We’ve mentioned it a few times on our Facebook page but did you realise Britain has a tea poet, and did you know there is a history of tea poetry reaching back to the 8th century?
A tea poet, not surprisingly, writes poems about tea and inspired by tea. Tea originates from China in 2737BC and the first tea poets were Chinese and Buddhist monks. Tea is long associated with ritual, the spoken word and poetry was used to record and commemorate these rituals. Existing records show the first known book on tea was written by Lu Yu “The Classic of Tea” about 800AD, for Lu Yu tea “symbolised the harmony and mysterious unity of the universe” and about the same time this poem “Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea” was written by Lu Tong, who was so moved by a gift of Chinese tea.
The Japanese Haiku writers were also inspired by tea ceremonies to write about tea and in the 18th century Issa referred to himself as ‘Priest Cup-of-Tea of Haiku Temple’.
Now in the 21st century we have a tea poet in Britain Elizabeth Darcy Jones, who has enjoyed being poet in residence at The Chesterfield Hotel, Mayfair and written a book “Distinguished Leaves: Poems for tea-lovers”. In Australia Anne Norman tours as a tea raconteur and has written a book “Curiosi-tea” by Camellia Cha. In February 2011 the poet, and curator of The Poetry Library here in the UK, Lorraine Mariner edited a book “Ten Poems about Tea”, which is a collection of poems about tea by British poets. Tea plays such an important role in our daily lives it’s no wonder that poets write about it and continue to do so.
Here’s one of Anne Norman’s poems from her book “Curiosi-tea” by Camellia Cha.
HumpTEA DumpTEA had a migraine,
a splitting headache and sinus pain.
All the king’s doctors and all the king’s drugs,
not even a massage and friendly hugs,
could supply him with a pick-me-up.
But his favourite tea, sipped from cup
delivered poor Humpty from Hell.
(After many such cups, he now feels well!)