Tea in Poetry, Literature and Quotations
The subject of tea found its way to the tip of many a writer’s pen throughout time. As a passion for all things tea has developed in me I have inevitably ran across much of this work. From Tea in Poetry, literature and quotations embodying the love for this seemingly simple beverage runs deep. While I am admittedly not a huge fan of poetry (c’mon.. SEC College Football is waay more interesting!), the historical value related to a subject I love (tea) is great. I hope you enjoy viewing tea through the lens of many people across time as much as I have.
“Tea in Poetry”
A Paradoxical Riddle used in Buddhism
to Trigger Enlightenment
“Have you been here before?”
“I have been here before,” the monk replied.
“Go have some tea,” said the master, then asked again:
“Have you been here before?”
“I haven’t been here before,” the monk replied.
“Go have some tea,” said the master.
The abbot asked the master:
“Why did you tell the monk to go have some tea both
when he said he had been here and not?”
“Go have some tea.”
**Written by Zhao Zhou
Seven bowls of Tea
The first bowl moistens my lips and throat;
The second bowl breaks my loneliness;
The third bowl searches my barren entrails but to find
Therein some five thousand scrolls;
The fourth bowl raises a slight perspiration
And all life’s inequities pass out through my pores;
The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones;
The sixth bowl calls me to the immortals.
The seventh bowl could not be drunk, only the breath of the cool wind raises in my sleeves.
Where is Penglai Island, Yuchuanzi wishes to ride on this sweet breeze and go back.
**Written by Lu Tung, one of the more famous historical tea poems. There are a number of various translations of this work.
Aloof from the world the lone villa stood
Midst ponds and bamboos, on the edge of a
Coral-hued rose fruits told that spring now was
While green mosses heralded summer at last.
The tea was made ‘neath the trees in a glade.
Sultan’s parasols sheltered as harps softly
The Phoenix prevailed–all cares were for-
Then in darkness, at length, the path home-
ward was trodden.
**Refreshment was written by Prince Junna, brother of Japanese Emperor Saga (AD 810-24) only a few short years after tea was introduced into Japan.
The gems on the tea-twigs are treasures long-
The hillsides are glowing with green, fragrant
What joy it will be to dry leaf o’er the brazier;
‘Tis time, now, to pluck the young shoots from
“Wu’s salt” when admix’t with the drink is a
The crystal-clear water from woods that are
Such things by their nature are clean, and are
And teacups from Keng Hsin, on trays that
A sip of tea o’er the clouds will transport
it’s clean as the core of a rock, I declare.
Like Yoga with powers that daily are growing,
The tea’s fine aroma still clings to the air.
**Written by Koreuji in A.D. 827
I’ve come to survey Islet Springs,
So that I’m able to gain a personal understanding of tea affairs;
The peasants have abandoned their plowing and hoeing,
And gone off to the truly bitter labor of tea-picking.
Once a man is taken for corvée duty,
His entire household is affected;
They grasp vines, pulling themselves up the slanting cliffs,
Hair disheveled, they enter wild brambles.
The whole morning long they barely pick a handful,
Yet their hands and feet and covered with sores.
Sad laments echo through the empty hills,
Even for the grasses and trees there’s no springtime.
**This poem was written by Yuan Gao to describe the harsh working conditions of the corvée laborers who were conscripted at harvest time to pick the tea leaves. The tea from this area was known as Tribute Tea, and produced for the Emperor for the Qingming Festival. This translates to Grave Sweeping Festival, it was a time when the dead were honored and their graves were decorated. Kind of an odd tradition if you ask me!
The Grandfather plants and raises the tea bushes,
the father harvests the tea, and the son drinks it.
Ballad of the tea pickers
Where thousand hills the vale enclose, our little
hut is there,
And on the sloping sides around the tea grows
So I must rise at early dawn, as busy as can be,
To get my daily labor done, and pluck the
No sweeter perfume does the fair Aglaia shed,
Throughout Wu-yuen’s bounds my tea the
choicest will be said;
When all are picked we’ll leave the shoots to
bud again in spring,
But for this morning we have done the third,
Our time is up, and yet not full our baskets to
The twigs anorth are full searched, let’s seeks
them in the south;
Just then by chance I snapped a twig whose
leaves were all afar;
See, with my taper fingers how I fix it in my
Ye twittering swallows, rise and fall in your
flight around the hill,
But when next I go to high Sunglo, I’ll change
my gown, I will;
And I’ll roll up the cuff and show arm enough,
for my arm is fair to see;
Oh, if ever there were a fair round arm, that
arm belongs to me.
