Last week, as I was drinking from this Cha Xi setup, it struck me that this tea -which I had tried several times in more simple ways- had never tasted so good. Why?
1. The beauty of the setup adds to the pleasure of the tea, no doubt. It's like making a nice 'packaging' for the tea before gulping it down, consuming it.
2. But, as I already stressed before, a nice Cha Xi is not just about beauty. It is achieving beauty, harmony with the constraint of functionality: the chosen accessories should fit the tea that is brewed. For instance, for this raw, old arbor puerh mao cha from the 1990s (see this previous Cha Xi for pictures of the leaves), I chose a ZhuanTai (Shantou) Li Xin teapot from Chaozhou. Such a teapot uses a softer clay that makes old and/roasted tea very mellow.
I then chose a Qing plate and cups for the older feel of this tea. Besides, the blue and white porcelain matches the red clay very well. For the same reason, I used a blue Cha Bu as background, white flowers and a dark Jianyang bowl for used water.
The Yixing jar is the original jar I use to store this tea. Its porous clay allows this puerh to receive some air, which (unlike Oolong) it needs for aging. And, from an aesthetic point of view, this zisha jar nicely balances the white vase and flowers on the right. A man walks in the mountains on this jar. Like all good, truthful teas, the flavors are those of the nature surrounding the tea plantation. So, drinking such a tea is like a trip to its place of origin.
3. In our digital age, we are used to multitasking like checking e-mail, while listening to music and drinking tea. During busy tea tastings, as we drink one tea, we may already look forward to the next as we check the open leaves of the previous tea. But, as our concentration drifts, so does our ability to focus and enjoy the present moment, the present tea. Here, a dedicated Cha Xi for one tea is a help to find focus. Before the tea making starts, it requires all our attention. How do I feel? What tea would I like to drink now? What feeling would I like to express? What tea ware would fit this tea? What accessories would fit my feeling? What colors? Does this combination look nice?...
The tea is at the center of all these questions. When the Cha Xi is set up and ready, so are my heart and mind. They found peace and concentration. This then also influences the way I pour water and feel when it's ready to pour out.
4. Setting up the Cha Xi reminds me of the self improvement book 'The Artist's Way at Work, Riding the Dragon'. By unleashing your artistic creativity in an important area of your life, you get an heightened sense of excitement and satisfaction. A tea brewed is not a tea drunk and gone, but a distinctive tea experience that lives on, especially now that I was able to capture it with words and pictures, and share it with you through my blog.
Note: This doesn't mean that I won't enjoy a cup brewed more simply. However, I have found that those Cha Xi moments have been among the most enjoyable. They have given my tea passion a new inspiration.