Issue #5   April 2008

by Daniel Reid    danreid.org

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Welcome to Tea Tidings 5

     Snow and I take off on another journey to Asia in about a week, first to Thailand to conduct our popular "Renew Your Lease on Life" detox and internal cleansing program for a group of clients, then to China to visit the ancient city of Hangjou, where some classical old tea houses have been restored to their former glory, then down to explore Yunnan ("South of the Clouds") province, where we'll visit some small traditional tea plantations that have been growing tea for centuries.   After that, I will travel solo to Lhasa to join my tea friend and fellow high mountain traveler Ian Baker on an exploratory overland journey from Lhasa across eastern Tibet  and back down to Kunming,  capital city of Yunnan.  I'm taking along  five catties of our finest High Mountain Oolong for this trip -- that's five full kilos -- and we'll be drinking it daily every step of the way.

read more about the book at amazon.com     I'd also like to announce the publication this month of my new book, a translation from Chinese into English of  the writer John Blofeld's memoirs of his life in China from 1930-1948.   Entitled My Journey in Mystic China and published by Inner Traditions (innertraditions.com), this is a must read for tea people (Blofeld wrote what I regard as the best book on Chinese tea in English, The Chinese Art of Tea), as well as for all sinophiles, for John's lucid memories of his life in old China offer us a rare glimpse of the grace and charm that prevailed in China prior to 1950, the very grace and charm we still cultivate at home by practicing the traditional Chinese arts of tea, food, medicine, chi gung, and other tried-and-true Chinese ways of living well. More info at amazon.com

"It's the Water..."

     Years ago, there was an American beer called "Olympia," whose marketing slogan was "It’s the water."  The brewery was located in a mountain region in Washington state, and drew all the water for brewing  beer from an ancient artesian spring nearby the brewery.  While the beer itself was nothing special, they were right about the water:  you could taste the difference, feel the purity and clarity of the water in your mouth, and  the well ordered energy of the water in the aftertaste.  This type of energetically balanced water is variously known as "microwater,"  "ionized water,"  "restructured water," and "alkaline water."  It's the kind of water your cells and bloodstream like best.  For a detailed account on the importance of the quality of the water you drink and bathe in, please refer to Chapter 2, "Water:  Hydration and Hydrotherapy," in my book  The Tao of Detox

     The quality of water is even more important in the art of tea.  Even the best quality tea leaf cannot yield its precious taste treasures if the water used to steep it is contaminated with chemicals and distorted with abnormal energies.   Chlorine and other toxic chemicals are routinely added to public water supplies throughout the world today;  mercury, lead, cadmium, and thousands of other poisons are dumped into the water system by corporate industry; and in America, Australia, and Britain, water is rendered even more hazardous, and potentially debilitating, with the addition of fluoride, which is an extremely poisonous waste product of the aluminum industry.   The Anglo-American winners in World War II got the idea of adding this deadly poison to human drinking water from files they confiscated from a company called I. Farben, the main chemical supplier to the Nazi military machine in Germany, where it was added to the drinking water of prisoners in concentration camps.  Why this poison is still added to public drinking water today in America,  Australia, and Britain is explained in full, grotesque detail in an article posted on my website.

     As if the above were not already bad enough , recent studies have shown the public water supplies in America and other industrialized western countries now contain significant traces of  a wide range of pharmaceutical drugs that have entered the water supply via human excretion, factory waste run-off, disposal of unused drugs, etc.  This means that if you are drinking water--and preparing your tea-- from this sort of contaminated public water supply, you may also be taking daily doses of antidepressants, tranquilizers, amphetamines, and chemotherapy, along with your tea and water.   More info about this latest chemical degradation of our water supply is given on this link to a health alert article on my website.

     Tea people beware!  Your water may be shortening your life faster than your tea is prolonging it.   However, as with all man-made problems, there are some viable man-made solutions, but you won't find them in your local grocery shop or hardware store; you must track them down yourself.   A good quality filter is the first step, but today you need a lot more than a filter to fix the water problem.

     The best solution is the high-tech electronic water purification system from Japan known as a "water ionizer," which not only ionizes water but also alkalizes and restructures it to produce water that tastes as good as artesian well water, hydrates and detoxifies all your cells and tissues, establishes correct pH balance in your bloodstream and cellular fluids, and carries the protective power of negative ions into your body.  This is what we use at home.   The device may be easily attached to any faucet in the house and set on the counter, and there are also models that may be installed beneath the sink.   For more info on this essential item, you may refer to the chapter on water in my book The Tao of  Detox, then browse my friend Ian Hamilton's  "Ion Life" website:  ionlife.info.    Ion Life distributes these devices worldwide, so if you're interested, send Ian an email through his website and tell him we sent you.  We recommend the "Albion" model, which features all the latest technological innovations.

