Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flow arts and the skill of pouring tea

1995 raw puerh - Yiwu
There are 3 elements that have an impact on tea: the weather, the soil and the person who turns the leaves into tea. Likewise, there are 3 benefits to my tea blog: tasting great tea, visiting beautiful plantations and meeting interesting people. On Tuesday, I had this 1995 raw old arbor brick from Yiwu with 2 puerh lovers. 

Nicky Evers practices "flow art", a circus-inspired art form combining dance, awareness and the manipulation of an object. This includes mostly juggling, but also spinning, some dances and martial arts. Through such physical activity and the concentration it requires, a person enters a mental state of 'flow' that is both source of energy and happiness.

Achieving flow isn't just limited to flow arts. You can achieve it while driving, working... when performing any activity that you do well and that requires all your attention. When done properly, brewing tea should also be conducive to flow. There's a particular step that involves focus, skill and grace: the pouring of the tea from the gaiwan (or teapot) to the cups without spilling. Managing to do so while paying attention to an even tea concentration and volume in the cups feels great!

See how Nicky manages to keep a very straight position and focuses his attention on his pour:
He obtained a very good result for a first try! Bravo! His 6 years of flow art practice have undoubtedly helped him. The rest comes from practice, practice and focus. And as for all types of learning, it's important not to be afraid of making mistakes.

In this regard, even after 13 years of practice, I still feel that tea is very humbling (and not pretentious at all!) because it's so difficult to have a really flawless execution and a perfect cup. Here is Gian getting his hands-on tea training:
Finding the right time to pour and stop the brewing is easier done when brewing fewer good leaves, because there's less risk of overbrewing. Using fewer leaves is also a strategy to afford better tea quality. Besides, the law of diminishing marginal returns applies to everything we consume: the first 200 ml always tastes better than the last, even if the tea were to remain exactly the same. That's why it often makes more sense to have 4 or 5 excellent brews than 20 (for the same amount of money). Unless you have a whole afternoon or evening to dedicate to one tea, I also find it heightens the attention to know that a brewing will be limited to 4 or 5 brews during a 30-40 minutes break from my other activities. It's easier to grant oneself short breaks often than a big pause...
Nicky found it interesting to see different people brew tea differently in Taiwan. There are no dogma, just experiences. We learn what makes most sense to us and what gives us the greatest satisfaction. It's not necessarily going with the flow of what 'everybody' does, but finding your own flow!

Tea note: despite using a simple porcelain gaiwan and very few leaves, my 1995 raw old arbor Yiwu puerh tasted very smooth, powerful and had a sweet lingering aftertaste. Amazingly pure puerh that I recommend wholeheartedly!

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