Sunday, September 7, 2014

Science Fiction Novel about a Tea Master

If the world runs out of water, make my last cup into tea please.

Click image to go to
It’s not every day that I come across a book that blends my love of tea with my love of science fiction.  With beautiful prose, Finnish author Emmi Itaranta tells a dark tale of a futuristic society where water is scarce and expensive but the tradition of tea survives.  Memory of Water is a dystopian novel about tea masters in a post-apocalyptic future where the water is strictly rationed and the penalty for violating the water quota can be execution. 
The main character is Noria, a seventeen year old born long after the “oil wars” and after the earth’s climatic change that resulted in the loss of most of the world’s drinking water.  She lives in the former Scandinavia, which has become a province controlled by a totalitarian military regime which seeks to own and control all remaining potable potable water supplies.  Noria studies the fine art of the tea ceremony and is to inherit her father’s distinguished position as the village tea master.  Noria learns that Tea Masters have secret knowledge of hidden water sources.

Tea fans will appreciate that author Itaranta gave a good deal of detail on tea preparation.  For example, Noria heats water in a cauldron and watches for the first 10 bubbles of the boiling water.  In real life, the Chinese have traditionally called this stage of boiling water “shrimp eyes.” Shrimp eyes appear at a temperature of 155°-176°F, which is ideal for delicate green tea. [1]

Itaranta’s tea ceremony has a strictly prescribed etiquette and philosophy and is modeled after real life’s Japanese tea ceremony.  In one scene, Noria silently disapproves when certain guests discuss politics during the tea ceremony.  Similarly, in the Japanese tea ceremony, guests are to refrain from talking about topics unrelated to the tea ceremony.  In another scene, Noria is chastised by a senior tea master for opening a second window in the tea house where by rule only one window is to be left open.  She is reminded that this rule is so that guests can “take pleasure in the scent of the tea and the humidity of air created by the water.” [2]  Noria explains her choice to open a second window was for the comfort of her guests and was in fact in accordance with the philosophy of the tea ceremony, which is about “embracing change and accepting the fleeting quality of the world around us.” 

Will Noria embrace change or be bound by tradition of the tea master in a world where the military’s designs on water are at odds with survival for all?  I enjoyed finding out and hope the author decides to make a sequel.
[2] Water of Memory, Emmi Itaranta Chapter 8, page 98.


Thank you for your comment(s). We like hearing from you.

Sara and Andrea

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...