4 Ways Tea Helps Artists, Plus 10 Tremendous Books for Tea Lovers
“Drink your tea reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
I want to evolve into one of those refined folks who chooses tea over coffee.
Maybe you’re already one of them?
I picture you guys lingering pensively in Pashminas on terrazzo patios throughout the world, cradling a cup of Oolong in one hand and a tiny tin of watercolors in the other.
I would sacrifice the patio and even the Pashmina, if I could invite the day in gently with tea instead of initiating launch countdown with coffee.
Several of my artist and writer friends are tea-heads and here are four reasons why I want to be just like them (and you) when I grow up:
1. Tea Is a Classy Creative Companion
“Tea is a vital, irreplaceable part of my daily art life,” said Australian artist Yana Miller .
“I think taking tea is not unlike a ritual. I make and drink tea all day long if I’m making art.”
You can almost always find a hot cup of peppermint tea beside Yana on her art table.
Tea keeps her focused and keeps her company as she creates her whimsical works.
2. Tea Helps Us Get Unstuck
But you don’t have to be all serene to reap the benefits of tea.
For some artists the best way to get unstuck and re-energized involves smashing things for the greater good.
“Making Indian chai tea by bashing cardamom pods in my stone mortar and pestle in the middle of my work day always helps me re-energize and re-focus,” said Kikoe. “Especially if my eyes and hands are tired from hours spent on my Wacom [drawing tablet].”
Sometimes if Kikoe is feeling stuck mid day she’ll go all out and chop ginger, crush cinnamon sticks or grate some nutmeg into her simmering pan of cardamom infused tea on the stove.
When the moment is right Kikoe adds in the sugar and milk and expertly pours the delicious tea from cup to pan a few times (at a distance of about a foot to a foot and a half) to make her frothy cappuccino-like Chai.
“It’s the perfect creative break for me because it’s short enough to not get distracted but long enough to clear my mind. And I get to smash things,” said Kikoe.
3. Tea Can Be A Sacred Time Keeper
Tea can tell our brain it’s time to begin (or end) our work.
“My day starts with tea and ends with tea. When I go to my studio, the first thing I do is prepare a cup of tea,” said Korean American artist Debbie Han (in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.)
“This has been my habit since I was an art student.” Han’s favorite tea? Woojun; it’s a delicate, aromatic green tea harvested in the mountains of Korea in early April.
Wouldn’t it be ideal to have tea ritualize the beginning and ending of a day spent making art?
Like hitting a chime, entry and exit tea could help us transition in and out of, our creative work day.
But if you aren’t a full-time creative you can still enjoy entry and exit tea the next time you devote a Sunday to your art or writing.
“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.” — Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea.
Even making a quick solo cup of tea is an effective way to honor/ritualize the act of carving out even 15 minutes for ourselves to make art or journal.
And if those three reasons to be a tea-head artist aren’t enough here’s one for the road:
4. Many Genius Artists and Writers Were Tea-Heads
What was Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite book?
Okakura Kakuzo’s, 1906, The Book of Tea; a short but deep dive into the philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony.
O’Keeffe became enamored with The Book of Tea in her early twenties and it remained a pole star for her entire life. (Georgia’s favorite tea pot still quietly rests on her modest kitchen shelf and you can eyeball it yourself at her home-museum in Abiquiu.)
Marcel Proust was a passionate tea taker. He could be said to owe at least 4,215 pages (the entirety of The Remembrance of Things Past) to the memory of a cup of Lime Blossom tea his aunt gave him to dunk that madeleine at the beginning of his famous trilogy.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C.S. Lewis
Speaking of books, great minds and tea, here’s 10 tremendous books for you or the tea-head in your life.
Bonus: Gift Yourself With One of These Ten Top Books For True Tea Heads
1. The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo (O’Keeffe’s favorite.)
2. Tea Gardens: Places To Make and Take Tea by Ann Lovejoy
3. Tea for Three: The First Three Tea Shop Mysteries (in the incredibly popular mystery series) by Laura Childs
4. For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire, and the Secret Formula for the World’s Favourite Drink by Sarah Rose
5. New Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt
6. Herbal Tea Gardens: 22 Plans for Your Enjoyment and Well-Being by Marietta Marshall Marcin
7. Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Gascoyne, Marchand and Desharmais
8. Jane Pettigrew’s World of Tea by Jane Pettigrew
9. Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World by Cynthia Gold and Lise Stern
10. The Japanese Tea Garden by Marc Peter Keane
Tell me what kind of tea you drink in the comments below. I want to know!
Currently I am obsessed with a rose infused Tulsi (holy basil) tea from India.