Spring New (Rushing Waters) Moon
Friend Bill Schmidt knows me well. A while back he noted I’d not yet written anything about tea while here in Colorado. He was right. Two or three years before the move out here I’d somehow gotten to making tea the Chinese way, gong fu cha. This was after years of tea from tea bags and the occasional loose tea steeped in tea infusers.
The impetus may have been my favorite object in the entire collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a Song dynasty tea bowl. I don’t recall now.
Gong fu cha involves various implements and techniques that differ significantly from British/American tea preparation and drinking, but also from the Japanese chanoyu, which is a direct descendant of gong fu cha.
Gong fu cha inspired visiting Japanese monks to introduce tea to their Buddhist compatriots as a way of staying awake during long sessions of meditation. The Japanese tea ceremony grew out of this cultural exchange beginning in the 12th century.
Over a period of years I acquired several yixing teapots, many different teabowls (including one with a leaf embedded), tea scoops and picks for tightly compressed chunks of pu’er tea, a bamboo tea tray and, of course, several varieties of tea.
The Zojirushi is my favorite tea appliance. The Zojirushi, a Japanese model, boils water to a particular temperature and has a large reservoir so water at the right temperature is always available. Water temperature, the teapot and the quality of the tea itself are the critical variables in gong fu cha.
I considered making tea in the loft a final flourish to the work on it, so I waited until everything else was finished: book cases, art table, things put in their places. Why? I don’t know. Gong fu cha became, in my mind, a symbol that this space was ready for serious work.
Right now I’m drinking Master Han’s loose leaf pu’er from 2000. Very smooth and smoky. I guess that means I’m getting serious about the work.
Bill knew me well. Now I’m truly here. Yixing pot in hand.