Although I haven’t had the opportunity to study it formally, I have always been very interested in the Japanese tea ceremony. There have been a number of books that have helped me in my search for knowledge over the years. I thought a list might be helpful for those that are just starting out or looking to dive in more deeply.
This absolute classic is among the first books that I read when I first started my crazy tea journey. While it isn’t directly about the tea ceremony, it does give an excellent foundation for understanding the philosophy of tea. Concepts like wabi-sabi will be much easier to understand. It is a quick read that I revisit often.
A.L. Sadler’s treatise on Cha No Yu was first published in 1933. It reads a bit like a history textbook but I have yet to find a more thorough resource in English. While it isn’t an instruction manual, it does cover nearly every topic you’d want to know bout. The line drawings sprinkled throughout are also very helpful.
Kristen Surak’s sociological study of how the tea ceremony became part of the cultural identity of Japan is absolutely fascinating. The insight she provides into the modern iemoto system and the various schools is not something I’ve seen covered anywhere else. Some parts are a bit scholarly but otherwise, this was a very engaging read.
Cultivating Femininity: Women and Tea Culture in Edo and Meiji Japan by Rebecca Corbett
Much to my dismay, I realized that I neglected to write about this very interesting book. There was no way that I could leave it off of this list. The majority of contemporary tea practitioners are female but that was not always the case. Rebecca Corbett’s study was truly eye-opening for me. The Kindle edition also happens to be free right now!
Have you read any of these books? Is there a book that I should add? Let me know in the comments below!