Archive for the ‘Tea’ Category

Willing to Do, Happy to Bear

Well, in the “about” section of my blog, I address you, the reader, as courteous, but just how art thou to be a courteous reader if thy has nothing to read! Absurd I know. Though, absent have I been for good reason. It all has to do with Tea of course. And since I now lack the time to keep any form of regular blog entries, I leave you, dear courteous reader, with one final TLC entry. Though I close one door, a much larger one opens…

Some of you know I live in Taiwan now. Below is a snippet into my new life. I wrote this for a newsletter called the Global Tea Hut, a global community of Spirit-minded tea imbibers. Below is just an article I wrote, but I’d recommend reading the entire newsletter here: Newsletter #12, January 2013. You can also read all of the previous GTH newsletters here. And if you’d like to become a member of our growing, loving community, you can sign up for the Tea of the Month, which means you’ll be receiving a paper copy of the newsletter, a tea gift, and “living” organic tea, while at the same supporting our tea center here in Taiwan and more importantly, supporting organic tea farmers and venders in Taiwan and Asia. Of course, if would be much better if you just come visit us at our center! We always have a bowl of tea ready for you, healthy vegetarian food, and comfortable, safe accommodations — all free of charge. That’s just what we do. We are here to serve. Oh yeah! and here’s a video detailing our future mountainside center: Light Meets Life.

Camellia Sinensis Blossom

WILLING TO DO, HAPPY TO BEAR

It is said that as a student of this tradition, one does not simply learn how to make tea, but how to serve it. In one sense, this is meant literally, as in the learning of how to prepare and serve tea to guests who frequent our wayside hut. (Wonderful, beautiful guests from near and far. Please know that we are learning to serve you tea!) We are intimately working with water, teaware, tea, and heat sources to better communicate with this Leaf so that it may seamlessly convey its messages of Truth and Nature to us. In developing the skills to prepare tea with grace and gongfu, it is not so much us serving you as it is the Leaf serving you through us. Dearest Camellia has so much wisdom to offer and the avenue of Tea has been chosen to drive that wisdom home to us. In service, we are the road-keepers, sweeping the dust that inevitably settles for the many vehicles of truth that pass.

There is so much more to consider, directly pertaining to serving tea, both functional and aesthetic, seasonal and logistical, musical and spiritual, but I would like to consider the many other faces that tea-service takes indirectly. For this is not a pompous place; we are not here to simply serve tea and offer some sort of escape or bliss-out experience. We are not just here to brew and imbibe tea blind to the problems that the world faces today — in fact it is just the opposite. Tea brewed and consumed in the manner conducted here can open our eyes to the underlying reality that is. This is a thriving and dynamic tradition, very much alive, with a great purpose in mind: one that seeks to promote self-cultivation, meditation, sustainability, community, and a greater sense of connection with ourselves, one another, and Nature. Tea is the Great Connector. This sort of mission requires a lot, to say the least.

As a relatively new student learning the very basics, serving tea, for me, much more often means fetching water, buying groceries, doing the dishes, preparing meals, taking out the trash, watering plants, and cleaning doggy doo-doo. What has this to do with the service of tea? What have these menial responsibilities to do with the art of serving tea, and in a greater sense, the art of living? Lucky for all of us, we have a lively, beautiful, and functional center, largely in part due to a small group of people (including all of you!), and in particular, a teacher within that group who can allow Tea to serve through him. Therefore, in order for that opportunity of service to arise, simple daily tasks and everyday errands must be carried out. That’s where we, the students come in. That’s very often our role in serving tea. For while it may seem silly, not a drop of tea could be had, had the bills not been paid; the dishes not been cleaned; the bedding not been bought; and the physical space that makes so much of this possible not been duly tended to and made available to all of you at any time for free. All of the grandeur to be found at this center is not without the smallest detail: never negligible, but often unnoticed. To answer the questions I posed before, then, it becomes a little more clear that learning to serve tea means learning to carry out the responsibilities that make the literal service of tea possible. (Yes, that includes cleaning dog poop. It’s in the fine print.)

