Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea As as a Way of Life is as much about philosophy and history as it is about the revered beverage of the East. Solala Tower's book begins as a background of how tea was first discovered — and there are several conflicting tales. However essentially, someone first put a dried Camellia sinensis leaf into a pot of bowling water, tasted it and realized it wasn't like bitter herbs at all.
At first tea, or cha in most Chinese dialects, was a medicinal brew because it was made of water purified (by the boiled water) of germs and kept people awake and aware thanks to the caffeine. This was especially prized by the Daoist monks who appreciated the way they were able to meditate for many long hours longer thanks to the tea.
Later, tea became so prized it became tribute for the emperor. Peasants worked an entire month a year at nothing but producing tea for the emperor. Their families went hungry, and the pitiful wages they earned were spent in whorehouses and gambling establishments in the shantytowns that popped up around the fields. Eventually, the economy couldn't sustain the tribute-tea work and the custom died out. However, the middle-class began drinking tea in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.) A man named Lu Yu wrote a vast treatise on tea and became the emperor's first Master of the Way of Tea.
A Zen priest then took tea to Japan. The Chinese had perfected a way of powdering green tea and then beating it into a froth. The Japanese took to this style with a vengeance. Today this is still done in the Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu. (The beaten green tea has since fallen out of favor in China). In Japan, the ceremony took on a very austere style. Implements became simple and wooden, sometimes even scratched and bowls or cups elliptical instead of round. This was called raku style. This mirrored the particular, severe type of Buddhism called Chan Buddhism and was popular with the Samurai, who frequented the tea ceremonies. For them the tea ceremony was an isolated place of serenity. They overlaid the teahouse with their own mode of bushido, which translates as bushi, samurai, do, way — a strict code of honor.