Archive for June, 2012

Global Tea Hut

There is a global tea drinking session going on right now, and everyone is welcome to be a part of it.

Fellowship in Tea and cultivation of Spirit have come together beautifully at an important time in our lives. One outcome of this communion is The Global Tea Hut: a community of tea drinkers around the globe, who, through gift exchange, support each other, environmentally friendly farmers, Cha Dao, and the hub that connects them all: the Tea Sage Hut, along with its publications, wayside huts, and other means of promoting self-cultivation and wisdom with regards to tea.

preparing Global Tea Hut packages

 

The Global Tea Hut spans bodies of water, bridges gaps of land, traverses great mountainsides, and brings us all closer together over one common cup of tea each month. The package you receive includes a monthly newsletter, a small gift from the Tea Sage Hut, and tea which is donated by sustainable farmers concerned with the environment.

 

 

This tea session is never ending. The energy, sharing, and awakening continue in a flowing seasonal pattern, from the bursting forth of new seed to the cleansing of ware after ceremony. So too this global tea session has been going on for a long time, even before the passing of the first bowl from one set of hands to another, to a time when Nature reached out to us, longing to initiate this tradition.

Supporting small-scale Organic Tea Farmers in Taiwan with members of the Global Tea Hut.

 

The Global Tea Hut is connecting us and bringing us closer together under one thatched roof, in the realm of one earthen tearoom. Its tatami mats of ocean and land nurturing great tea trees, who’s roots run deep and who’s nectar courses through our veins, tying us in Camellia fellowship, binding us as kindred tea spirits.

 

 

On my way home from Taiwan, I found myself surrounded by amazing people during a rideshare from Vancouver to Kelowna. We stopped at one of the highest points on the connector whereupon we shared some Ai Lao Sheng Puer, which you can read about in the GTH first newsletter. It was the inaugural GTH tea.

Sharing GTH tea with friends in BC

Sharing GTH Tea in BC

 

If you’re interested in joining the Global Tea Hut gift exchange, then check out the Tea of the Month on the GTH website.

 

 

TLC

Tea Sage Hut

In my final two weeks in Taiwan, searching in darkness for the true light of tea, I found such a beacon of light – and I went towards the source. I arrived at the Tea Sage Hut.

 

 

Here in Miaoli, Taiwan, is a center of tea wisdom, expressing the communion of Tea and Spirit, Cha and Dao. This center is called the Tea Sage Hut. It is a space dedicated to community, connection, sustainability, the environment, development of skill, unconditional kindness, mindfulness, laughter, meditation, and awakening to harmony through the wisdom of tea and service.

 

It is here at this wayside hut where enthusiasts of Life, Spirit, and Nature (and absurdity!) can honor a bowl of tea in a constructive environment; where tea can be shared in its highest regards; where we can bestow upon it the respect it deserves; and where we can walk the Great Way, guided by the wisdom of the Leaf and the teachings of the Dao. Though, not at the expense of healthy humour and freedom to express yourself. Seriousness has its place, as does hearty laughter, which we thoroughly employ here at the hut!

It’s quite special: the way tea is sourced, prepared, and served here. The water comes from a spring in the mountains. The teacher and the students gather the water once each week, hiking to the source. Back in the hut, the water rests in a clay pot in the meditation hall, receiving the energy of Metta generated there. After being carefully and mindfully ladled into a tetsubin, the water is patiently brought to boil using coal and/or electric element. I’ve read about the effect water can have on a cup of tea, but only after coming here do I experientally understand the significance behind that effect. In fact, just the heated water alone – without any leaf – is full of energy and a pure joy to imbibe. So too, the tea is alive with organic energy. It comes from soil thriving with natural cycles of life and death. It comes from farmers who care about tea and the environment. In line with all this, the tea is prepared and served in a like manner. But these are only constituent parts of the whole experience. The margins of space between this paragraph are so great that what is left unsaid is all. This Cha Dao experience in its entirety lies in the communion of all parts in the present moment. That’s the beauty and mystery of tea: a simple concert of liquor and leaf offering a symphony of complex sounds, silences, and sensations – and it’s available at the Tea Sage Hut.

 

 

When you come here, you are welcomed as if at home, along with all of the other tea brothers and sisters who pass through this sanctuary. Unlike home, however, where rent might be expected, everyone here is welcome free of charge, which includes tea, wisdom, room and board, and a moving experience. It is the donations from those who wish for others to receive the same wisdom through Cha Dao that they freely received, which keep this center operating, open, and thriving.