Naturally, my answer to the question, “What are you doing in Taiwan?” is that I am a student of the Leaf: a student of Tea. After all, I’ve moved halfway across the world and committed my time to some wayside joint called the Tea Sage Hut! What I’m learning is that being a student of tea means to be a student of serving tea, and to be a student of serving tea, within the realm of ChaDao, ultimately means to be a student of service. Tea is the medium through which we serve, and it’s a very conductive medium at that. But is an act of service carried out with ill-will the same as an act of service carried out with Love? Am I fetching water because I have to, or because I love to? Does it make a difference? On the level of surface, fetching water might look like fetching water, and like water itself, two different samples might look the same, but from where they were sourced is paramount. So too, where is our service sourced from? An inner Spring nestled within the Heart of compassion, or a rusty tap spouting from the ego? From where you source your intention makes all the difference in the energy that radiates from you out to the world. Just like the koans of Zen; anything you say or do in the right frame of mind is the right answer, and anything you say or do outside of that mind is the wrong answer, even if it’s the right answer! Spirituality has nothing to do with what you believe in and everything to do with your frame of consciousness.

There is a role of service to be played here, and it’s not so much the corporeal act of carrying it out as it is the intention with which you perform it. This is no simple task either. If actions speak louder than words then intentions break the sound barrier. I am inspired by Dharma Master Cheng Yen who said, “We must be willing to do and be happy to bear.” There is a lot to do as a student of the Leaf and that can be challenging, but where will growth and development come if not from somewhere outside our comfort zone. Surely, there is little room for growth when you’re having a good time! Let us be happy to bear, and let that happiness overflow into what must be done, in the form of pure intention.

Again, we must reflect; to be a student of tea within the realm of this tradition means to be a student of tea through service, and to truly perform that service, a particular frame of mind must be achieved (a state of presence in other words). Therefore, a student of tea must also be a student of mastery of mind.

Let us not get carried away though, nor get caught up in the role of a student or service person; it’s not about that. I don’t want to portray this life as something too serious. Life is pretty simple here: we drink tea, meditate, eat well, sleep, and work. The idea is to be willing to do whatever is required of you in any situation with great intention and presence, and be happy to bear that responsibility. Easier said than done, but it’s a challenge worth accepting…

Tea Sage Hut

Love and Light
Be Happy
TLC
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Reflecting on New Moon

 

Time in Costa Rica strings together a little more seamlessly than its Northern and Southern counterparts; what with their prominent seasonal changes and fluctuations in day-length. For example, I recently finished my 3-month internship at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica and instead of feeling like 90 days, chronologically played out, it felt more like one drawn out (and utterly enjoyable) day with some sunshine here, some rain there, 12 hours of day, and 12 hours of night. Sure, both the 6+ earthquakes and one violent tropical storm act as distinguishing points in time, but even their beginnings and endings fade into the larger scheme of things. In that sense, it’s always a good time for reflection to consider what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve changed, so that it too doesn’t blend into the illusion of time here. Perhaps a cob oven was built, a certification pursued, a tea garden planted, or labourous farm work accomplished – and maybe some serious fun was had throughout, not to mention all of the friends made and lives changed? That kind of stuff happens in an environment like the one at Finca Luna Nueva.

 


I would also like to gently consider the lunar significance behind the name: Finca Luna Nueva or New Moon Farm. What causes the New Moon anyways and what is to be found within this lunar event? Is it not the time when the moon roughly aligns between the Earth and Sun, basking in the light, not to be seen, but there nonetheless? And is this not a beautiful reminder for us to embrace the light, align with Nature, and see things…aNew? What, if anything, does this have to do with Finca Luna Nueva anyways? It is after all, a Demeter certified Biodynamic farm and Biodynamics not only offers tools for us to heal Mother Gaia, like lunar gardening, but insightful tools to heal ourselves. It is a recipe for positive change. New Moon Farm in this sense can been seen as a place of healing, and lest we forget the Sacred Seed Sanctuary and slow food movement so central to the earnest and genuine character of this farm.

So many things to consider within this blurry frame of time…

 

Another unique characteristic of this farm is its role as a jungle window. There’s good reason that plants and animals flourish in this farm and that’s because instead of closing itself off from the surrounding jungle, Finca Luna Nueva has encouraged indigenous growth and safe passage for birds, butterflies, monkeys, reptiles, arachnids, and even bacteria and fungi. It’s a like a small window in the jungle, lightly manicured, but raw enough to keep things real! There really is a special energy about this place that encourages expansion and connection.

