Tea and the Drawing Lesson

Starting with the basics can be a great approach in many things. You crawl before you can walk. You ride your bicycle with training wheels and eventually those wheels come off. You learn the simpler dance steps before you go for the fancy ones. And so on.

This approach is the one I’ve taken when both doing and teaching drawing. A pencil, a sheet of paper, and of course a BIG eraser! Oh, and a sharpener. Time to draw. Hm… uh… gee… well, it sorta looks like a tree. Time to take a step back to the basics.

Tea inspires the artist within!
Tea inspires the artist within!

Years ago when I taught Beginning Drawing adult education classes for a couple of years my approach was simple: look for the basic shape in the object you want to draw and start there. A candle is basically a cylinder. An orange is a sphere/ball. A book is a rectangular box. And so on. Draw that basic shape very lightly with your pencil (don’t worry about being too exact since you’ll be modifying it) and then add the details that make that cylinder a candle or that ball an orange, etc. Invariably, the students in my drawing classes would tell me when the class had completed that they saw objects around them in a new way. The next step was to tackle things like flowers and trees that had these basic shapes but in a more complex and yet subtle way.

The same approach can work with teas. Start with the basics: green, black, white, and oolong all from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) and its varietals. Take it to the next level: Chinese green teas, Japanese green teas, Indian or Ceylon or Kenyan or Chinese black teas, etc. Then, you can add in flushes and gardens and blends. It’s like adding in those drawing details and shading, getting more precise, detailed, and nuanced as you progress. If you have the desire and the will, you can keep going, working further into the details and nuances of tea, trying not only different ones but different methods and implements for preparing them.

This approach can also work for tasting tea. Start by learning what flavors are usual for which teas. Grassiness, maltiness, fruitiness, haylike, smoky, and so on — each flavor type is generally associated with a type of tea.

Tea preparation is another area to start with the basics. Teapots, gaiwans, kyusus, steeping mugs, or even your teacup are used to steep. But be sure you know how hot to heat the water, how long to let the leaves steep, whether you can get a decent second infusion or not, and how to store the dry tea. It can seem daunting, but do what hubby and I do when learning something new or when faced with a big task: baby steps! Learn to crawl before you walk. Learn to draw a decent circle before you try to draw that orange or other ball-shaped object. And learn what tea is and how to fix a cup of basic black or green before diving into the details of tea.

Happy steeping!

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