I recently gave a presentation on “Chinese Tea Culture” at the Narberth Public Library. See here for coverage by the local patch.com affiliate! And hey, look at the comments–somebody else wants me to do another presentation. Thanks, Mom!
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Here are some excerpts from “Tea Life, Tea Mind,” written by Soshitsu Sen XV, “Hounsai,” the previous iemoto of Urasenke.
“In the time of Buddha, a man was walking deep in the mountains in search of a place where he could discipline himself to understand his spirit. While searching he chanced to meet one of Buddha’s disciples. “Sir, from where do you come?” he asked. “The disciple answered directly, “I’ve come from my place of practice.” Thinking that this man knew of the very place for which he had been searching, he asked the disciple, “Sir, I am looking for that same place. Please take me there.” The disciple answered, “The place of practice lies in the pure and honest spirit where there is no false vanity.” Startled, the man saw that a place of practice and discipline is not only seen with the eyes. The place of practice is the spirit.
* * *
How do you keep from burning yourself as you begin practicing gongfu tea? Good gear helps, like a thin porcelain gaiwan with a sizable rim, but direct contact with hot water and steam is unavoidable. I imagine most tea masters would say, “Make more tea.”
A majority of guitar players would give you the same “suck it up, baby” attitude, but there are still enough on the internet who offer helpful tips for toughening your fingers.
In 1998, his book, “The True History of Tea,” co-written with Erling Hoh, was a month from completion when he learned of a shipwreck being excavated in the Java Sea. What’s known as the “Belitung wreck,” named for the nearby Indonesian island, turned out to be the most important archaeological discovery in southeast Asia: a ninth-century Arab trading vessel loaded with Chinese export porcelain. And one of these bowls bore this inscription: 荼盞子.
“Tea-bowl (thingy).” It was the capstone of his research.
In case you hadn’t heard, I’ve been promoted from “Tea Monkey” to “Manager” at the Random Tea Room. We’re a single-barista shop, so this involves more operational rather than supervisory responsibilities. As you can see, I’m currently implementing our “Friendly Faces” customer service initiative.
The second “Philadelphia Tea Institute” book club is underway: Victor Mair’s “The True History of Tea.” I’ll have a review in a few weeks, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a study aid I’ve been working on: “The True History of Tea” Atlas!
I welcome comments if you have corrections, but please keep in mind that places you don’t see on the map may be added later, or else aren’t mentioned in “The True History of Tea.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out how I’m going to serve Hunan Baishaxi tonight in Tibetan fashion, without any yak butter.
We’ve just finished our first “tea book club”: eight of us spent eight weeks reading François-Xavier Delmas‘s “The Tea Drinker’s Handbook.” This book is produced by the French tea company Le Palais des Thés, and is the English version of “Le Guide de Dégustation de l’Amateur de Thé.” (Is that “How to Taste Tea Amateurs”? I much prefer the English title.) The course was a runaway success, and there’s lots of excitement about what’s next for the “Philadelphia Tea Institute.” I would note that the intense study is what kept me from blogging for two months, but all my blog’s readers were probably in the class with me. My impressions of the book follow.