Here you can connect with tea brothers and sisters from around the world, and two amazing teachers – Wu De and the Leaf. In my short time at the Tea Sage Hut, I communed with the most amazing people from Russia, Canada, Estonia, and the US. Together, we engaged in sharing bowl tea, supporting organic farmers, meditating, laughing, preparing healthy meals – and all in the name of Cha Dao.

 

 

It really is amazing that such a place as this exists. This is a space I’ve always been implicitly looking for, as I think any enthusiast of tea and spirit is. A place to drink high quality tea from high quality ware; a place to cultivate spirit in the company of brothers and sisters from around the world; a place of solace and sanctitude; a place in tune with Great Nature; a place free of charge, open to all, and offering movie night on Fridays! Before coming here, it really was only a distant fantasy that this wayside hut existed; something I could only ever have read about in books or seen in videos; a point in time I would have only imagined to exist well into my future. But here I am, right now in this moment, at this very center – experiencing this dream….

 

 

For those of you who can’t make it to this physical hut in person, there is now a thriving Global Tea Hut connecting us all on an even larger scale, which I’ll be writing about in my next entry.

 

 

TLC

Workings of a Tea Industry

In addition to my last post, I would also like to share some observations about large, established tea industries.

While it is fashionable in the West to think any type of tea (green, oolong, black/red, puerh) can be processed from the one and only species: Camellia Sinensis, this is only true to a limited degree. Particular tea varieties and cultivars have become very suited to certain growing regions and processing techniques over great amounts of time and adaptation, which in a major tea industry, largely dictates what tea will be processed and where. It is true that you could make a green tea from a cultivar suited to making oolong, or that two completely different varieties can be processed exactly the same, but this isn’t taking into account the countless and volatile factors associated with terrior (soil, climate, elevation, sun exposure, cloud cover, rainfall, latitude/longitude, etc.) and farming practices (organic, biodynamic, conventional, intentional, etc) which will greatly determine the quality and taste, and in a well-established tea industry with lots of history, you’ll be hard pressed to find the support needed to maintain such unconventional business practices such as making BaoZhong Tea in Meishan Township, for example. While it could technically be done, most people here would say that doesn’t even make sense?

In a large tea industry, you can’t just set your own price based one what you think the market will endure. There’s a lot of people growing tea here, that would be too crazy. Instead, they enter their tea into major competitions for at least one main reason: to determine a legitimate price within a standardized system. When you enter a tea competition, the price at which your tea can be sold is in accordance with the rank it receives. Your tea is sealed and certified by a third party based on the results of the competition so that consumers can be confident the price matches the quality. This quality, however, is an assessment of a standard, which doesn’t take into account the emotional experience often associated with tea. It’s a scientific approach to tea versus a natural enjoyment of tea. It’s someone telling you this tea is good so you can enjoy it, instead of cultivating the skill to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of any tea.

In the picture above, you’ll notice the boxed-up tea, which after being ranked in a competition was packaged, sealed, certified, and ready to be sold to the public at a market where everyone is doing the same thing.

So a large tea industry, while very restricted in one sense, is very refined in another. Everyone plays by the same rules, which means fair-play, but possibly at the expense of creativity. Not to say people here aren’t creative. Taiwan is known for its beautiful tea ceremony where visual presentation, skill in preparing tea, and experience outweigh any rank in a competition.  My arguments here are definitely askew because I’m learning about tea within the industry, and not as a student of preparing tea in ceremony, for example.

Let’s look at Hawaii as a counter example, where a large ingrained tea industry doesn’t exist, but rather, a cottage tea market in its nascent infancy. Farmers can generally set their own price within certain realistic boundaries, not based on rank in a competition, but based on what they think of as quality, the time of harvest, cost of living, volume of tea, experimentation, etc. There is no well-defined market to tell the farmers how much their tea should cost or what tea “can” be made, so they are in the process of setting the market price and establishing tea’s of a regional terrior (I call this terrior status), essentially telling consumers how much they should be paying and where to go to buy it. And let’s face it; consumers don’t know how much tea “should” cost yet, which is fine. I’m sure most tea industries started out like this. I’m sure there are so many other factors that I’ve overlooked; I don’t mean to insult any of the hard working Hawaiian tea farmers out there! I’m no business student, so please correct me if the information I present here is drastically off.

And again, these are only my limited observations after spending over two months in Taiwan now, and collectively spending six months on tea farms in Hawaii. There are exceptions to everything I’m saying and everything is changing.

I only have a couple more weeks left in Taiwan before returning to Canada. I’m off to visit a teacher of tea, art, and meditation this coming week, and will thoroughly enjoy my final week in the tea-mountains of Taiwan. I have a couple more blog entries I’d like to address; one on being a tea-driver, and another on all the wacky adventures a language-barrier sets you up for!

TLC