 


Anyways, these are just some of my passing thoughts as I move on from this adventure to the next one, which has me back in Taiwan at the Tea Sage Hut. It really was a blessing of an opportunity to work in such an environment as the one embodied at Finca Luna Nueva. In particular, I was able to embark  down the very uncharted path of tea and biodynamics in Central America, a path I pursued with rapt enthusiasm.  Whether writing poetry on the subject, drawing pictures, pruning, weeding, planting, taking notes, making observations, or doing computer research, I was having the time of my life.  All the while becoming more intimate with the plant I’ve so dearly come to love, Camellia Sinensis. As a result, there is a new place for Tea at FLN, possibly even a new tradition, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

Thank You Finca Luna Nueva and everyone involved! That was a wild and spectacular 3 months.

Pura Vida!

 

TLC

Planting a Biodynamic Tea Garden

 

As an intern at Finca Luna Nueva, one of my projects is to install a new tea garden next to the yoga pavilion. The intention is many fold; we want to increase our tea production to run workshops and tours in the future and to sell tea at the gift shop here at Finca Luna Nueva; another intern is researching the certification and retail aspects of this future product; and we also want our guests attention, while practicing meditation or yoga in the pavilion, to be drawn along the flowing tea rows into the surrounding rainforest. Of course, we also want this garden to be practical and aesthetic, which is why the rows are planted on the contour for ease of harvest and maintenance.

 

This garden will also receive byodynamic compost preparations, and follow a sustainable harvesting and pruning routine following the biodynamic calendar. Each plant and row has been provided plenty of space for long-term development of roots and crowns, not the mention the zig-zag walkway installed to prevent erosion of the land. These tea babies have been seed propagated from a mother tree standing 40 feet tall, planted back in 99′, meaning they have genetic diversity and strong tap roots.
The bed has been officially installed as of yesterday (Sept 18th). It only took two days to plant 145 tea plants, and while some minor landscaping still needs to be done, the bed is in its nascent beginnings. Properly maintained and cared for, it should be harvestable in 3 – 5 years.

 

I’m actually already working on the next garden, which is quite different from the first one. No flowing contour rows this time, but I’ll save that for another blog update. I’m kept quite busy at la finca these days, trying to finish up the cob-oven project (which I’ll blog about in more detail later as well), designing and installing more tea beds, propagating tea, doing lots of Biodynamic research, tending to guests, making chocolate, hiking to volcano craters, and mapping out the logistics for my tea workshop in October, drawing tea pictures and writing agriculture poetry, among other enjoyable activities.

 

Pura Vida

 

 

TLC

Biodynamic Tea (Camellia Sinensis)

This 40+ foot tall tea tree is biodynamically grown and used as a mother to propagate by seed

 

In my last entry, I documented the process of making biodynamic black (red) tea here at Finca Luna Nueva, but what makes it Biodynamic?  First, let me lend you these summaries of Biodynamics to become better acquainted with the practice and philosophy:

 

“The Bio-dynamic Farming and Gardening Method has grown and developed, since 1922, on a foundation of advice and instruction given by the late Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher known for his world-view called Anthroposophy (wisdom of man).
The name ‘Bio-dynamic’ refers to a ‘working with the energies which create and maintain life.’ The term derives from two Greek words ‘bios’ (life) and ‘dynamis’ (energy).”

— BIO-DYNAMICS :- A Short, Practical Introduction

 

“Biodynamic agriculture is a method of farming that aims to treat the farm as a living system which integrates with the environment, to build healthy, living soil and to prouduce food that nourishes and vitalizes and helps to develop mankind. The underlying principle of biodynamics is making lifegiving compost out of dead organic material. The methods are derived from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and subsequent practitioners.”

— Grasp the Nettle

 

“Bio-dynamics, though not disparaging of common sense, is concerned essentially with consciousness-expansion in regard to plants, animals and soil. The attempt is made to look into the deeper spirit of nature. Out of this deeper awareness, based on exquisite observation of nature, the approach calls for not letting things run their natural course, but for intensifying certain natural processes (creating optimal animal populations, making special compost preparations, planting selected companion plants at certain cosmic constellations), aiding nature where she is weak after so many centuries of abuse, short-cutting destructive processes, and instead using human intelligence, kindness and good will to foster positive developments.”

