, which could be cut short at any moment in the battle if not at a mere whim of their feudal lord. Feudal lords of Japan called Shoguns developed a practice of gifting special jars of tea to Samurai for exceptional display of valor in the battlefield so that they could invite his kith & kin to a tea ceremony celebrating the occasion.
Tea ceremony begins to take shape
In time the tea drinking habit of Zen Buddhist monks was to create an extension into the wider, secular culture of Japan in the form of tea rituals. The initial incursion of tea habits into aristocratic circles of Japan resulted in evolving the order, art and simplicity in Japanese tea ceremony encapsulating the four principals of Japanese code of ethics: harmony with people & nature; respect for others; spiritual purity & tranquility.
With aesthetics of tea ceremony on ascendance, the ritual was formalized by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in the 15th century. An everyday activity was brought up to a level of awareness that would detach all from the militarized feudal system albeit for a limited duration of the tea ceremony. Guests sat in serenity & took their own sweet time to taste & enjoy their tea in the calm atmosphere devoid of chatter & babble.
Within the confines of the tea house, all guests were put on an equal footing: nobody carried arms. Social status & military statues of the guests seized to exist: the peasant was held in the same esteem that the emperor was held. Tea ceremony was a far cry from then existing feudal system, a far cry from today’s calamitous modern world.
The Finest Black Tea in the World: Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka
The Finest Black Tea in the World, since the British Colonial era has come from the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka. Originally grown by the Scotsman James Taylor and in good time marketed by the Irishman Thomas Lipton, Black Tea of Sri Lanka came to be known as Ceylon Tea, after the British colonial name of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea is grown mainly in the Central Highlands, the one and only mountain mass of the tropical island. The southern district of Galle, the district of Badulla and the district of Ratnapura too produce a considerable volume of Black Tea. Of all the tea growing zones of Si Lanka, Sri Lanka Holidays health sanatorium of Nuwara Eliya [the modern city, 1800 meters above the sea-level was founded By Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile] of Central Province produces the finest of the High Grown Ceylon Tea of Sri Lanka.
Of all the Black Tea growing zones of Sri Lanka, the Central Province encompassing the Central Highlands i.e. the districts of Kandy [altitude: 500 meters] and Nuwara Eliya [altitude: 1800 meters] are largely instrumental in making Sri Lanka one of top three Black Tea exporters of the world year after year since the British Colonial era of the island.