I get this question often from audiences wherever I speak. It seems to be a question on the minds of a number of tea drinkers - usually novice. It was also on the mind of a reporter last month when she called for an interview on the subject for Slate magazine. If tea making is on the radar of Slate, its popularity is surely increasing!
The simple answer is yes. You can also make tea with a Keurig coffee machine, over a campfire, or in a saucepan on the stove.
Before I answer the question from my audiences, I like to know why the seeker is searching for the answer. If the tea drinker is simply looking for a way to quickly make a hot healthy beverage, a microwave can accommodate that need. End of answer.
But if the question comes from someone who wishes to know more about tea as a lifestyle, I give them a longer answer - and a few suggestions.
It all boils down to this - a microwave will heat water but it is not one of the elements found in my tea liturgy.
I encourage new students of tea to invest in a proper kettle and a teapot. Learning to use those two tools will change their lives and lead them into the way of tea. (A microwave is a bit cumbersome to carry along your way.)
I sometimes offer illustrations from my former vocation as a choral conductor where I worked with young singers who asked me to teach them music. Some were simply looking for a quick and easy way to sing with little or no practice.
Others were willing to develop the discipline needed to fully realize the unlimited musical potential within their body, spirit and voice. They were looking for the longer answer.
And for those who were willing to go that extra mile, I filled their eager voices and fertile minds with music and ideas from the great composers and poets of the ages. They began a musical journey with me and developed a weekly discipline which honed their skills as they realized their full musical potential.
Eventually, they sang those timeless works of art with orchestras on the stage at Carnegie Hall and in cathedrals and theaters across the country. Those classic thoughts and life-changing experiences are still alive in their souls two decades later.
The Book of Tea where Okakura Kakuzo says, "Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence."
For me, a microwave represents that everyday existence. Tea - like great music - represents the adoration of the beautiful, which is what my heart longs to experience.
Okakura called it the cup of humanity. It seems a bit blasphemous to place that divine cup into a microwave and tap boil.
I must end now for my tea kettle is whistling...