Friday, July 20, 2018

In search of a Light and Harmony Chaxi


Spring 2018 wild gushu raw puerh
The 15 years anniversary of my first class with Teaparker is coming soon! I know I can never thank him enough for all he has shared and taught me. For me, he's a modern Lu Yü, a tea genius underappreciated by his fellow countrymen because he's too refined and demanding. I continue to find his classes interesting, because he continues to learn new things and shares them with his students. He always stays 2, 10, 50 steps ahead of us! 
This week, Teaparker gave me a task for the next tea class: design a Chaxi combining harmony and light!
This is a great theme and it has given me inspiration and pressure to get creative. In this post, I am showing you 3 Chaxi I made these last 3 mornings. Here I share them with you and will use Facebook to get your feedback about which you like most!
For this task and this subject full of energy, I felt like brewing a fresh wild puerh. That's why I chose this latest addition to my selection: a marble made of spring 2018 gushu leaves from the same 500 years old trees that were pressed into cakes in 2017. Very few leaves were necessary for powerful brew in my silver teapot. The idea in this Chaxi is to use crystal, glass and very white porcelain to emphasize the light. The lotus flower is the symbol for harmony.
Day 2 - The heart shape box was a little too shallow to serve as Jianshui, but I can use it as a display plate for the dry leaves. I'm still using the 2018 gushu puerh, but fewer leaves this time. This tea is extremely powerful and has a sweet/bitter aftertaste that seems never to go away!
I replace the crystal ball with a crystal pineapple. The golden leaves are a good match for the color of the brew and the golden teapot! 
The light fragments in these crystal decorations and produces rainbows that add a kind of disco light atmosphere!
 This playful light splashing on the wall and the black Chabu brings a festive spirit. This morning light only lasts 30 minutes in my tea space. It's a reward for getting up early and a gift that reminds us that life is short and precious. Timing is everything. It's a problem for my tea class Chaxi: at 10 AM there won't be any sun in the usual spot, I'm afraid...
These pictures may end up being much better than anything I can produce in class, if I can't get a direct sunshine...
For this Chaxi, I added a round piece of paper to represent the moon. It lets us see the shadows of the small bamboos bonsai.
So many Chinese Tang poems come to mind with the full moon! The thin walls of porcelain let us see the qinghua painting on the cup!

2017 spring top old arbor raw puerh
Day 3 - I continue my adjustments to improve this Light and Harmony Chaxi.

This time I'm brewing the 2017 spring leaves to compare them with the 2018. The aromas indicate this puerh comes from the same trees, but it has much less bitterness! This softer taste also comes from the antique porcelain Dehua teapot I'm using instead of silver. Less power, more harmony.
With a bigger teapot, I've also switched to bigger, light celadon cups. This color helps making the brew look lighter and fresher (than with an ivory porcelain). But their color is not paired with the teapot and so I'm not sure if it's the right choice.
I'm still using a black Chabu, but instead of an Obi, I'm using the black side of this long Chabu.
In terms of decoration, I have simplified it by taking away the crystal butterflies and the jar. Puerh is the rare tea that doesn't really need much protection...
However, I've kept the round white moon to symbolize harmony and coming around a cup of tea. The interaction possibilities with the crystal, the bamboo shadow and the cups seem endless.
The simple and wonderful addition of a white round paper enables the play with light. This play with the sun is made in the same spirit as the tea play we're having with a Chaxi. It's all about being creative and never repeating oneself. Life is too short to repeatedly drink the same tea the same way. There's always something new that can be discovered, that can be learned and that can be shared. That's how you find joy in tea and life!
And that's how you stay motivated to write and share your tea experience for another 15 years!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Retrouvailles avec le maitre du voyage en Asie