     Other solutions, none of which are as complete and effective as the one mentioned above, include various specially structured ceramic stones made in Japan as well as the USA.  These are placed directly in water, either in large jugs of water that has already been
filtered, or in large kettles in which water is boiled.  Their primary function is to restructure water into finer clusters to produce "microwater,"  but they do not ionize or alkalize your water.  You can order two varieties of this ceramic stones from Global Light Network (GLN) in the USA by contacting rhonda@globallight.net.  One type is called "Prill Beads," which are tiny pebbles made from a magnesium compound and kiln-fired at very high temperature, and the other is called "Cosmic Stones," which are about the size of marbles and made from similar material.   We keep three Cosmic Stones in our water kettle to further enhance the water produced by our ionizer machine as it boils in the kettle and simmers on a hot-plate.  GLN also sells special wands that restructure and energize water simply by stirring the wand in a glass or kettle of water.

     Another solution, which supplements the positive effects of all the above methods, is to use only stoneware kettles to boil your water for tea.   First of all, this meets the traditional injunction against allowing any sort of metal to touch the water or  the leaf while preparing tea.   Secondly, since these kettles are made from crushed stone that contains a variety of mineral crystals, the kettle itself functions as a natural microwater device as the water boils and simmers in it.   These are the sort of water kettles we offer for sale on our website, and the water boiled in them tastes so much better than ordinary water that some of our friends who don't even drink tea use these kettles to boil their daily supply of drinking water.  Please note that these particular kettles, which are only made in Taiwan from very high grade materials, are currently no longer in production, and we have bought up the entire remaining inventory.   While our supply lasts, we are offering these kettles at an exceptional price price in order to encourage our flock of tea people to get one for preparing tea at home, so that you may discover the most subtle nuance of flavor and enjoy the most sublime medley of aftertaste enfolded within the tea leaves.   Only the best grade water can coax the leaf to release its hidden treasures.

     All this talk about the intimate relationship between tea and water brings to mind one of the most famous stories in traditional Chinese tea lore.   One day the great Chinese tea master Lu Yu,
who lived 1,300 years ago during the Golden Age of the  Tang Dynasty and wrote the  definitive Classic Book of Tea (Cha Jing),
was strolling along a river with a friend, who asked the master to prepare tea at a scenic spot along the riverbank.   Master Lu agreed, and told his friend to send his attendant  out to the middle of the river in a rowboat to fetch a bucket of water to prepare the tea, clearly stipulating that  the water must be drawn only from the swift flowing center of the river, where the water is clearest, purest, and has special energetic properties.

     The boy rowed to the middle of the river as instructed, filled a bucket of water for the tea, and started  rowing back.  Just before he reached the shore, a wave rocked the boat and half the water splashed out of the bucket.  Thinking that it would make no difference, the boy refilled the bucket  from the slower moving water near the shore, rather than rowing all the way back to the middle of the river, then brought the bucket to Master Lu, who promptly dipped a ladle into the bucket to taste the water.  Spitting the water onto the ground, he declared,  "This water is not from the middle of the river!  It comes from near the shore!"  Trembling with fear, the boy knelt shame-faced at the master's feet, admitted his mistake, and begged foregiveness.  Lu Yu then poured the top half of the water in  the bucket onto the ground, dipped his ladle in to taste it again, and said "This is from the middle of the river.  Now I shall prepare the tea!"

     This anecdote shows the meticulous attention traditional tea masters paid to the quality of water  in the Chinese art of tea, and it reflects the central role water plays as the foundation for creating a good cup of  tea.  It illustrates one of the most important lessons Lu Yu left us in his Classic Book of  Tea,  a lesson that is far more important today than it ever was in the past:

"When making tea, always be sure of your water."

 

Yang Hu:  "Cultivating Tea Pots"

     The art of yang hu ("cultivating tea pots") applies only to the unglazed "Yi-Shing" style pots (see on our website), made of terracotta and other fine clays fired without glaze.   For many tea people, collecting and cultivating fine tea pots is one of the most rewarding pursuits of all in the Chinese Art of Tea.

     There are two aspects in the art of yang hu:  the inner and the outer, and both are important in the long slow process of cultivating a beautiful tea pot to perfection.

