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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tea Musings

“Tea, it’s water that has had leaves sitting in it.”

Now at first this caused a bit of anger because to me at least, tea is so much more than just some plant matter soaking in water. It is a tradition, a way of life, an endless journey, anything than just something as simple as throwing leaves into water.

Then it struck me, the simplicity of the statement, is none of my concern, and I could accept it simply saying well yes that is what it is, or I could delve into a spiritual, and even metaphysical definitions. So here I will muse about what tea means to me, which due to the very nature of what tea is, could be completely different next week if not tomorrow.

I cannot say I have ever had a great tea, which presents the problem of classifying what characterizes a great tea. Though I justify that any tea which is pleasing to you at that moment in time, either by a divine act you managed to brew it just right, or it was the perfect choice for your mood, as a wonderful tea. But I guess for it to be great, it would need to do that consistently every single time, which seems to think that a great tea has been independent of everything else, something any experienced tea drinker knows is completely backwards.


While I am still new to tea, as having been drinking loose leaf tea for four years now, and drinking it avidly (daily if not more often), for almost a year. There are some things I feel like I should say to those just starting out, learn to make good tea in a paper cup, with inexpensive tea and what ever you have sitting around. If you can do that then the rest is experiencing better and better tea. No piece of teaware will ever make your tea something magical, but if you can make acceptable tea in a paper cup, you can appreciate how it tastes coming from porcelain, be it young or old, and probably be able to tell the difference between them.

I speak from experience as my first yixings were horrible, after several months of use I still looked back at the tea I made in paper cups, saying “That was better than this.” Which should be a tell tale sign that the teaware was no where near as good, but sometimes it takes adjusting to the new methods. I burnt my thumb today using my gaiwan, something I haven't done since the very first week I had my gaiwan. But the tea that came from the gaiwan far better than anything I could make In a paper cup.

What I am trying to say is be comfortable with what you have and then expand your selection to fill a certain niche in what you want to do with tea. As with the paper cup you are making tea, but with a gaiwan and yixing, you are experiencing tea. And if the tea made from the experience is no good, why it won't be a pleasing experience at all, but if you can always make good tea, experiencing the good tea can be life changing.

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