Tea & Water: what’s in a name?
According to Chinese legend, the origins of tea date back to 2737 BC when Shen Nung, the emperor and renowned herbalist, was purifying water under the shelter of a tree. A sudden gust of wind blew stray tea leaves from a nearby shrub into the pot. The emperor was so delighted by the resulting brew, very fine in colour and taste, that tea was born and it soon became a daily drink in Chinese culture.
Indian legend links the story to Prince Bodidharma, who left India for China, to preach Buddhism, vowing that he would not sleep during his nine year mission. But after three years, and on the point of exhaustion, he happened upon a tea shrub, whose leaves he grabbed and chewed, acting as the stimulant he needed to complete the remaining six years of his mission.
The Japanese ending of the same story is that Bodidharma accidentally fell asleep, and was so appalled by what he had done that he tore out his eyelids, to prevent him from ever sleeping again. And from that spot where he threw them, the ground produced tea shrubs with enchanting properties, with the power to keep eyelids open.
For Tea & Water Ltd., the forming of our partnership is perhaps not so accidental as the Emperor Shen Nung sitting under the tree, although we do hope the results will produce something equally as colourful, giving reason to delight. Our mission is not nine years of sleepless nights like Bodidharma, or at least we hope not. And we may not be able to claim medicinal or enchanting properties, at least not without some expertly crafted small-print.
What the name Tea & Water does symbolise is the combining of elements, people and ideas, which together are more effective than the sum of their parts. Tea is water and water is tea, but tea cannot exist without water, and water is transformed by tea.
Tea is a combination of elements, at once very simple, but also quite complex. It can be ceremonial and enlightening, or everyday and mundane, and yet no less significant. It can stimulate or calm us. It might symbolise a bridging of cultures or simply a moment between friends. No two cups of tea are ever the same: neither the tea itself, nor the context in which we drink it—the atmosphere, the people we may share it with and the events that have passed since the last cup.
And yet despite these changes, there is a constancy, which the ritual of tea allows us. It punctuates our daily lives, giving us a moment to pause and reflect on all that has been and all that lies ahead of us. It can strengthen and allow us time to compose ourselves to set off in the right direction.
In cultured circles in Japan, drinking tea became valued as a way to rise above the mundane without participating in the vulgarity of wine’s drunkenness. At Tea & Water, however, we recognise that sometimes the occasion calls for something a little stronger…