I’d just finished meditating early evening today, and was left at the end thinking about energy – when it stagnates, when it flows, and the ability to live in harmony. Today I got to think about how making tea can bring me into the moment, how this energy can be channeled in a way that, without being excited or accentuated, all the while feels regenerative and nourishing.
I’d just watched a video at Verdant Tea on how to steep Tieguanyin tea in general, so I thought it’d be a nice excuse to steep their Autumn Tieguanyin.
Following the Gong Fu technique meant steeping the tea for 3-4 seconds each time, over the course of around ten infusions. Steeping the tea so often, I got to enter a certain frame of mind in which it becomes tricky to distinguish between how the tea changes steep to steep, and how my own temperament might be changing. That uncertainty alone comes from a pleasant and quiet mind state.
Mindfulness of Senses
Just beginning to make the tea is wonderful. First by pouring hot water into the pitcher, its heat is transferred to the vessel, cool the water and warming my hand and fingers. Then, after rinsing the tea, I get to admire the warm, intoxicating aroma of spring. The leaves, draped in steam leaving upward, look dewey and have barely begun to open up.
The tea is very pleasant, but I know it is only just waking up. There’s almost a citrusy, warming aftertaste. The steeped leaves offer a fresh scent of flowers along with evergreen.
The taste is much more heady and bold compared to before. There’s a brightness to it, balanced by a buttery texture in my palate, and a lingering aftertaste that suggests melted butter. If butter sounds funny to you, you’ll have to try this tea for yourself.
What’s more, the aftertaste leaves an incredible feeling in my mouth I often get when first sipping a tea. There’s both a hot and cold sensation at the same time, echoing on the roof of my mouth and around my teeth. I know the tea wasn’t that hot, but I can feel the aroma spreading about my palate. It’s hard to pay attention to anything else at this time.
Also tried for the first time the technique of insulating the tea by pouring hot water around the saucer.
There is still a nice flowery taste to the tea that is sort of encompassing, though the silky texture in the mouth is replaced by more of a dryness. I begin to wonder, however, if my palate is just getting used to the tea. At any rate, beyond my palate, my mind is getting quieter and more still.
The brightness is back, and there is almost a spicy, tangy sensation on the sides and tip of my tongue that gives way to a honeysuckle sweetness.
I take a second more to smell the tea in the cup. It so strongly conveys spring. There are flowers present, along with fresh grass – it’s all there. Before I know what’s going on, I’m blasted with a visual memory of being in a parking lot near my neighborhood years ago, on a beautiful spring day. I truly have to remind myself what is going on, that the tea had brought me there. Once again, I find myself asking how I am so viscerally transported to a memory – is it the scent alone, or the light state of mind I eased into by making the tea?
The flowery taste of the tea is punctuated by a woodiness now, that comes and goes, giving way to a lingering floral essence. I look around the room, and still “feel” this taste in everything I see. The tea is definitely encompassing my entire experience. The woodiness, unexpected, makes me think of the “fines” left in the tea strainer. I always appreciate the different colors of Tieguanyin – the dark to neon greens, dotted with brown and reds from the distinctive processing of the leaf. My mind is quiet enough to appreciate the range of colors as an extension of the range of flavors coming from the tea.
The flavor is still nice but… The tea begins to taste stagnant. Maybe the flipping advice from Verdant Tea will work here?
The tea now tastes clearer again, but with less strength.
I get an instinct to steep even shorter, to let the subtlety of whatever’s latent in the tea show. The floral qualities are even stronger once again! I find myself looking for the lingering aftertaste, and taste instead a sort of dryness. I wonder if the tea is wearing out, or my own palate? After all, I don’t have any company, and while the cups are small, I’ve had 27 of them.
Only half an hour later, I find myself making tea all over again for a friend that came by to sip and chat. We were talking enthusiastically as we hadn’t seen each other for a while. It was nice to have some conversation after so much reflective quiet time.
From getting all the tea and teaware out, our conversation carried along, until I poured water over the tea leaves. I watched as my friend spontaneously paused after an unlikely sentence, her eyes fixed on the tea. Still imbued with our chat, I found myself analytical of her pause, then a quick glance at her eyes, still gazing at the tea in my hand, zapped me back into the quiet “Tea Mind” I had been in before. I don’t know how long we lingered in that quietude—not long enough have hot water spilling all over my hand, at least. When we began talking again, however, our tones sounded more thoughtful. I would later shake my head in quiet appreciation, of how the outer engagement of conversation would dance with inner reflection of tasting the next infusion of the tea.
The only other times I experience such a vibe while talking with people is right after meditating with them. For me, the experience of tea (not just the drink itself) brings this sort of moment into reality, where we honor the inner and outer experience right at the same time, in shared company.