My tea journey started out as a solitary one, and it is still very much so in many ways. However, through the wonders of social media – and T Ching, of course – I now know that there are others like me. I’m not implying that tea lovers are mutants, but I’d like to think that we’re possibly a special breed.
I was reminded of this recently when I met up with some tea pals. My first tea pal – I’ll call her ‘D’ – is someone who discovered my tea blog a few years ago and started leaving comments. We haven’t been in touch recently because I’ve sadly been neglecting my blog. She was swinging by my part of the world, and dropped me a note to ask if we could meet up. I spent an afternoon learning more about D’s thirst for tea knowledge (she’d just spent a month learning tea under a tea master in Taiwan), and left me feeling very inspired by her passion. While we both admitted to each other that we were generally shy and private people, there was also this openness in sharing our worldviews, in which tea has played a large part.
The week after my meeting with D, I met up with two other tea pals (I’ll call them ‘F’ and ‘H’) to drink tea “for fun.” I’d come to know F through Twitter, and H through tea lessons a few years ago as well. When I reached F’s place, I was absolutely bowled over by the effort she’d made to lay out all her teaware for our “play,” and we spent a few hours giggling and drinking tea. H describes this as a “teageeking” session. Somehow, I just imagined us as three little girls holding a rather technical tea party. We’d have a BYOT (bring your own tea) arrangement and although we have very different palates, there would be respect for every tea we try because we’d dissect the taste profile by layers, speculate on the production methods, discuss appropriate teaware and well yes, get pretty geeky about things. To me, this is SO much fun – and it’s something my “non-tea” friends will never really get.
Rationally speaking, putting some dried leaves in water is not really the most social of activities. But when people come together to drink tea, there’s a sense of camaraderie that is hard to find in any other kind of setting. Case in point: my most random tea connection in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I was at a backpacker’s bar and a Chinese guy at the next table asked for a pot of hot water. When it came, he whipped out a glass teapot and a packet of Tieguanyin leaves from his knapsack and began brewing oolong in the midst of a rather inebriated crowd. I went over to ask him where his Tieguanyin came from (Anxi) and from there, he kindly offered to share his pot of Tieguanyin with me. By the end of my trip, he gave me his remaining tea stash.
As I get older, I find it harder to “make” friends – people (including myself) generally seem more guarded and selfish. But tea has reminded me that this does not always have to be the case. Sometimes, a clink of teacups can lead to a start of a friendship, and perhaps drinking tea softens souls for more heartfelt connections.
Images courtesy of the contributor.