Chrysanthemum Tea

朝茶飲む 僧静かなり 菊の花

Asa cha nomu / sō shizukanari / kiku no hana

Matsuo Basho

Three variations on Matsuo Basho’s Morning Tea:

One cup of morning tea
Calms a monk
Chrysanthemums are blooming

A monk sipping his morning tea,
Calmly
— Chrysanthemums are flowering

Drinking morning tea
Calms a monk
– Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum Tea, three times a day, Long life

Chrysanthemum tea
Three time a day
Long life

Chrysanthemum tea
My friends and I
Happy life

Bashō no yono

Chrysanthemum Tea

Chrysanthemum tea (菊茶, kiku-cha) is considered an elixir of life in Japan and much of Asia, enjoyed for the beauty of the flower’s blossoms, their earthy smell, and the taste of the tea. Each mum variety having its own special flavor. The recipe is simple, steep the flower petals (the leaves are too bitter) in hot water. Drink as a morning tea (朝茶, asa cha). Drink while hot. Morning tea and Green tea in general are soothing. Chrysanthemum tea, in particular, is used to calm chest pain, reduce high blood pressure, soften headaches, eliminate dizziness, and treat a host of other conditions.

In a word, Chrysanthemum tea is calming.

Basho suffered from various ailments throughout his life, including stomach ailments. So, it is not hard to imagine that he drank quite a lot of tea. And, after a hard days journey on the Oku No Hosomichi, one pictures Sora, Basho’s traveling companion, brewing tea while Basho is busy writing in his journal. One can also picture their visit to a temple, where a Buddhist monk (僧, Sō) might welcome his guests with tea.

Post Script

Xin chào (“hello”) was the greeting we received in a friendly neighborhood cafe in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Corona Tea!” was the drink we got when we asked for a pot of green tea and two cups.

My wife and I were there visiting our son in Hanoi in early 2020, at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. The fear of Coronavirus was only beginning. At that time, it was only a general concern for good health, green tea being a good start.

The cafe’s setting, beside a small lake, was quiet. Lofty apartment buildings, like tall mountains, surrounded the lake, separating us from the din of a thousand motorcycles on the main streets. This made this tiny spot feel like a personal Shangri-La. That and the woman, the owner of the cafe, who smiled as she served us a steaming pot of green tea.

The tea kept us healthy, I like to think.

Madame,
How do you say, Hello?
— Xin chào
, and green tea

Bashō no yono

I previously translated this haiku.

White Chrysanthemums


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