Inner Aspect:     This aspect applies to the interior surface of the tea pot, which gradually accumulates a seasoning of tea oils that penetrate into  the porous inner surface of the pot.  The seasoning occurs   naturally over time, and requires no special effort, except to observe the following guidelines:


                   *  If the pot is a fine quality piece made by a famous
          potter at a good kiln, use only the highest grade tea leaf
          (preferably organic) to steep tea in the pot.   This insures
          that the pot is seasoned only with the finest, most aromatic
          oils and other elements from the tea.   Poor grade tea, and
          chemical contaminants, will leave an unsavory residue in
          the pot.

                   *   Snow reserves special pots for particular types of
          tea,  such as one for Golden Lilly, one for Oriental Beauty,
          another for Classic Oolong, and this is a good idea if you
          really want to hone your tea tasting skills to a fine edge.
          As for me, I use my favorite pots for all good oolong teas.

                   *   After removing the spent tea leaves from the pot,
          add some hot water to the empty pot, swirl it around inside,
          then pour out the water and residual tea leaves.  Never use
          soap, & never scrub the interior with a cloth or scouring pad.

                   *   After peforming the outer aspect of yang hu, set
          the rinsed, polished pot in a safe place, such as a tea pot
          cabinet, or on a tea tray, with the lid set at an angle on the
          rim of the pot, so the interior can dry in the air.  After the
          inside is dry, you may set the lid back in place in the mouth
          of the pot, and leave it till next time.
         
Outer Aspect:  This aspect applies to the exterior of the tea pot, and involves continuous polishing of the exterior surface over a long period of time, until a rich, glossy patina develops.  The patina is cultivated by rubbing the outer surface vigorously with a tea towel after each use. Best results are produced by using the special fiber tea towels offered on our menu, but an ordinary terricloth hand towel also does the job fine.

     When using a pot to prepare tea, every refill of water causes an overflow of hot tea  to run down the exterior surface as the lid is replaced on the pot.  The water element evaporates quickly on the hot pot, leaving minute traces of tea oils dried onto the surface.  These residual oils are what produce the beautiful patina on the pot when you polish it with a tea towel.

     A few points of attention:

                   *  Always hold the pot firmly in the cup of one hand,
          with a thumb or finger looped through the handle (see
          photo above) or over the rim, for a firm grip.  You can use
          a separate tea towel to hold the pot, if you wish.  A firm
          grip is important, otherwise your pot may go flying from
          your hand under a vigorous stroke from the tea towel,
          and shatter on the floor. This has happened to me, and I
          always take it as a lesson in impermanence...

                   *   With the other hand, use a tea towel to polish the
          entire surface of the tea pot until it looks smooth & shiny.
          Be sure to also polish the handle and the spout.  Then set
          the pot down, and polish the lid separately.  If the lid is
          attached to the handle with a string, then polish the pot
          with the lid on the pot, holding it in place with a thumb or
          finger.

                   *   If you are a collector of tea pots and have a dozen
          or more fine specimens in your collection, you should
          switch pots from time to time, so that you gradually
          cultivate all of your pots, not just your top favorites. 
          Remember:  all your pots appealed to you in a certain
          way when you first decided to adopt them, so don't heap
          exclusive attention only on your current favorites, and
          ignore your old faithfuls.   Your pots are your friends, they
          brew up the finest elixirs of tea for you, and they are
          always eager to please.  Cultivate a close relationship with
          each of them, keep them all well groomed, fill their bellies
          with only the best grade oolong, and they will serve you
          well to the end.
       
     After you've collected a dozen or more tea pots, you may wish to buy a special Tea Pot Brush to swish the dust from tea pots on the shelf or in the cabinet where  you keep them.   The brush shown in the photo is made from super-soft rabbit fur, with a polished hardwood handle, on which is inscribed a line of tea verse, but you can use any soft brush for this purpose, such as a new paint brush.

The Sound of OolongOz:  DreamTime TeaTune

     On the night of the first full moon in the Year of the Earth Rat, February 21, a date known in China as the Lantern Festival, one of  Australia's best didjeridoo players, the phenomenal "Didje Si" (Si Mullumby) serenaded us with a command performance of solo didje,
right here on our tea terrace, accompanied by his drummer Goody.  Together Si and Goody form the core of a popular Byron Bay music group called Wild Marmalade.  Check out their act at wildmarmalade.com

     The didje is the soul sound of AustralAsia, the primordial pulse of this continent, and Si has found the vibrant key that opens the gate to this continent's Dreamtime consciousness.   Of course, we plied him with countless cups of High Mountain Tea to make sure he was well tippled before he started.    We're very pleased to share with you our favorite cut from that night's memorable gig, so get yourself tea tippled, then log onto this link on our site (it's the third track in our current Tea Tunes selection on this page) and listen to the spirit of the Rainbow Serpent speak to you from the Dreamtime . . .

