Tuesday, January 14, 2020

PSU Gongfucha Tea Club - Outdoor brewing

 After a full day of tea class indoors on a cold and grey December day, I took the PSU students to Wulai for hot springs and Oolong brewing, and a hike to a waterfall. The weather was sunny, but not too hot. We enjoyed the mountain and river view from our hot springs resort while brewing different Oolongs. The most suitable leaves were those from the high mountains. They brought energy and freshness to our soaked and relaxed bodies! And they sharpened the mind and our senses at the same time!
2 days later, we took again advantage of a wonderful weather to go to the Lin Mansion Gardens in Banciao and brew outdoors.
Since we had already explored Oolongs twice, I dedicated this day to puerh. We started with my spring 2017 sheng Gushu puerh. I brewed it in a large, log shaped Yixing zisha with enamel decoration (end of Qing dynasty) and served it in my celadon singing cups.
Very few leaves were enough to make an elegant, sweet, flowery and long lasting brew.
The idea of brewing tea in such an elegant setting is to learn from the past and connect to its spirit. The rich Lin family that built these gardens must have enjoyed very fine teas on their property. And if they had the good taste to design and decorate this place so beautifully, them must have known how to appreciate the fine pleasures of Chinese life.
It may seem strange, out of place, to use old tea ware in Europe or in the US, especially when you live in a new house or apartment with a modern decoration. But here, these wares are in total harmony with their surroundings. The colorful decoration of the teapot is so similar to the wood painting!
Modern life has improved in many aspects in the last 150 years (when the Lin Mansion was built). But when it comes to tea and creating a poetic place for tea and music, we can see that this was a priority in those times! This is a wonderful source of inspiration for any tea lover...
In order to emphasize the concept of time to these young students, I then brewed my mid 1980s loose puerh with the same teapot, but with a different set of cups. These large, thick and tall rice grain cups with duocai decoration are a better fit for aged sheng puerh. They were made roughly at the same time as the tea!
It's a little bit a challenge to brew for a large group of people, but when all of them are passionate about tea, there's a lot of positive energy flowing back when they enjoy their cup. And when I see their reactions, I also remember how it was when I had my first aged puerh experience. A good tea drinker should have a good tea memory of what he's had, but he should also enjoy each new tea on its own merits and just compare it to teas that are comparable. (Don't look down on an Alishan because it doesn't measure up to a Da Yu Ling, or a 15 years old puerh, because it's not 30 years of age...)
Pictures of tea without people look more harmonious and calm, but if they were a painting, we would call them 'nature morte' (dead nature)! Luckily, outdoors, this garden is still very much alive!
And that's also the case with this 35 years old tea. Despite its age, its dark scents, its aftertaste was still very energetic and fresh. Classics don't become old, they add layers (of meaning/taste) and improve!

1 comment:

Phill said...

Beautiful photos for a beautiful experience!! Thanks again Stephane, just starting to get over the jetlag.