— Culture and Horticulture – a philosophy of gardening

 

Biodynamics is also a certifiable farming practice (Demeter), which is a broader certification than organics, so if you are biodynamic certified, you are organic by default, but the converse is not true, however.

 

So in one sense, the tea plants here are receiving biodynamic preparations through composting and spray applications, in another sense, we tend to them based on certain lunar cycles and relationships between the moon, sun, planets, and zodiac constellations, and in another sense still, these plants are also subject to the energies and good will generated by the stewards of the land: the farmers dedicated to healing our earth, growing healthy, living, fertile soil, ready to nourish us now and for many generations to come. In a nut-shell, that’s why our tea is biodynamic here at Finca Luna Nueva. It’s also very rare in the sense that this tea is grown sustainably from seed propagated trees whose roots tap deep into the the soil, drawing on the riches of this Rich Coast (Costa Rica). This tea has a living quality about it, a cultivated high vibration; qualities derived from farming practices that go back to the way tea was traditionally raised and revered well before Biodynamics was even defined — and that’s the beauty of Biodynamics; because like any spiritual tradition, it’s a bringing back, a returning, a revitalizing…

 

Biodynamic compost undulating with life and death – and mycellium! It really is like a living organism

 

 

TLC

Biodynamic Organic Black Tea

 

In preparation for our Black Tea workshop** in October, we made Finca Luna Nueva’s first Biodynamic Organic Black Tea last week. (It should really be called a Red tea, but for the sake of simplicity and parlance, we’ll refer to it as Black Tea)

This harvest gave me a chance to put all of my previously learned tea knowledge to the test. Reflecting back on my experiences in Hawaii and Taiwan working on tea farms and in tea factories, and simply listening to the tea plants — as is so important to Biodynamics and the Way of Tea — I put together a simple processing method including indoor withering, hand rolling, de-enzyming, and drying.

When working with such high quality and high vibrational raw material, it’s tough to go wrong. These plants have been propagated from seeds that stem from tea trees ranging between 20 – 40 ft tall here at Finca Luna Nueva. Their root systems tap deep into the riches of the soil, drawing on nutrients and energy not available to younger tea evergreens. Those deep-rooted resources, combined with the intention and benefit received from biodynamic practices, lay the foundation for a materially and spiritually rich tea garden. Que Rico.

We harvested the tea on a mid-afternoon Fruit day during the ascending and waxing phase of the moon according to Stella Natura’s Biodynamic Calendar – 2012. If you’re not following this – don’t worry! We’re just experimenting with lunar cycles and zodiac relationships that will hopefully bear bountiful, healthy, well-keeping harvests.

The tea essentially went through a 19 hour indoor withering period in a room with good circulation, followed by an hour and half of hand rolling to shape, bruise, and coat the leaves with their own juices. Oxidation ensued for three hours. Fixation in an oven brought oxidation to halt, and the tea was dehydrated into a stable state. Considering the climate here, and as I learn more about Biodynamics and the Leaf, I will definitely tweak some small steps in the process, but all in all, we were very pleased with the final product.

Of course, I will almost remember the first infusion: once crisp leaves infusing audibly without, anticipation behind a mask of patience, humid air breathing in and out, aroma developing, profound colouring – earthen orange clay – a moment paying homage, rising to the altar of my lips, steam waving in the immediate environment, smiling satisfaction, what riches…

 

**At the workshop, guests will be able to process their own black tea, learn about cupping vs tasting, become more intimate and personal with Camellia Sinensis, walk the biodynamic tea gardens, and be served in ceremony.

 

TLC

Interning at Finca Luna Nueva: Day 10

I’m lounging up in a tower right now, some 60 feet high, well above the surrounding jungle canopy at Finca Luna Nueva, a sustainable rainforest eco-tour lodge and organic, biodynamic farm. Volcano Arenal lies to the West, dense jungle to the North, rainbows and lavender sunsets to the East, and the lounge area and pool to the South :) Cicada’s rattle, countless birds call, thunder shreds the skies, and the rhythm of the jungle breathes on in concert. Not a bad panoramic.

