A few months ago, a hardware failure prevented me from accessing the Internet for two whole days.  As I was not vacationing in the wilderness or at sea, this inadvertent loss of connectivity did not confer peace of mind.  On the contrary, aimlessness and fretfulness pervaded those 48 hours.

Undoubtedly, the Internet has enriched your lives in some unimaginable ways.  For me, it has helped satiate my hunger for knowledge, which I suspect is a byproduct of the aging process.  Very seldom has the Internet failed to fulfill my curiosity and queries, even the most outlandish ones.  Having attended some of the seminars at the Los Angeles International Tea Festival held last month at the Japanese American National Museum, however, I re-discovered the need to supplement my reliance on the omniscient Internet with other forms of learning.  Information can be effortlessly unearthed on the Internet, but when it is instead conveyed with the human touch and shared within a community, it acquires a clarity quite unique and valuable.

My post, TeaMails, mentions the origin of the tea name Da Hong Pao, or Big Red Robe tea, based on a mass-distributed email.  Mr. Roy Fong, proprietor of San Francisco’s Imperial Tea Court, reiterated a more plausible version at his “Oolong Teas” presentation.  On his way to take the imperial examination at the capital city, a poor student cured his illness by drinking tea.  His success in passing the examination brought him fortune, fame, and, of course, a government post (as was always the case in ancient China).  To show his gratitude, he revisited the tea garden and sheltered the six original tea bushes by covering them with his red robe – symbol of prosperity.  Mr. Fong’s talk included an oolong tasting session, during which I sipped the samples with the other attendees and listened to their whispers or affirmation.  Though I had tried Jin Xuan on a few occasions and paid attention to a related exhibit at PingLin Tea Museum in Taiwan, this tasting enabled me to relish the tea’s milky fragrance for the very first time.

The “Be Healthy Drink Tea” presentation, laden with figures and charts by Dr. Mary Hardy, Medical Director of the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, was very much my cup of tea.  Dr. Hardy began her talk with this Samuel Johnson quote from his 1757 Essay on Tea, which my Tea Quotes post missed:

“Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence.”

As Dr. Hardy pointed out, most tea research has been conducted in Asia, where the tea-drinking tradition eases the effort of data collection and analysis.  Extracting health benefits from tea ought to take place soon after the tea is steeped.  Refrigeration, a step necessary to prepare a cup of Americans’ beloved iced tea, reduces the beverage to a quencher.    

A Chinese proverb says:  “Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as traveling ten thousand miles.”  Isn’t the Internet the modern-day “ten thousand books”?  Erudition, or being recognizably well-read, is a tremendous achievement, so I don’t entirely agree with the proverb.  On the other hand, knowledge should be sourced via myriad channels, including travels.    

And last but not least, I would like to thank Erika, T Ching’s Managing Editor, for inviting me to this event.