My tea story / Part I

Thanks for your interest in my personal tea story. If you simply want to get an overview of what “The Silence in Tea” is about, then go to the ->About this site section. If you want to learn a little bit about how I turned by 180 degrees and lost my soul to tea, then keep on reading.

So how did I turn into this tea maniac that I am now, who is hardly able to spend one single day without drinking at least one liter of this beverage? Is it an addiction? I would not necessary say so. I have had days in which I did not drink tea, mostly this happens while travelling. On those days it was not like that, that I would suffer, be grumpy or anything like that. But I was missing a bit of life quality. A bit of tea time, that would help me reflect on things. That little bit of – silence.

Brandenburg-gate
Brandenburg Gate Berlin

Funny enough, my whole tea story started not too long ago actually. If I am not mistaken, then it was in the year 2010 in Spring in Berlin. I am from Berlin originally and back then was working for a fairly big company that focussed on mobile content. Things could get quite stressful there, still I enjoyed it and learned a lot. And besides the things I learned, the people I was working together with made the whole Morten/Company relationship quite worthwile.

Believe it or not, but back then I was a coffee drinker.  And one of the bad kind I would even say. What defines a bad coffee drinker you wonder? Well, in my dictionary a bad coffee drinker is someone, who just throws that black stuff down his throat, then takes a look at his watch and counts the minutes the black juice gets the brain working. I would literally enter the office, walk straight to the kitchen, pour that muddy stuff into a cup, zombie-walk to my desk, boot the laptop and meanwhile slurp on my cup. I did not add anything to it, no milk, no sugar, no nothing. The coffee tasted disgusting and I did not like drinking it actually. But it was needed to get me going, as sad as this might sound. It was certainly no love affair I had with that beverage, it all came down to the basic needs and those had to be fulfilled quick and dirty. I had a similar affair with cigarettes a couple of years before and once we broke up, I was a free man and started feeling happy again.

Coming back to tea now, I had no interest whatsoever into it. Tea was definitely not an option to replace my “happy day and good morning black soup”. It just did not do it. And basically all tea tastes the same and in the end like water,  with some odd flavour in it. Tea was boring. It was kinda a trapped situation back then. But I also have to say that I had no intention in getting this daily habit changed, even though I was not happy with it. Actually not being happy with it was not something that came into my mind back then either, it was just the way that it was and no need to question it.

Now that you know this background of mine in regards to tea, the next development puts everything into perspective that it was quite a miracle that I eventually discovered tea and became a tea nerd.

Back in Spring 2010 then, I was asked by some instance if I would like to participate in a tea seminar. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me and I can not really recall why I actually said “Yes” to this offer. When I am trying to remember my motivation for joining, then it could be that I was expecting to learn a little bit more about green tea. I had never really tried it before and was connecting a certain kind of mystique with it. What I heard was, that its a very old beverage and the Asians have been drinking it for centuries. It could be that this little thing of non-understanding the relevance or meaning of green tea, that drove me to participate into this tea seminar.

The tea seminar was held in the tea boutique of the owner in Berlin-Mitte, which was close to the famous Berlin TV tower.

Teeladen Berlin
Tea Shop (hosting the seminar)

While entering the shop I noticed the high ceilings, the old interieur of the place, the many old tea pots and tea cups taking half the space of the boutique and it looked like a complete mess, but if you looked more carefully you would see that they were arranged in a system. The owner was waiting behind the counter and right behind her were shelves and more shelves all carrying containers of different teas and I don’t have to mention the smell consisting out of numerous flavors that was capturing the whole attention of your smelling organ.

I waited for a little while until the rest of the participants arrived and then we all got started. Christine the owner of the shop introduced herself and explained to us, what we will be doing in the next two hours. We will be making a tea tour across the globe and try different teas from multiple countries and will learn about their individual tea cultures.

Despite the first interesting impression of the store, nothing had really excited me at that point, but certainly I was interested in what was about to follow.

We started with English/Indian tradition. Therefore we got to try a black tea from Darjeeling/India and had those served in nice white English porcelain cups. And that was pretty much how I expected tea to be served. A typical tea party, in which you stretch away your little pinky while sipping on the expensive teaware.  Urgh. We learned a bit about the different qualities of harvests in Darjeeling and how a first flush tastes a lot different than a second flush for example. Booooring! I did not make much out of the taste either.

