Friday, September 06, 2019

Matching the tea to your attention level

Is it possible to travel to this forest with the help of a tea? I don't mean physically go there, but in your mind. If you say "No, it's not possible", then it's probably because you haven't had yet made such an experience when tasting tea. And maybe it's because your tea didn't have forest scents or because you were distracted. Maybe you're tasting tea while working on your computer or while watching TV, reading a book... In that case, your mind is already full with other thoughts and pictures.

So, what I'm getting at is that when you are making tea, your attention level is like pregnancy. Either you're fully there, or you're not! If your attention level is 50%, where does the other 50% go?! Computers may multitask, but when it comes to tea, if you want the best experience, you better be fully present.

Of course, sometimes tea is simply a beverage you drink to quench your thirst while your mind is busy with something else. That's not when you make a Chaxi and that's also not when you brew your best leaves. (It's for such daily teas that I have also selected more affordable teas like this 2004 raw Xiaguan Tuo Cha at 10 USD for 100 gr)
But when you're making a tea with (full) attention, that's when you want to brew particularly good leaves. What else do you need beside attention and very good leaves? The concept of Chaxi that I advocate says that you should organize/create a setup that is both functional and connected to the leaves you're brewing in an aesthetic way. Recently, I've read this text by French artist/writer Stéphane Barbery. He proposes 3 elements to make a tea bowl meaningful. We can also apply his concepts to the Chaxi itself:

1. Storytelling: the Chaxi should tell a story. With this aged organic roasted Oolong tea, we are travelling to a golden age of purity. I've got it in 2004 and have aged it for 15 years. Patience sometimes leads to excellence... (A word of caution: too often tea marketing offers a nice story, but it's not always matched by the leaves. Beware!)

2. Ritual: turning a tea into something that connects us to something sacred or bigger than tea is another way to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. Tea isn't something sacred at all. It's made by humans from plants that grow like other plants. And like any food, the better you prepare it, the better it will taste. But when you turn your tea into a ritual with all your attention and care, than the whole process and ritual will feel meaningful, not just the tea.

3. Mirror: The Chaxi echoes something in us. The delicate fragrances of the tea may unlock memories in our brain. Or maybe the bliss we experience with the beauty inspires us to create something beautiful or to feel grateful... The Chaxi is meaningful because it connects with our emotions, or it expresses them. 
These 3 elements: Story, Ritual and Mirror can be part of a successful Chaxi. But they still require and presuppose your (full) attention! Of course, there are many ways to make good tea, but thinking of these 3 elements will help you make your tea particularly meaningful! Your mind might even find the way to a forest!

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