Welcome to part 2 of my personal tea story. If you have missed out on the first part, then I would recommend to check out this page ->My tea story P1
…Now that I had my proper introduction to tea, it became sort of a hobby of mine. Always when I discover something new, then I tend to neglect all other things of interest to me and strictly focus on this “new big thing” of mine. And that’s just what I did. Shortly after the tea seminar I went back to the tea shop and told Christine how much I liked and enjoyed her course. Off course I also bought some tea, but can not quite remember which one it was. It could have been the milky Oolong I was so crazy about. What I also did, was to purchase my own first tea pot. Christine had countless tea pots standing around in her shop. And the funny thing about those was, that they all were in use before. Especially those tea pots, that are made out of clay have the general reputation of actually becoming better with each usage. Thats simply because clay is “the most alive material”, it breathes and actually “saves” a little bit of the tea flavor in its pores each time you prepare a tea in it. That is another one of these little tea mystiques, I just love hearing. Lovely to see how much value people associate with their individual tea ware.
In any way, I took my time and chose a very old, but still very elegant looking tea pot. At a later stage I will add in a picture into this post. It was all black, certainly made out of clay, very flat and wide actually with a handle that was very tall above the lid. The handle looked like a big arch connecting the front and the end of the tea pot with each other. At the bottom there was an ancient looking Chinese sign engraved into the clay. I was told by Christine, that I am supposed to prepare only one kind of tea in this tea pot. That meant either only green tea or black or oolong or one of the other tea types that exist. Why is that? It refers back to “living clay”. If I want the tea pot to absorb the flavor of the tea, it is better that I focus on one tea in particular. Otherwise the very different natures of the different teas I would infuse would mix up in the clay pores and would not lead to a monotonous desired flavor in the clay.
Actually there is a an old Chinese tea legend, which fits perfectly into this context of the clay tea pot culture. You can see the video ->here
So what this shows to us, is that the value of a clay tea pot (in China they are called “Yixing” named after the region the specific type of clay comes from) is sometimes beyond financial terms. It has a rather idealistic value. And coming back to this little tea story from the video. I heard other versions of it, in which the tea pot was desired by the rich man for one particular reason and that was because the flavor it would add to the brewed tea. In fact, according to legend, the old man never had to use tea leaves to get his desired tea, he only had to add hot water to it and the tea pot would do the rest for him. Obviously this made the tea pot of big interest to the rich guy, who could afford everything he wanted. And I think its just beautiful to see how actually the value of a thing, such as a tea pot increases over time. It gets better and better. In a society in which only the young and beautiful and outside looks of people are being regarded as valuable and desirable, its good to see that there still exist different views on things, that actually see the value of things increasing in time. Its no surprise that elderly people in Asia are being looked at in a much more positive way then elderly people in the Western hemisphere. Wisdom and experience count more in Asia than they count in Europe or North America for example.
Ok – Now here is someone talking that turned 30 two years ago and is about to turn 33 this winter, who obviously gratefully accepts all positive views and perspectives on age ;-) , but even taking that aside for a moment, I really do think that you can learn a lot from tea and the ancient culture that has made it become that it is now. The right view of age is just one of the countless learnings I was taught by tea and there are still many more waiting for me to be learned.
Coming back to the functionality of the clay tea pot now. Off course this whole thing is rather hypothetical for the non-tea-nerd. In order to actually taste the additive flavor that comes from an old clay tea pot to the tea you are infusing, you not only have to have developed very very sensitive taste buds on your tongue, you also must be very precise when brewing the tea and ALWAYS use filtered water. The normal tea drinker would not be able to taste the difference in a tea, when he compares the tea infused in, lets say ceramics pot, compared to an old clay tea pot I would reckon. But in any way, I really think its something nice to go crazy about when you are hooked to tea. For me, I certainly look out for things like clay tea pots and the flavor they can add to tea. Its great to see a tea pot growing old with you and developing more and more character each time you use it. Just recently I spent $120 in Shanghai on a new clay tea pot and I do not regret a single dollar :-)
Moving on now. So I bought new tea and bought my first tea equipment and the next weeks I really enjoyed preparing my tea at home. I regularly reserved and took my time to celebrate tea breaks. For some time it has become an integral part of my life at home. I was really looking forward to the free times I had to just prepare and drink the tea and relax. Relaxing in fact played a big part in this development. Once I sat down and drank the freshly prepared tea, my mind was slowing down and I could ease out. Fantastic. This all kept going for a couple of months I would say.
