An online friend posted an interesting question recently:  What does it mean to be a Tea Artist?

My own response is the general theme of this post.  

( The part about Buddhism doesn’t relate to having been an ordained monk, to completing two related degrees, or to living in a Buddhist family in a Buddhist country – even though those have been some of my own personal contact points.  Since it’s not essential to the rest I’ll not really develop that part further. )

With a cat I think of as my first daughter; a kitten in this picture but now 12

Some framing discussed with that friend addresses issues that underlie fixed role or status designations, related to tea:

I really do think the people who embrace ritual tea interest or competitive tasting aren’t getting anything wrong.  It’s just a different way to take it all.  Once you take up titles or labels that changes things a little, but even then that could be fine, getting ranked, certified, or acknowledged.

That relates to a Tea Masters Cup group that people join and compete in, an educational interest group that–per my understanding–hosts competitions related to ceremonial form practices and tasting identification.  The last would seem to represent overlap with wine sommelier scope, more or less.

That “artist” designation could compare to the more common “tea master” theme.  Along with “tea expert” and “tea enthusiast” they form a sort of continuum.  This is more about underlying context in use of role designations, so not directly about breaking down how all those map out.

Tea production is something else – this is mostly about the consumption side. 

My response to the initial question: “What does it mean to be a tea artist?”

As someone influenced by Buddhism I tend to use labels and extra concepts sparingly. They can help clarify meaning but they can also limit it. If a few people are tea artists then everyone else has a shallower expression or experience of tea compared to them.  To me the opposite is more true instead, that any of us brewing and drinking tea are sharing common experience. If you put yourself above others for any reason you typically do an injustice to them, and also to yourself. Extreme humility is a very functional position, and an especially valid personal choice. 

If you drop the label you only need to keep in mind what is positive that potentially gets lost, and then choose to retain that if it’s worth keeping. Unique experience of tea or expression through tea experience can be positive, but linking that to achievement or personal status I would typically see as negative.  Maybe within a competitive interest group that’s different.

I might add a little about the one part, what could come along with the label or designation that might be positive. People use tea expert–or artist, master, enthusiast; whatever it is–to describe a range of competencies. Some people are into ceremonial forms, others into experiencing and being able to differentiate types and quality levels of tea. Just being able to brew tea effectively gets a lot of focus, and I suppose to some limited extent the most positive outcomes also require that, careful progress through a learning curve. 

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