The saying goes that experience is the best teacher. Certainly true when it comes to learning about life. And certainly true for learning about tea. But did you know that you can learn about life through tea? It’s true — honest!
One thing’s for sure: you can’t learn about life (or tea!) through the movies. If you could, you’d think that the Wild West really was just a lot of gunslingers engaging in shootouts at high noon at the OK corral, that every industrialist was total scum and thought only of their profits or were unscrupulous stockbrokers who thought the world was a “zero sum game,” and that men who are a bit less than Adonis-shaped can get a beautiful woman to see past the exterior into his heart every time.
You’d also think that tea was some dust in a bag with a string and tag that you dunked into a mug presumably full of hot water, and then you sipped on the liquid (with the bag still in it continuing to steep and making the tea totally bitter) while bemoaning your existence or expecting the tea to make your bad head cold or hangover magically disappear.
In reality, tea teaches the reward of patience, the joy of paying attention to your senses, the increased level of enjoyment through more knowledge, the respect for history, and much more.
Patience comes in the tea gardens and from the preparation. The growers must wait through the Winter when the tea bushes slumber in the cold, then keep watch over the tender shoots that burst forth in the warmer temps of Spring and Summer to turn the tea gardens into a bright green hue, then for the flush (the new growth) to be ready for harvest. The tea drinkers must wait for the tea leaves to be processed, packed, and shipped to them; once arrived, they must wait for the water to absorb the heat that starts the molecules in their dance, and then the tea leaves to dance with that water as they steep.
Your growing appreciation of how the tea interacts with your senses — the aroma of the dry tea and the aroma, color, and flavor of the liquid — will awaken you to paying attention to other sensory input from other sources. Flowers will seem more colorful and fragrant. You’ll suddenly notice that the vase holding those flowers is basically cylindrical in shape, beautifully reflective of the light sources around it, yet oh so practical in that it doesn’t leak water.
As you gain knowledge of these teas and how best to prepare and enjoy them, your enjoyment will increase. You’ll find yourself gazing into your mug or cup and picturing those tea gardens, the tea factories, the long road that the processed teas travel, and all the people who make it possible through their hard work and expertise. The heavy smokiness of Lapsang Souchong will conjure images of pinewood fires drying the leaves. The jammy, malty aroma and flavor of a CTC Assam will transport you to the Assam area of India and make that flavor seem even richer. You’ll picture the tea workers carefully watching the leaves achieve just the right level of oxidation to produce the right type of Oolong and then imagine them stopping that process, just as the cheese-maker stops the aging process that makes Brie creamy, not runny, that makes Cheddar sharp, not acrid, and makes Bleu crumbly, not gunky. Your mind will journey around the globe, with mental images of teas being enjoyed by young and old everywhere.
In short, you’ll start seeing life in a whole new way. You will start paying more attention to your senses, have a craving for more knowledge about even the simple things in your day-to-day existence, and a strong urge to share what you learn with others.
I know I’m hooked!
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