01 February 2009

The essential Dao of Tea

I arrived in Hong Kong after spending a month in Taiwan learning about tea from the producers, master roasters, reputable shopkeepers, tea professors and the such.  I went there with a sound foundation of tea knowledge, and I left with the new belief that good tea is not complicated.  Maybe Mr. Lin has the best puerh around, but if you don't like it, then "best" doesn't really mean much to you, does it?

                 cilin (kirin) lake 10 Dong Ding Mountain

I was humbled by one of my teachers, who asked me when I first met him, "What are you going to do with all of the tea knowledge that you're seeking and why?"  After I gave my answer, he chuckled and said that unless I intended to be a farmer or a shopkeeper in Taipei, I shouldn't waste my youth, energy or time on learning more about tea than I already knew.  He said that I should find shopkeepers of good reputation that carried good products, and it would be infinitely more time-efficient for me to maintain a good relationship with these people and buy from them.

My intention, though, wasn't to try to find cheap sources of good tea, but to understand what makes tea good in the first place.  After spending a length of time with this teacher, I touched upon the zen-like principle that good tea just is, and then it's fleeting.  If you can remember your favorite cup of brew that you've ever had, you may have a bittersweet moment in which you recall its beauty, but also know that you will never have another cup exactly like the one you tasted.  If you can find the exact same tea, it may still be good, but in a different way.

I oftentimes think of one of Bruce Lee's memorable quotes when I try to settle disputes in my mind of what is "good" or "better." He said:

For in the landscape of Spring there is neither better nor worse? The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short

     Dong Ding teas A fine brew of oolong tea

I started this blog with the intention of disseminating the knowledge I have about tea as well as sharing my tea stories.  As a tribute to my teachers, I continue to write with the hope that learning - both as a personal journey to find a good brew and an exploration into the cultivation of oneself - will continue and progress, and that as long as there is passion for the brew, the efforts of the good people that work to make it will continue.

Drink good tea and enrich your life.

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