Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tea Drinking and Tradition

When picturing the tradition of tea drinking outside of the realms of the kitchen table my imagination leaps to a very prominent cuppa that serves a very important function. I imagine the golden colored liquid inside the Queen of England’s teacup on a sunny afternoon in London. Here in my mind it is also best to picture a crumpet or two, maybe even a scone.  It may seem odd that there is a cup of tea involved when the Queen of England wants to have a chat with someone interesting, why not just meet without this ritual. I’m sure there was tea at the hotel. What does a tea cup sitting in the hands of every Head of State who visit the Queen say about the Queen, her intentions, the visiting Head of State and the meaning of offering someone a cup of tea? 

One surprising place you would expect to find a tea cup is in the hands of a Japanese samurai solider about to do his duty on the battle field. The Japanese tea ceremony is steeped in tradition (no pun intended I swear!) and it is not a delicate one. It is the calm before the storm. The Japanese warrior drank tea with his fellows before heading into battle and the precise movements and etiquette of this highly ritualized process would perhaps help them focus their thoughts and calm their minds. 

A pause and a reflection, something to do with your hands, a way to emphasis or hide a smile, a step back; a tea cup in the hand provide these opportunities. It is the recognition of a peace, something to calm the mind to allow for clear thinking but not so awakening that we get second thoughts, a comfortable ritual that allows us to feel like we belong. You can image that a warrior about to die for his state/lord/country would be in great need of something to calm his nerves, give him pause for contemplating his place in the universe and bind him to the fellow sitting next to him.In short tea drinking is a subtle ritual that has a calming influence that reinforces your place in the group, and locks you in. We use this bonding mechanism every time we offer a cup of tea. The Queen offers a gesture of friendship on behalf of the State through agreeing to have a cup of tea with another head of State.What role does Tea have in your preparations for battle?


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