Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cha Xi, a tea play

I could also call it a ceremony in the sense of a celebration of something extraordinary. But I feel that when people hear 'tea ceremony', they often think first about old traditions, rules that they don't understand. You have to follow them like a burden, rather than a help. That's why I prefer the expression Teaparker is using, Cha Xi, the tea play (like a theater play). It sounds more lively and less limited.

Like for a play or a movie, you start with casting your main actors (teapot and tea cups). And, the best way to do so, is to test several with the tea you have in mind. Who says this line most convincingly? Which pot brews this particular tea the best? And in which cup does it look and then taste the best? It's quite fun to make such small tests when brewing tea more casually. 

Then, you proceed with pairing your main accessories with the secondary ones and with the 'scenery', the setting you'll choose for your tea. A tea tray made of bamboo will give a very natural 'forest' look, for instance. Or you can use a Cha Bu, a tea mat, made of a particular color, pattern, depending on the tone, the feelings you wish to convey. Here, I used the black side of a Cha Bu with a small bamboo mat to integrate my tea set in nature.   

For an evocation of ancient China, I like to use an antique plate under my teapot. This one left is apparently a Minyao from Ming dynasty. A conversation between 2 guys, sitting outside, surrounded by nature. I feel they'd have an even better time together with some tea and I'm happy to brew some in their company. (I also like the rough look of the unglazed base of this plate). 

The actual play is not just a repetition of previous plays. An actor has to relive his part each time. It's the same for the tea. You have to feel the tea as if you drank it for the first time again. Tea is so sensitive to details, each cup comes out a little different each time. 

Using old, necessarily handmade, and therefore unique accessories brings a new aesthetic and time dimension to the Cha Xi. This hour of tea play is not just about getting the best flavors and tastes out of the leaves, but also satisfies a need of beauty. And, it can even make me time travel to imperial China! 

4 comments:

Pat Canella said...

haha interesting take on the Tea Ceremony, I must get more into the preparation aspect! It is more of an art than a drink, wouldn't you agree?

Marilyn Miller said...

Love your explanation of "tea play" and beauty. Have you heard of WuWo Tea Ceremony? In a way it is tea play done outdoors.

Stephane said...

Pat,
I'd say tea can become a living art, less abstract than a painting on a wall, and one that you can experience with all your senses.

Marilyn,
Yes I've heard of WuWo and the blog Tea arts (in my links) will take you to a practitioner of WuWo.

Pat Canella said...

Oh I think you are right on the mark, such a calming art too :)