 

East facing rainbow from the tower

I’m one of the new interns at Finca Luna Nueva. This farm and eco-lodge offers 3-month internships where young adults can experience life on a biodynamic organic farm within a sustainable rainforest eco-lodge — it’s a good life. The internship program can be focused in areas such as biodynamics, farm work, construction, culinary, and even business. From what I understand, most interns have a hand in at least a few of these areas, blending the experiences together.

 

As for myself, I’ll be focusing on all tea-related aspects of the farm, from planting, harvesting, and processing, to pruning, propagating, and serving in casual ceremony. In just my first 10 days here, I’m already designing a new tea garden to be installed, spraying biodynamic preps on the existing tea garden, I’ve set date for a black-tea workshop in October that I’ll be conducting, and I recently had a skype conversation with my good tea friends in Hawaii which will help me to implement a sustainable harvesting and pruning schedule that lines up with the biodynamic calendar. And that’s not even accounting for all the time I enjoyed putting into the cob-oven project that intern, Kyle, has been spearheading for the last month (which still requires a few weeks of satisfying work).

 

Of course, it’s strange to call this “work” considering were given the opportunity to do something we really want to be doing, in returns for food and shelter. There hasn’t been a day when I felt like I was going to work, in the typical sense of the word. Not only will I do this work completely free of charge, but I’ll gladly do it with a smile on my face giving as much gratititude as I can for being given this opportunity to do what I love. Work-trading/WWOOFing should always at least be mutually beneficial but ideally should end in great friendship. The trick isn’t so much finding what it is you love to do, but cultivating the ability to choose to love whatever it is you find yourself doing. Whether I’m working with tea, or working on a cob-oven, it’s more so a choice to love doing it rather than doing it to see if you love it. In that sense, it’s going to be easy to enjoy any project here at la finca, which also has a lot do with the farm itself; all of the projects are a reflection of the sustainable, organic, eco-friendly, and caring nature of the farm.

 

I’ve traveled to a lot of places now, and had a lot of different work-trade experiences – all of which I’ve loved and learned volumes from — and already I can tell that this internship at Finca Luna Nueva is going to be a very notable experience. As far as internships go, I can’t think of a more conducive environment to learn and thrive in; one without micromanagement, one with an emphasis on self-directed projects, one with easily available resources for a wide variety of jobs, one within the realm of Nature, one with great food and caring staff, one that sets you up within a framework of success and allows for flexibility of content. The list could go on.

 
I still have a lot to cover, from the amazing tea garden that already exists here, to the cob-oven project in more detail, and a day in the life of an intern. But I’ll save those for future posts. For now, I might go enjoy the sunset again and take a dip in the pool before dinner…

 

Can you see Volcano Arenal?

Pura Vida

TLC

Finca Luna Nueva

My travels, adventures, and pursuit and personal development continue, this time at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica: a sustainable rainforest Eco-Lodge with a certified Organic Biodynamic farm. The farm, as part of the slow food movement, attempts to grow as much of their food for staff and guests as possible. They grow an array of fruits and vegetables, raise some animals, make their own chocolate, pepper, coffee, tea, and also grow turmeric and ginger, among many other things. The farm and eco-lodge are host to a number of other opportunities and activities that can all be found on  their website by clicking the link above.

I’ll be taking part in a 3-month farming internship. I plan to learn all about growing food, raising animals, medicinal plants, the world of Biodynamics, organics, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I will also continue my own self-directed study of Permaculture design, Natural Farming, and Biointensive Farming as a complement to this internship program. To add to that, I hope to help manage all areas pertaining to tea on the farm, from planting, propagating, and harvesting, to pruning, processing, and serving.

I’m really excited to return to Costa Rica, which is where my farming adventures all began well over a year ago. Not only do I get to learn even more about sustainable farming practices and lifestyles, but I get to work with Camellia Sinensis and continue acting as  a student of the Leaf (all of which will prove syncronistically practical for my adventures post-Costa Rica, but that’s for another post well into the future). Anyway, I’ll be updating my blog regularly about live on la finca. My internship doesn’t start until next week, but look forward to some exciting new posts.

TLC