"Cold, withered, shrunken."
What manner of reptile are we preparing to introduce? No reptile at all. An art, rather; the art — or religion, perhaps — of tea, hopefully to surprise the reader with the depths this humble beverage contains within itself, and releases in us, if we approach it in a manner worthy of it.
A story: The 16th-century tea master Kobori Enshu was complimented by a disciple on the art objects with which he adorned his tea ceremonies. "Each object," enthused the disciple, "is such that no one can help admiring it. This shows you have better taste than Sen no Rikyu, whose collection can only be appreciated by one beholder in a thousand."