Book: The Spirit of Tea

Fear not, a post on Mohammad Mirza is also in the works. I ended up stumbling on a great source in English, so now it’s getting a bit long and needs some editing. Until then, I’m still reading.

I picked this book up from a used bookstore in Vancouver with a stack of other tea publications; it was originally in a display (along with the Classic of Tea, and Chinese Tea Culture–and I feel like there were a few others, although the names allude me now). It’s fitting that I should read it next, after I finished The Great Teas of China, as the author (Frank Hadley Murphy) was reportedly a student of Roy Fong’s.

This isn’t a book I thought I’d really jive with, since I tend towards more solid historical, cultural and scientific works, and am not a particularly spiritual person. That said, it was a really good read anyways, and I ended up tagging a lot of pages with interesting bits of information and quotes.

There’s a section where he discusses the Agony of the Leaves and why the leaves are perceived this way and not instead thought to dance, or something more uplifting, which I liked. Murphy also takes a stance on enjoying tea in any form you like, without the stigma or elitism that comes with one “form” or another.

Understand, if tea is going to speak to you, if tea is going to enter your heart and change your life, it will do so no matter how it is packaged, processed, or presented, no matter where it is from, how old it is, or how it is brewed. Whether a rare and priceless tea from a remote and exotic tea garden in China or your basic brand X, it doesn’t matter. Whether in a Yixing pot or a Mason jar, if your intentions are honorable and you approach tea with reverence and respect, there is no wrong way to make it.

The Spirit of Tea is down to earth, but with a bit of whimsy and thoughtful storytelling. There are sections on individual teas, but it’s not the focus of the book; I wouldn’t call it a reference book in the same way The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook, or The Tea Lover’s Treasury is. The focus there is just on tea the author particularly enjoys and wants to share.

That said, there’s a lot of little lore and translation bits that aren’t explored in most of the reference books I’ve read. I particularly liked the section about Puerh, the origins and the Cantonese name “Pou Nei”. Little things I didn’t know about like the latin word “puer” and the Taoist Immortal, “Sun Puerh”

It’s a short enough book, so definitely worth a read, even if you just pick it up from the library. There’s two books called The Spirit of Tea (the other by Sen Soshitsu, the author of Tea Life, Tea Mind).

(As a side-note, I will be at the Vancouver Tea Festival later this week, look for a post about that on a later date).


  1. I like this philosophy about enjoying the tea.

    Could you elaborate on the agony vs. the dancing of the leaves?

    • There isn’t much more to it than that; just a comment on how it’s normally called the “agony of the leaves”, and how that can seem a bit depressing because the leaves could just as easily be dancing.

  2. I thought I had read this book, but that does not seem to have been the case. Thanks for reminding me :)

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