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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS'

infusion was regarded as a superior and aristocratic beverage and
was therefore drunk only by the best classes at first. It was the
Dutch trading ships which brought the first tea-chests across the
Eastern seas into European waters. Once sampled, it did not take
long before a regular craze developed and the new drink was
firmly established among the occidentals;

The Japs prescribed the most minute instructions for these
ceremonies, so important did they deem them. There was a particular
way of opening the lid of the kettle; a particular manner of stirring
the tea in the pot with a bamboo brush; a particular style of handing
the little cup to the expectant guest; a particular importance in
drinking up its contents in three and a half sips, and so on.

What fates have hung symbolically upon this delicate bush!
The American colonists threw off British rule when they threw the
overtaxed tea-chests into Boston harbour, whilst Marco Polo tells
us of a Chinese Finance Minister who was overthrown for taxing
tea too highly. How much has the Western habit of afternoon tea-
parties contributed towards the social amenities, the rounding-off of
sharp corners, the smoothing of national asperities and the building
of intellectual goodwill between people, even as it did in those more
elaborate customs of the mediaeval Japs! How many have come to
know each other and laid the basis for a lifelong friendship in
nothing more than a tiny tea-cup! How great are the issues and
decisions which have come to final culmination between men and
women amid the clatter of cups and saucers!

Every man has his own tastes, his own inborn preferences. He
will necessarily carry them into the realm of tea-drinking. My
own strong predilection was formerly for the aroma and inspiring
flavour of Darjeeling tea. The plantations which throng the hills
around that Indian hot-weather station which faces Kanchenjunga,
second highest mountain in the Himalayan world, produce a plant
which in its turn produces a decoction that seems unrivalled, but
others, I know, will disagree. No doubt a part of its enchantment
for me comes from the pictures of Himalaya which float up out of
the cup before my mind's eye. 'Tis all a matter of taste, and indeed
when so many other fine teas are on offer to the world he would be
an unscrupulous man who denounced them merely in order to
vaunt his own likings. Nevertheless, for many years I have been a
convert to drinking the mildest of Chinese teas, because of'their
smaller poisonous content.

Many writers I know have found their delight in tea, and in this
they are but emulating the earliei illustrious examples of Dr. John-
son, who confessed himself to be "a hardened and shameless tea-
drinker'* ; of Charles Lamb, whose words, to my regret, I cannot

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