23 March 2009

On Humilitea

Although he's not officially one of my teachers, I think the world of Mr. Zhou and have learned a lot from him.  He is one of the most celebrated tea masters in Taiwan - if not the world - and his contributions to the art and study of Taiwanese oolong in particular cannot be overstated.

On one of our first meetings together, I brought him an old Tieguanyin that my teacher had given me.  As we tasted the brew together, he remarked to me that the tea was a moderate roast and hadn't been roasted in a while, to which I replied that my teacher had roasted it only a couple of years back.  Mr. Zhou accepted my explanation as fact and corrected himself, sincerely praising my teacher's skill in the process.  By that one, seemingly simple action, I was deeply impressed by his humility.  Many other so-called masters have vehemently argued with me over my statements of either opinion or fact, causing me to walk away from such experiences with an unsatisfying sense of disappointment. 

I travel across the world in search of my next fine brew and meet all sorts of interesting tea people.  Rare is the master that is so secure in his standing, with such a solid understanding of Cha Dao, that he need not find fault in others to give himself confidence in his own abilities.  From Mr. Zhou, I have been deeply ingrained with the idea that a true tea master isn't just one who has made tea for generations, has some sort of certification with that title, or can quote all of the relevant tea facts.  A true tea master can transcend the tangible aspects of the tea and touch upon how the brew connects to each of us on a personal level. 

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