But then suddenly it got interesting. We were moving to Asian teas and tea cultures. Christine then presented us with tea ware and tea instruments I had not seen before. It was tiny little cups and next to them cups were arranged that had more of a lengthy shape, like little towers made out of porcelain. We were told those were “smelling cups”, which are used to test the fragrance of the freshly infused tea. By now we arrived in Taiwan on our global tea journey and were about to try a “Milky Oolong” tea. I was captured by the way Christine was preparing this tea for us. She boiled the water, then cleaned all of those little drinking components with hot water, while holding them up with wooden tweezers. The tea pot she was using looked ancient and you would think that this old Confucian dude must have used something similar in his time. With care she placed the twisted tea leaves of the Oolong into the pot, poured water over it and let it react together.

We were told this “Milky Oolong” comes just as black tea from the same plant, only the way of processing the tea leaves differs between both of them. There are no other additives to the tea, its just the leaves.She advised us to pay close attention to the smell and eventually to the taste of it. What followed then, was my personal revelation to tea. First I used the smelling device and inhaled the fragrance of the tea. Wow, it was actually smelling milky, almost like a latte machiato coffee. And there was much more, a certain freshness and sweetness that I could not put into words. After that followed the tasting of the tea and the creaminess, softness, the delicate sweet taste of it in addition to that overwhelming fragrance, simply blew my mind away. To me that was not just water with some light taste of tea in it, this was a revolution to my senses. I could not believe that this beverage was created only with hot water and those tea leaves, who were added to it. There was so much I experienced, that I had to readjust my thinking and judging of tea. And it was not just the taste and smell, it was the whole thing that came together. The preparation, the tools, the tea ware, the funny shape of the leaves, the steaming water, which gave it all a mystical misty atmosphere. It was simply great and it did something to me.

This certainly was the highlight of the tea seminar and kind of worked as my personal eye opener to tea. But what followed, now that Christine had my attention, was not less fascinating. We arrived at Chinese and Japanese tea and finally came to my possible first original slight interest in tea, the Asian green tea. While I can not completely recall the Chinese green tea we tried, I remember very clearly the Japanese one we were offered for drinking. Because then some new tools came into play and interestingly the whole structure of the tea was completely different. We were now dealing with “powdered” tea with a very, almost poisonous looking, green color. Christine presented us with a wooden whisk, in Japanese called “Chasen”, with which she was mixing the “matcha”, this is the proper name of the “powder” tea, with hot water. It was looking very traditional in its way.

karate-kid2
KARATE KID!

And while writing this, I think I can remember, where my personal initial interest in green tea had its roots. It was simply TV, as I used to be (*clearing my throat* and still am) a big Karate Kid fan. In that movie, particularly in part II, Daniel-San and his supersweet Japanese GF are celebrating a tea ceremony. And they were using exactly that kind of tea powder and the “Chasen” we were presented with in the tea shop. The movie and this highly mystical flute tune accompanying the tea ceremony in Karate Kid must have left a big mark in my brain and seeded a general interest in Japanese green tea.

Check out the video scene of this great movie trilogy right ->HERE

Now I was witnessing this tea preparation in action again and was following it closely. While the taste of it was not completely to my liking, the tea tasted quite thick and bitter, my interest was once more pushed to get started with learning more about this stuff. There was a certain slowness, mindfulness and simply so much tradition involved in preparing the tea, which just made me want to 1) watch Karate Kid again and 2) try this out by myself.

Quicker than originally expected the two hours were over and my brain was just hammered from all that information and all those experiences I had been confronted with.  In those two hours I definitely changed.

So this was my original tea revelation. Hope you enjoyed reading it.

But actually this was just the start that got the ball rolling for me with tea If you are interested how things developed after that, then read the second part of my tea story ->My tea story P2. As with all things in life the development was similar to a rollercoaster ride. Thanks for reading :-)

1 comment on “My tea story / Part IAdd yours →

  1. i was drinking tea (mostly earl grey) for 40 years. then i met a person, who teached me, that i never drank tea the right way. now i’m into pu’erh, longjing and white tea.

    greetings from the garage

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