**This ballad is said to have been sung by the women as the plucked tea leaves. It was written sometime in the mid 1600’s and was translated to English by S. Wells Williams (1812-84), Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Yale
The Muse’s friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Repress those vapours which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.
*This poem, written by Edmund Waller in 1663 to commemorate Queen Catherine who is credited with bringing tea, the drink of temperance to England.
O Tea! Oh leaves torn from the sacred bough!
O stalk, gift born of the great gods!
What joyful region bore thee? In what part of
Is the fostering earth swollen with your health,
Father Phoebus planted this stem in his eastern
Aurora, kind-hearted, sprinkled it with her
And commanded it to be called by her mother’s
Or called in accordance with the gift of the
gods. Thea was she called,
as if the gods bore gifts to the growing plant.
Comus brought joyfulness, Mars gave high
And thou, Coronide, dost make the draught
Hebe, thou bearest a delay to wrinkles and old
Mercurius has bestowed the brilliance of his
The muses have contributed lively song.
** Written in 1709 by the Archbishop of Avranches Pierre Daniel Huet.
Tea for Two
Tea for two, and two for tea,
Me for you, and you for me.
**Written by Irving Caesar
Read this my dears, and you will see
how to make a nice cup of tea
take teapot to kettle, not t’other way round
and when you hear that whistling sound
pour a little in the pot
just to make it nice and hot.
Pour that out and put in the tea,
loose or in bags, your choice, you see.
One bag for each two cups will do
with one extra bag to make a fine brew.
Steep 3-5 minutes then pour a cup.
Then sit right down and drink it up!
**Written by Patricia Winchester
“Tea in Literature”
The Kindly Plant
What a part of confidante has that poor tea
pot played ever since the kindly plant was
introduced among us! What myriads of
women have cried over it, to be sure! What
sick beds it has smoked by! What fevered lips
have received refreshment from it! Nature meant
very kindly by women when she made the tea-
plant; and with a little thought, what a series
of pictures and groups the fancy may conjure
up and assemble round the teapot and cup.
**Written by William Makepeace Thackeray in the book Pendennis.
Tea, Like Truth.
something like the progress of truth; suspected
at first, though very palatable to those who had
courage to taste it; resisted as it encroached;
abused as its popularity seemed to spread; and
establishing its triumph at last, in cheering the
whole land from the palace to the cottage, only
by the slow and resistless efforts of time and
its own virtues.
They’s been a row about this yer tea, I expect
you heerd tell of it. A tax or something.
And bung me if I don’t think the province is
right, what I understand of it. Anyhow, I like
good, I’m for shutting down on tea. But what
I says is, shut down on it in a general way,
but a little tea never done no harm to no one.
‘Specially on a chilly morning like this yer.
**A passage from the book Drums by James Boyd, a novel on the Revolutionary War.
He brewed his tea in a blue china pot, poured
it into a chipped white cup with forget-me-nots
on the handle, and dropped in a dollop of
honey and cream. He sat by the window, cup
in hand, watching the first snow fall. “I am,”
he sighed deeply, “contented as a clam. I am a most happy man.”
**Written by Ethel Pochocki
“Tea in Quotations”
“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” -Sir Arthur Pinero
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea?” – Noel Coward
“What better way to suggest friendliness and to create it than with a cup of tea?” – J. Grayson Luttrell
“My dear, if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.” – Charles Dickens
“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” – Lu Tong
“I always fear that creation will expire before tea time.” – Reverend Sydney Smith
“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” – Reverend Sydney Smith
“Ecstasy is a glass of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.” – Alexander Pushkin
It seems in some cases kind nature hath planned that names with their callings agree, for Twining the tea-man that lives in the Strand, would be “wining” deprived of his T. – Theodore Hook
Do you have something that you feel I have missed and would like to see added to “Tea in Poetry, Literature and Quotations?” email it to: michael [at] sweetteajunkie [dot] com and be sure to include a source for the included work(s), I strive to provide the most accurate information possible in my posts.
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