Friday, August 04, 2017

Alsace traditions and tea

I've now lived 21 years in Taiwan and every time I go back to Alsace, I better appreciate its culture and traditions. I've become more and more a tourist in my own home region and it's interesting to see the same things with my new Taiwan perspective.
These local crafts look as kitsch and colorful as the most modern designs! During my youth the colors of these pots would have looked much duller. It's good that tradition doesn't mean that things are frozen and can't adapt to today's fashion a little bit. But in a time when mobile phones don't last more than 2 or 3 years, it's a relief to see traditions with a longer sense of continuity between past, present and future. 
Traditions are basically a way to protect the past and transmit it to the next generation. The town of Seebach, for instance, hosts a yearly event of an Alsatian peasant wedding (called the Streisselhochzeit). The whole town transforms into a big wedding party and showcases traditional crafts, music and food from the 18th-19th century! 
Seebach traditional dresses
It's a unique opportunity to see that the Alsatian dresses would differ from town to town and that they evolved during the last 200 years. Nowadays, white wedding gowns have become international, erasing ancient wedding traditions in most big cities of the world... 
The wedded couple
The village of Seebach has been doing this showcase of traditions since 1982 and I'm glad that I finally got to see it in 2017! In previous years, this event was a mock, a fake wedding performed by actors. But this year, this couple wished to get married for real according to the ancient Seebach traditions! They received the applause and cheers of tens of thousands of guests and visitors! What a revival!
To preserve something you like, it can be useful to turn it into a habit and then the habit into a tradition. If people like what you're doing, they're going to imitate you and spread this habit/tradition.
Summer in Europe is the perfect time to enjoy tea outdoors, under the shade of a big tree. I've brewed many high mountain Oolongs on a Chaxi like this last month. 
That's my way of staying true and dedicated to the tea passion that I have developed in Taiwan. This is the most enjoyable way to taste tea, for me.
The Alsace wedding event shows that some traditions could be limited to just a couple of villages. So, it's perfectly OK to use your own ideas and creativity to achieve a unique setting/Chaxi.
This Yixing zhuni teapot brewed my fresh Oolongs with strength and grace.  If I had time, I would usually start with an Alishan Jinxuan, then a Lishan Qingxin Oolong before finishing with a Hung Shui Oolong or a Zhuo Yan Oolong.
A Chaxi is like a little wedding: It's turning what could have been an ordinary day in a something special, filled with love, pleasure and beauty!
Beer and wine are the Alsatian drinks that bring joy at local parties! But there's always a risk in their excess... There's much less problem with tea in this regard! 
Another benefit of a strong tradition is that it gives you a feeling of belonging somewhere, almost a purpose. With my Chaxi, I create a place where I feel well and at home. It doesn't matter if I create on in my Taipei apartment, in my parents' garden or in a tea mountain. Once I'm at my Chaxi, that's the center of my universe and the place I wish to be.
Of course, good things are never easy to obtain. Like for any tradition, it takes time and some money to rehearse the skills and purchase the right equipment/dresses. But this has the potential to make your life more special and meaningful than following the latest globalized trend.
Lishan Oolong
There's something else that Alsace's culinary and China's tea traditions have in common. They are both made of real local food coming directly from the farm or the vineyard! No artificial flavors where added to those genuine, big tea leaves! It's all grown by peasants, but this doesn't mean a lack of beauty or refinement. Century old Alsace and Fujian tea traditions shows that countryside people always had a keen sense for beauty and enjoying life!
Summer sunset in my village in Alsace

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