Thursday, December 17, 2009

A local confab, and the path to the middle way

Here's the thing about tea (one of a thousand): You meet such nice people.

Last weekend, three other Chicago-based tea bloggers — Lainie, Steven and Tony — graciously included me in an afternoon confab. Just four tea lovers sharing a few pinches of kick-ass and some scoops of OMG. The table was strewn with food and cups and packages and tea ware. We drank some great tea. I made note of the Antlers twig tea from Pearl (full-bodied infusion from the stems, still getting better by the third infusion), the Lu Shan Yun Wu green tea from Dream About Tea (vibrant green tea with zest and go-get-'em) and a Song Zhong Shan No. 4 from Tea Habitat, the kind of tea that makes you realize how deep this rabbit hole really goes.

Then there were the eye-openers from Tony, he of the soon-to-be-launched Chicago Tea Garden company. The lucky son-of-a-what was fresh back from an excursion in and around San Francisco, hoisting teacups with people like David Lee Hoffman (as well as Les Blank, who made the documentary about him) and others. The guy brings out what looks like a rotten pumpkin left over from Halloween — a small, black gourd with fat ribs and a hole on the top. It's a pummelo fruit — or it was 15 years ago, when it was hollowed out and jammed full of pu-erh. Now the tea is scraped out with a chisel, and the resulting dirt (really, it looked like compost ... and I suppose it actually is) was funneled into a pot. The brew: like drinking fresh rainwater runoff from holy ground — holy ground with an orange grove.

Good stuff, yum yum. Worth mentioning, I suppose, by a still-starry-eyed tea novice like myself. I don't want to ruin the relaxing get-together by writing about it each time it should occur. But I left thinking: here are three experienced, extremely knowledgeable tea lovers, each of them talented tea reviewers. We were gathered in the name of tea, and we can each talk about tea in our own ways. We do. My way, I hope, will be to write about something slightly more than what's cupped, if that's possible. I love tea, but I love even more what happens in the presence of tea. Because of it, as an excuse for it, in spite of it, who knows — on Saturday I simply enjoyed meeting three interesting people and indulging in treats and conversation on a wintry afternoon, probably more than the taste of the tea itself (though even attempting to slice the experience into matters of degrees strays from what I'm after in this tea-blogging experiment). There's the experience of the senses, but — fantastic as that can be — that's not enough to explain the magic of this beverage and its humble conquering of the world, of humanity, one person at a time. There are personal and social phenomena wafting from each pot like wisps of dream steam, and that's what I'm after. I don't mean to go guru on you. I'm not meditating on the spirituality of tea. I'm after the humanity of it. I'm steering for the middle way, as it were. I just want to enjoy the moments, tea moments. And notice them. Maybe celebrate them, but at the very least be thankful.

Just some thoughts on what the hell I'm doing here. At least I'm trying to figure that out ...

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post, Thomas. And I agree, it was a very special day.