Shop News

     We have finally found a reliable and reputable supplier of the legendary "Oriental Beauty," the holy grail of High Mt Oolong (As described in the last edition of Tea Tidings) Highly aromatic, with a rich fruity flavor, and deep red color, this makes an excellent after-dinner tea. It's also very popular with female cha ren. Click here for more info or to purchase...

     Also, our webmaster Dave has created a new format for the products offered on our Online Shop, making it easier to browse before you buy. You will notice at the bottom of each page inside the shopping section of our site, there is now an easy to browse-and-click visual menu.

Love Story:  Tea for Two Forever...

     For our good tea friends Lyn and Yeshe, it was "love at first sip."  That predestined  sip of tea  launched their journey to matrimony on April 19 this year.  This blissful union of a long single Mama and a long single Papa was catalyzed by High Mountain Oolong and the Chinese Art of Tea,  and without question this is the most joyful Tea Tiding of all this month!

     Let's listen to Lyn tell it like it was, from a recent letter she wrote to Snow and me about it:

"I was convinced before I met Yeshe that I would never again share my heart intimately with a man.  My sisters were constantly trying to introduce me to new men around town, but I always told them,  " 'If I ever meet a man who  is true to my heart, he must be a man who makes the best cup of tea I have ever tasted.'

"One day, Yeshe came into my shop and smiled at me, as men do, but this was the first time in 25 years that I glanced back and smiled at him.   A few weeks later, Yeshe and I saw each other again, and this time he invited me to come to his house for tea.  At first I felt reluctant, and a bit suspicious, but somehow his offer of a cup of tea soothed me, so I went with him.

"And that turned out to be the best cup of tea I ever tasted in my whole life!

"I loved the beautifully crafted bamboo tea tray, the elegant clay   tea pot with an image of Guan Yin inscribed on it, the snifter cup and the drinking cup, the tea tools carved in rosewood--and the tea!   It tasted like the marriage of Heaven and Earth--the essence of both in perfect balance--with all the elements of nature in harmony.  I looked at the man smiling at me across the tea tray as he calmly conducted the traditional ritual of preparing Chinese tea, and I could feel the warmth radiating from his heart.  The setting, the utensils, and most of all the tea itself, all made me feel completely at home--as though I'd been there before.

"We drank tea all night long, and we talked and talked until we heard the birds singing outside.  That night marked the start of the most beautiful time in my  life--my life with  Yeshe, the man who made the best cup of tea I ever tasted, and introduced me to the wonders of High Mountain Tea and the beautiful art of its preparation. The  pot he used to make tea for me that night became his first gift to me, and it remains my favorite.

"And so I  wish to thank you both for sharing your love and knowledge of this tea with Yeshe, for teaching him this exquisite art and making him a tea person.    I thank you both for showing us the way to this wonderful world of tea, and for inspiring this beautiful new chapter in my life.  I shall treasure and honor this ancient art for all of my days.

With love and gratitude,
Lyn

That's a beautiful love story, and on behalf of all of us at OolongOz,
as well as all the tea people linked with us, I extend our warmest wishes to Lyn and Yeshe on the auspicious occasion of their wedding in Bryon Bay on April 19.  May Heaven bless your union, may Earth nurture your home, and may your tea cups never run dry!

Tailpiece...

     Once upon an ancient time, a Chan (Zen) Master in China explained in a discourse on monastic life why monks and nuns have always liked to drink tea, and why they drink so much of it.

     Said he,

"Practicing the Way of Tea generates within the practitioner
the Three Virtues of Tea, which form a firm support
for spiritual cultivation."

According to Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Three
Virtues of Tea deliver the following benefits:

          ~  Tea prevents fatigue and sleepiness, especially when
               sitting in still meditation late into the night. . .

          ~  Tea assists digestion, especially when the belly is full. . .

          ~  Tea restrains the impulsive arousal of desire,
               especially lust. . .

     So if you like to practice meditation late into the night, with a belly full of good food in you from dinner, and you don't wish to be disturbed by stampedes of wild lust galloping unreined through your mindstream,  drink a few pots of High Mountain Tea before you sit,
and see where it takes you. . .

     . . . it takes Snow to sparkling crystal caves in lofty mountains made of rainbow light high above, while her body rests in calm repose below:


                  

 

 

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