Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tea for True

I love tea.
Don't get me wrong, I've had a daily assignation with coffee for years, but tea is special. Coffee I have as a necessity, tea is when I deserve it, or when I need a little comfort.
I love strong black tea, strong enough to float a brick, strong enough to revive a dead mouse, strong enough to climb out of the cup.
One of my favorite black teas is cinnamon tea. When I lived in Japan, I used to visit with Tatsuya Fujisaki, after a class. We'd sit and drink the milky, spicy brew at a coffee shop for a few hours, talking about everything and nothing, while Eric Clapton sang from the speakers.
Japan holds my best memories of green tea, too. Its bitterness contrarily reminds me of the sweetness of life.
I was honored to take tea ceremony twice in Japan. Once was in Kyoto, with hundreds of women being honored by the people who teach geisha. That was special. One of my students brought me as a guest, and gave me pointers on the mannered way to receive my cup of tea, and how to bow correctly.
My favorite, though, was held in a room above a noodle shop. A man who was a calligraphy artist as well as a tea master held a spiritually rich tea ceremony for about 15 people. We sat in a circle on the tatami, and we were all able to see and enjoy his ancient implements, and the care and delicacy with which he used them. The sip of tea, when it came, was bitter, frothy, yet filled with a flavor deep and ancient. It is a memory I cherish.
Although I know bits and pieces of the Japanese tea ceremony, I have come to use tea in ceremonies flowing naturally from who I am today.
Pomegranate, to me, has a multilayered meaning. It is about creativity, and abundance, and connecting with the thoughts that lay deep within. My friend Ysabeau gifted me with a tin filled with pomegranate tea.
Somehow, as I sip a cup of that tea my creativity flows, the images move so quickly on the screen of my mind that my fingers can barely keep up. I know it is the logic of the connections I have made with the symbol of pomegranate driving those writing sessions, but the results are no less magical, for all that.
I recently discovered white tea, through Oscar. White tea is so delicate, yet complex. It is not a tea to sip while watching tv, or listening to pop music. It is delightful to have while sitting in the garden, or just sitting.
Then there are herbal teas, in all their infinite variety. One of my favorites is rooibos. I swear I taste Africa in the back of my throat when I drink it, and smell the heat-baked tree bark in the steam that rises from the cup.

Tea, it somehow feeds the soul.

1 comment:

momtroll said...

I love tea, too. I do not enjoy coffee, but tea I will have weak or strong, green or black. Now I have to drink herb or decaf most of the time, age is the factor. Whenever I wake up with a sinus problem, I fix a strong cup of black tea and it goes away. The white tea sounds interesting. I will have to try that. I enjoyed reading about your experiences in Japan with tea.