C'est le premier jour de la rentrée de septembre 1982 que j'ai fait la rencontre de Laurent Volk. C'était son premier jour au collège de Sainte Philomène, l'école où j'allais depuis la maternelle. Je fis en sorte qu'il se sente à l'aise dans ce lieu nouveau et lui présentai tous mes copains. Depuis ce jour-là, nous nous sommes liés d'amitié et nos destins ont suivi des routes assez similaires. Ainsi, il y a 20 ans, nous quittâmes chacun la France pour l'Asie. Laurent s'établit en Indonésie. Il y fit son service national dans la coopération et l'enseignement du français. Voyageur curieux et intrépide, il parcourut les iles de l'Indonésie à la découverte des volcans, des temples hindous, des rizières en plateau, des plages de sable fin et de la culture unique et fascinante de Bali.
Il tomba amoureux de cette ile (et de ses femmes!), si bien qu'il s'y installa. Comme il aime partager son bonheur, il créa l'agence de voyage Bali Authentique pour faire découvrir les coins merveilleux qui l'ont le plus inspiré. Et vu qu'il en connait un grand nombre grâce à ses nombreux voyages et qu'il s'intéresse passionnément à la culture et à l'histoire locale, son agence de voyage rencontra un si vif succès qu'il travailla d'arrache-pied jusqu'à ses 40 ans. Depuis, il a fait ce que mon prof de management de l'ICN, M. Bourion, recommandait aux futurs managers: si vous devenez le meilleur dans votre domaine c'est le moment de changer, sinon l'ennui et la routine vous guetteront!
Laurent vit maintenant au Vietnam avec sa petite famille. Et c'est là que nous l'avons rejoint pour une merveilleuse semaine de vacances. Naturellement, c'est lui qui s'est chargé de composer le programme de notre séjour: snorkeling dans les iles Cham près de Hoi An, visites des caves de Phong Nha, celles du Vietcong, de l'ancienne capitale impériale Hue et balade dans le parc national Bach Ma. De mon côté, j'ai contribué au plaisir de ces visites en infusant du thé chaque fois que possible et en prenant de belles photos. Bref, nous avons fait ce que les hommes font lorsqu'ils vivent paisiblement en société: nous nous spécialisons dans ce que nous faisons de mieux et échangeons nos services pour plus d'efficacité et de satisfaction!
A 1400 mètres d'altitude, je prépare cette fois mon puerh cru de Menghai de 1997. Un vieux puerh pour une vieille amitié toujours pleine d'énergie. Un thé aux facettes multiples pour un endroit situé au haut d'une montagne,
mais aussi face à la mer de l'autre côté. En plus du thé lui-même, Laurent me dit apprécier le côté cérémonial de ma préparation du thé. Le fait que le thé prenne un aspect un peu formel et silencieux a un avantage pratique: il indique aux autres personnes que ce moment est précieux et qu'on n'a pas le droit de vous déranger. Le thé devient alors une plage de temps très personnelle où l'on a enfin le temps de souffler, de faire le vide dans la journée. Même les enfants comprennent que ce n'est plus le moment de sauter et de jouer: ainsi, son fils de 7 ans est venu s'assoir tranquillement en face de moi!

Laurent a le voyage dans le sang. Son âme d'artiste vibre avec l'énergie qu'il puise dans chaque lieu. Les ruines de vieux temples l'inspirent tout particulièrement! Mais il ne se prend pas au sérieux. La vie est trop courte pour être triste!

Ce voyage fut donc une réussite à plus d'un égard. Ce furent des retrouvailles avec un viel ami, ce fut la découverte du Vietnam du centre, ses plats savoureux, ses paysages tropicaux, ses habitants souriants. Ce fut aussi la rencontre avec sa famille si mignonne, des moments de partage de ma passion du thé, des discussions sur la vie et le monde...
C'est avec beaucoup de gratitude que je dis merci à Laurent et au destin. Aucun de nos ancêtres n'a connu une vie aussi pleine d'expériences nouvelles et de voyages. Je mesure ma chance de vivre en 2018 dans un monde si prospère et majoritairement en paix. Qui aurait cru que 36 ans après notre rencontre dans un collège du nord de l'Alsace, nous passerions des vacances ensemble au Vietnam après 20 ans en Asie?  Notre vie est un roman et nous avons écrit une de ses plus belles pages!
Merci Laurent! Quelle joie de voir la France gagner contre l'Uruguay avec toi! (J'en profite pour vous indiquer que j'ai fait des promos spéciales pour la France championne du monde! Mes meilleurs Oolongs de haute montagne sont réduits de 11%!)
A la prochaine!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Phong Nha mountains and caves

