To truly enjoy a great cup of tea, we should be there with the tea--not off thinking about the past or the future... even what we will say about the tea. - Master Ling Ping Xiang*
(*fantastic quote pilfered from Cloud Mountain Tea's Steepster profile page)
I've been thinking a lot about this whole blogging-about-tea matter. What's said in the quote above is something that's occurred to me often. What am I doing sitting here writing about tea? I'm no tea master. My experience with tea is a little drop in a bucket compared to many, particularly many who write blogs like this. Not only is my experience with tea very minor, my skill at brewing it is just as "beginner." I can in no way speak with authority about tea except to speak to my own experience and learning. Which is why I started this blog, at all. As a way to deepen my experience and learning about tea. As with anything, mastery only comes with a tremendous amount of practice, experience and mindfulness to moments. So my writing about tea here is just that -- a way to facilitate my own awareness and mindfulness to the moment, and to the whole wide experience of drinking tea.
I should also note it's not my intention to "recommend" teas. While there might be a few I'd challenge anyone not to be impressed with, for the most part it's all so very subjective. Even my own taste preference from one session to the next with the exact same tea is known to change. I should probably also confess (if you haven't figured this out already), I'm prone to passionate swings toward the grand and profound. That's just how I am, and I confess I rather prefer it this way, even though my non-dual and Zen teachers constantly warn against such extremes. But I'm far too enamored with Life to sit back striving to quietly observe and appreciate. I actually welcome the sometimes painful lessons borne of getting carried away.
Life in Teacup blog. This one is titled "Prairie Hay teacup," though I notice Petr didn't sign the bottom of this one making me wonder if its a particularly early piece. A rough red earthenware clay body with a beautiful glaze of cream and rusty oranges. I love the drips around the edge and the mottling of the interior. I'd also love to know more about this glaze. The thought of preparing recipes of minerals and chemicals, applying these to pots, and then the resulting transformations with the right application of intense heat... well, that's yet another matter that sends me off into fits of passionate enthusiasm :)
What to say about this tea? I'm almost afraid to start because it was one of the most nuanced and constantly changing teas I've had to date. To tell you the initial aroma was "very nutty" (which is was) is like describing a sunset as "pink." Sunsets are so much more than pink. There's the constant change and mutation of colors running the full gamut of 'pink,' not to mention the important factor of time, each moment different from the next in ways that are impossible to enumerate. "Pink" doesn't even begin to describe, let alone describe at all... *sigh* But I'll try and do my best...
I must say I like the shape of Petr's tea bowl. This is my first time drinking out of cup of this shape, wide and open like this. I like how it presents the tea to my lips and fills my visual field as I sip. I also like how it requires two hands to hold it up, reminiscent of an offering. The mottled inner glaze of creams and oranges perfectly complements the color of the tea, as well. Very nice.
Second infusion, 10 seconds -- the aroma wakes up now with sweet plummy fruits, again articulating itself with a (dare I say?) wise presence before lingering off with hints of floral. I actually like how this tea is not so full of talk. It offers what it has in the moment, speaking with impressive eloquence and then quieting down to a soft whisper. Come to think of it, I like people who speak this way, too. They seem to know something I wish I knew as well. There's a fruitiness in the flavor now and a lovely hui gan is filling my mouth and throat and returning on my breath, filling my head and sinuses with a floral quality that includes plum around the edges.
Third infusion, 10 seconds again -- the aroma is so complex and ever changing. I can't pin it down to any one thing. Moment to moment, each is different, a character all its own. Still, my notes on this tea show my effort -- woods initially, plenty of fruit but not acidic.. more soft and almost flowery, some sugar notes show up here and there. Ghostly shadows of camphor at the edge now and then. A very nuanced tea. The taste is delicious, as well. Clean, woody, fresh. This is truly an introspective tea (my favorite kind). I'm loving the plummy floral return that's filling my head and carrying on my breath. There's a nice qi with this one, as well. Not too overpowering, but mellow and calming. This tea feels like it has some wisdom to it and the qi almost seems to impart that to me physically.
Fourth infusion, another 10 seconds. I'm surprised at how I'm led to keep the infusions short, and could probably even go shorter. Clearly a powerful tea for what it offers. It was about at this point that I gave up searching for descriptors and decided to just sit back and open to what was there. My words and categorizations were only muddying things, it seemed. Suffice it to say this was a very beautiful tea, both in fragrance, taste and qi, with a character all its own. A long lasting and beautiful hui gan, and a long lasting tea that just kept giving and giving. I never did reach the end of what it had to offer. I finally had to get on with my day.
Examining the spent leaves showed plenty of strength and vigor to them. Lots of large whole leaves, all of them strong with good spines. I am blessed for having had this tea today. Mudkip agrees, lying back in my little morning of bliss and giving her full approval next to the sample bag :)