What then happened, I think anyone can understand, as I am sure also you had been experiencing similar things numerous times.
Work and life just sucked me in and would not spit me out again. As mentioned in my first part of this story, back then in 2010 I was working for an internet company in Berlin. This industry is super fast paced and when to this normal fast paced surroundings even company internal difficulties add to it, then this whole thing can become quite challenging and time consuming. The company was doing worse and worse and pressure increased quite drastically over time. By that time I had a very responsible role within the company and it demanded some big commitments from me. And slowly but steady my passion for tea kind of went quiet. Instead of going home and preparing a pot of tea, I pretty much went straight to bed after I had eaten some dinner and watched some stupid TV. There was simply no energy left to pursue the passion of tea. In addition to that I should add, that tea at that point had been only a “home” kinda thing. At work I was still drinking that pure thick black oil to get the motor running in the morning.
Eventually the whole tea thing fell asleep, the tea in my tea box did not get touched anymore and my tea pot bored itself to dead. It became even worse actually. Once in a while I would still prepare a tea with the hope to give me some relaxing moments. Sometimes it helped, but too often I would neglect the tea pot after that, leave the tea leaves in there for days and mould would develop on the leaves in the tea pot. And even more worse, I simply did not care to not mix different sorts of tea in the ancient black tea pot I bought and completely ruined it. OMG!
Sounds all very dramatic indeed and I have to honestly say, that I very much enjoy exaggerating and elaborating on this matter – big fun for me :-)
So this whole period was probably the dark period of tea in my life. Cuz from simply not knowing, not appreciating tea, it went to a one sided non-love from my part. Tea has become something similar to coffee for me. The only difference was, that while the coffee drug got me physically working and slapped me in the face to wake up, tea on the other hand worked as a stress reliever as a “downer” a drug that calms you down.
And this is actually generally one of the main differences between those two beverages I have found over time. The change they both do to your body/to your mind could not be more different. Coffee is a punch in the nuts and tea is a rub on your shoulder.
Now in theory the stress relieving rubbing on my shoulder that tea did to me in those moments should be a good thing right? Where is the problem you might ask. And the answer is the one-sidedness I briefly mentioned earlier. If its a relationship in one direction only, then this whole thing wont work. If I just went home after a long work day, carelessly prepare the tea, sit down and drink it for the purpose of seeing the stress go away, thats one thing and it might work (mostly not). When you do that, you also neglect the tea leaves after you have used them and leave them in the pot for days so that they become all mouldy and stuff. But just like with human relationships it has to be different! Both parts must communicate with each other! Its essential!
So instead of doing it the bad way that I just outlined to you, you should treat your tea properly:
So when I come home these days, it starts with that I get the kettle running, pre clean the tea wares I am about to use and select the tea leaves I am about to use. What comes next is to look for a tidied up, quiet space in my apartment in which I can carelessly spread out with all the necessary tea accessories. I appreciate and investigate the dry tea leaves before I place them into the pot. After that I get the water to the right temperature for the tea. Now this is the first step that I am actually listening to the tea’s needs. I do not want to burn the tea with too hot water, if its a kind that does not go well with it (such as green tea). So now that I have made first contact, I just keep waiting a bit until the tea is ready. Meanwhile I can lift the lid a couple of times and take a sniff and listen what the tea is telling me at this stage. You see, there is a lot of communication going on, much different to the scenario earlier. I can test now with some small tea tasting samples in between, if its ready. Once ready I separate all the liquid from the leaves and can start to fully enjoy the tea I just made. It starts with a quiet fountain like sound the tea produces when its slowly gliding through the tea pot in my cup. Then I can look at the unique colour it shows in the tea cup, smell and taste the countless aromas in the tea, feel the texture of the liquid on my tongue and the surface of the hot cup that is warming my hands.
Its a full experience that requires all my senses and afterwards I will not only feel relieved but actually “richer”. When you have moments like that, then its no question that you dispose of the tea leaves after usage, as you appreciate and respect the tea and the tea pot. So its not just a matter of appreciation and love in the end, there is actually a fair bit of respect involved too and who would disagree when I say, that a relationship between two people should not be any different than that?
So, all that what I just described, I did NOT back in 2010. That is why it was a rather dark chapter of tea in my life. I had such a good start with it, and then it all came to pieces nearly.
Thanks for reading part2 of my tea story. If you want to find out, what happened next to turn me back towards tea again, then read –>My tea story P3