Friday, November 21, 2008

Faith to follow, or to Shepherd?

In a not-so-ancient time (Ming - Qing Dynasty), when mandarins gathered for tea, the focus was most often not on the tea itself but on the free association of minds. Delicate and graceful moments in time and space were created over pots of tea—vast enough to glimpse the past, present, and future, and perhaps also affect and alter one's reflection of oneself.

I spent three days in San Francisco this past week. Brian Kirbis (, was kindly introduced to me (online, of course) by Jason Fasi, aka bearbearbear ( Brian the Shepherd was kind enough to take his precious time, a day before leaving for Yunnan on an important research trip, to meet with me over a cup of tea.

He arrived at my place just shy of 3 o' clock. The spiritual journey began once the doorbell rang... the door opened and upon greeting, I felt somehow that I had known this gentleman before. I unconsciously burst out with a hearty laugh: presented to me was a solid wooden chest, about 20 inches by 20 inches, with Japanese-crafted hardware and a Ginko engraved lock. "How did you manage to get through security with that?" I exclaimed, "That would be a pretty tough feat to handle if we were meeting in NYC". The positive energy from this chest and its master was radiant and immediately warmed the room.

Faith had brought us together to this moment; and once again, tea was the vehicle that had caused the connection. (I do think this friendship would be a good raw puerh).

Brian had a mission, a positive aim to help the world understand the importance of humanity through tea (in this case, puerh). Cooked (human needs) and Uncooked (nature)—abstract words, perhaps, but they are in every drop of tea. A craving for the cognitive? A medicine for the mind or body?

I was enlightened only a week ago, and concluded that there is only Good tea and Bad tea: Good tea is the concept of how the tea benefits one at the moment or in the future, and how it makes one feel and contemplate. Bad tea is known only through experience; and once one has built this memory, one builds an immediate response when drinking a Bad tea from having had enough of it in the past—perhaps like an inner alarm or firewall.

The Chest opened—cosmos or tea capsule? Antique cups, teaware, fine tea, and experience all fit neatly into ths 20 by 20 space. "I can only contribute water..." I offered. We drank three teas in this short time: 1. Lao Ban Zhang, 2. Nannou, and 3. 80's Chang Ning. I won't detail the nuances or complexities of these teas; it would be too insignificant. All that must be said is that they were Good teas.

Brian will be in Yunnan for the next two months, living with his new family (tea farmers) in the mountains and furthering his studies for the Yunnan University regarding the Essentialism of Modern Tea Society. Maya Angelou once said: "When you get, give. When you learn, teach." Brian and I understood this idea through tea; it is another wonderful gift of nature conveyed through a single leaf.

Two days before this trip, I found my newly designed project in the mail: "Footprints In The Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk." I do think that all things are connected through karma—and this is yet another of them. The book fit nicely into the small space left empty in Brian's chest. "I always want to fit an old man into this chest," Brian said, accepting this small token. "I will be faithfully following your chest in its development," I replied.

Best of luck, and have some good tea, my friend.

A gift from Brian: A Malaysia stored 7542 from the 90s. Aging inside my silver box, until we both meet again.


aneglakya said...

Over the course of conversation and tea with the Mandarin, we were intuitively led into some wonderfully visceral, yet ephemeral realms. Form and function, indeed the raw material of an ageable sheng; I know we both look forward to our next cup!



* the second tea we drank was Nanben, not Nannuo; those of you who participated in the Berkeley event have this leaf-wrapped brick

* the 7542 is not a Malaysia stored tea (that was in reference to another tea - a Red Label 8892)

Janine said...

Thank you T for sharing this. I like the "good tea and bad tea" idea. For me tea experience has been about bringing people together in interesting ways, making connection. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Jamus said...

I must agree with what Janine says. Tea really has been about bringing people together. In the time since I've started drinking pu-erh, I've met some incredible people from all over the world. Your comment on the tastes of the teas being insignificant to the experience definitely made me smile because I've had a couple of sessions where similar thoughts crossed my mind. Excellent post! Thank you!

rosehips&green said...

Such a beautiful post, thank you, Eileen

RTea said...

That tea chest looks so nice. . .your pictures always make me want to run out and buy nice, new tea ware!

toki said...

Thank you all for enjoying this special moment with BK. What a wondrous time to share thru a virtual space, in this troubling world. peace

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