The Meaning of Tea is a 74-minute documentary by Scott Chamberlain Hoyt that explores the global popularity of this beverage which has been celebrated for its calming, healing, and transformative powers. The filmmaker interviews tea pickers, plantation owners, street sellers, teapot makers, tea tasters, and others in India, Japan, Taiwan, Morocco, England, France, Ireland and America. The prolific Phil Cousineau, one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, has gone through 2,000 pages of manuscripts from the film and come up with insights and wisdom about tea that are both creative and edifying. He also has added his commentary and a smorgasbord of delightful quotations.
We learn that in India, tea is a way of life and a path of hospitality. It is served and savored during every social occasion. Tea not only satisfies thirst but rejuvenates body and mind. Drinking it, we are spurred to thinking. Cousineau quotes Susan Borg from Weed Farm in Vermont: "The beauty of tea is that it gives you an opportunity to notice yourself, to tend to yourself, and to really be here clearly in all your senses." Tea rituals from around the world give rise to a richer and deeper sense of living in the present moment and creating community. Yurko Arai talks about the state of mind that accompanies the Japanese tea ritual:
"There is a simple phrase that summarizes the 'mentality' of tea: It is Ichigo Ichie, which means 'One meeting, one time.' This saying implies that today may be the only time you and I meet in our lifetime, so I should honor this valuable moment."
Finally, the sipping of tea challenges us to slow down, to relax into the moment and to let go of our stress, anxieties, and fears. This is an enchanting read and one that will be most meaningful to tea drinkers.