When people hear the word “research” they might initially think of scientific experiments and test tubes, or of historians buried in archives, leafing through old documents and photographs. But “research” can also refer to the process of learning through doing. This mode of exploration, often called experiential research, is something that applies to my work of learning, creating, and performing dance, but I’ve also found it to be very relevant to that other pursuit in my life—tea.
Just like dance, tea drinking is an activity where the line between research and practice blurs. You learn through doing, which in this case means drinking tea! Consider the following examples:
Imagine seeing a green tea you’ve never heard of listed in a tea shop, or having it recommended by a friend. You might do some investigation to see what type of green tea it is (Chinese or Japanese?), or what other tea drinkers have to say about it (nutty undertone or floral overtone? mild or robust?). You might even do a quick keyword search on this blog to see if there have been any articles that mention it! However, ultimately the only way you can really learn about it is to drink it. Order it in a tea café, or better yet buy some to make at home. Then you can experiment with strength, amount of tea leaves, or different teawares to see how that changes the brew; research becomes practice.
Exploring the different ways to make the tea will, in turn, lead you onto new ideas and opinions about tea. Perhaps you thought your preferred green tea brewed strongly, but with this tea you’ve discovered otherwise. Perhaps trying this tea has given you a great idea for a food and tea pairing that wouldn’t work as well with other green teas you are familiar with. Here, you learn more about the tea through doing; practice becomes research.
What I am getting at is that it is fun to treat your tea drinking experiences as opportunities to learn more about teas and your tea preferences by blurring the line between research and practice. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a cup of tea and do some experiential research!
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