Once unique to China, tea is enjoyed as a drink of refinement and class worldwide. In a world increasingly dominated by science and technology, tea remains as a simple option in life that can help one get back in touch with the ways and milieu of the ancients.
Tea was valued as a detoxifying herbal beverage, as well as a calming element of Chinese spiritual culture. A story from the classic novel Journey to the West tells of two Daoist immortals who made a friendship over a cup tea with the book’s protagonist Sanzang, the Buddhist monk, despite their being of wholly different religious schools.
According to Chinese numerology, tea corresponds to what is known as the “angel number” 108, which is spiritually recognized for its energy that tends towards abundance, new beginnings and wisdom. In both the Buddhist and Daoist traditions, 108 symbolizes the harmony of heaven, earth, and humankind.
According to the Daoist understanding of nature, the world — including mankind’s historical journey — follows principles governed by the interaction of the universal opposites, yin and yang. Humanity’s untempered pursuit of scientific progress has replaced our coexistence with what is natural and organic with a state that is out of touch with the natural order and untethered by the moral cultivation required for living in tune with heaven and earth.
As an example, the proper cultivation of tea requires attention to a broad spectrum of details, much like being a whole and well-rounded person requires being able to see things from others’ points of view, consider the effects of one’s actions, and the like. A tea planter whose mind is singularly on profit may resort to an excess of chemical fertilizers and pesticide, abusive labor practices, or underhanded means to procure more tea and money. Although unintentional, this sort of single-mindedness harms both the natural environment and humanity itself.
As with everything, it pays to take a holistic approach. When an artist focuses on only one or two features of his subject, the work becomes distorted, comical, or even grotesque. When everything is given proper consideration, the work is balanced and able to capture the true spirit of the subject.
To grow tea wisely and achieve optimum production of the highest quality teas, one must take into consideration a variety of factors — such as the individual plant, the collective crop, the environment and seasonal changes. In this way, the tea industry can preserve treasured traditions — benefitting both consumers and human society as a whole.