It's near Phong Nha that one finds Asia's oldest karst mountains. It's a kind of very dramatic and abrupt mountain that one finds often depicted in Chinese Shan Shui paintings (Shan Shui = mountain and water). We had a wonderful example of such a mountain just right behind the hotel, by the pool:
Morning view
I couldn't resist the urge to enjoy tea at this spot. What tea? High mountain Oolong (from Taiwan), of course!
Fresh Lishan Oolong is a great choice to cool down and drink water on a hot day!
It's an unexpected pleasure to mix what Taiwan and Vietnam do best (tea and tourism)!
In case you wonder what there's to see in Phong Nha, here are some pictures of our boat trip to the cave:
The entrance is big and there's no risk to be stuck here:
The inside of the caves is tall like a cathedral and it extends for almost a kilometer here:
The lighting is very nicely done.
The exit is near. The dark caves are more humid and less cool than we imagined. I'm longing for my next tea drink by the pool!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Stay hydrated with style


High Mountain Oolong from Tianchi
When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail! It's very true when it comes to tea. In winter, tea brings warmth. In the morning, tea wakes you up. Anxious, tea calms you down... And during summer, a fresh, lightly oxidized tea is all you need to cool down!

Yesterday, for instance, I was visiting very knowledgeable tea friends and we had tea under the natural shade of a tree in their garden. We even used charcoals to heat the tetsubin on this stunning Chaxi.
Except for the bamboo mat protecting the chabu, every piece of teaware is theirs. I simply brought the tea and suggested I prepare it for them in! So, since they were entrusting me with their Yixing zhuni teapot, antique tetsubin, Dehua cups... I couldn't just bring any tea. With such great tea friends, teaware and for such a special occasion, I brought my high mountain Oolong from Tianchi (near Fushou shan).
I was very concentrated to prepare this Oolong well. This is, actually, how I brew most of the time. I'm sitting directly on the floor and my Chaxi is spread in front of me. (Thank you John, by the way, for taking these nice pictures of me!) I think it helps that I brew with a beautiful setup daily. Otherwise, if you're used to brew very casually and on a special occasion you want to make a Chaxi, you might feel uncomfortable. It's like wearing business suit and a tie: f you don't were one regularly, you'll feel unnatural during a job interview. Skill, gongfu, is also what helps make you feel more comfortable, and it comes with practice.
Everybody was very pleased with the sweet, fresh taste and the cool mountain flower scents coming from this tea. In the Dehua cups, the brew had a light gold color and excellent transparency. We felt transported to the top of Fushou mountain and enjoyed this communion with nature through our tastebuds.
On a very hot day, high mountain Oolong brings energy and freshness. It helps you stay hydrated with style!
Here's a suggestion: before your next barbecue, share some Gao Shan Oolong with your friends.
Cheers! Have a very nice summer and make it even more unforgettable with great tea!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Early July vacation / les vacances approchent

Wenshan Baozhong, spring 2018
I'll be vacationing with friends and family during the first week of July. If your tea order is urgent, please place it before this Friday. Thanks! On July 9th, I'll be back in Taiwan brewing tea, blogging and sending packages!
Wenshan Baozhong, spring 2018
Je serai absent la première semaine de juillet et ne pourrai envoyer vos commandes avant mon retour, le 9 juillet. Si vous avez un besoin ou une envie irrésistible d'Oolong ou de porcelaine, veuillez me passer commande avant ce vendredi. Merci!
In der ersten Juli Woche mache ich ein kleines Urlaub und werde keine Pakete verschicken können. Falls Sie dringend Tee oder Porzelan aus Taiwan brauchen, schicken Sie mir bitte Ihre Bestellung bis Freitag. Ansonsten haben Sie bis dem 9. Juli etwas Geduld. Danke!