2011 is the year of tea. For me, Gong Fu Cha or "making tea with efforts" is a powerful meditation on the five senses and living to appreciate the subtle nature of our reality. I've only been recently introduced to the Chinese practice of brewing tea, but find, like many traditions from the Chinese culture, that it resonates deeply with my soul. One of the most difficult paths for the task driven, faced paced, modern yogi that I am, is to appreciate things through my senses. Often I find myself finishing a meal without having even taken a moment to appreciate the scent of the food, or take the time after a yoga class to really feel my body and the sensations that I am experiencing on a deep level. It is so easy to get caught up in the mind, in the activity of the day, in what blog I'm going to write later, or what website update is looming ahead of me. To stop and smell the "tea" is a real gift. I am learning the many styles of tea, based on their cultivation, like oolong or pu'erh, two words that were not even in my vocabulary a year ago.
The Chinese tea ceremony begs a moment to sit down and take on the task of understanding something deeply, not with the mind, but with the five senses. I often refer to the feeling state of the body as the sixth sense. Tea requires feeling. It demands to be appreciated not only through taste, but smell, sight, and the elusive sixth sense. How does the tea make you feel? I've been off coffee, red meat, chocolate, and most refined sugar for 16 days. I am already feeling quite different. This is allowing me to feel the sensations of the calming peptides being released from the tea. The antioxidants pulsing into my cells and rejuvenating me.
I will be writing about my experiences often, to take you on the journey with me. Today I had my first Chinese Tea Ceremony, by myself, with a tea table and Yixing Zisha that my brother gifted me to encourage this new practice. The tea was Gaba Oolong which is a tea exposed to nitrogen rich environments during process to activate the healing and calming qualities of the tea on the nervous system. It tastes amazing. I have yet to unlock its fully complexity of course, a process which could be years down the road, but I felt that it was a great start. I transcribed the process of Gong Fu Cha and hung it next to my tea table. Here is one way to prepare tea to be served in Gong Fu Cha.
工夫茶 Gong Fu Cha :"Making Tea with Efforts"
"the warm pot heats the cups"
The cups and pot are warmed and sterilized with hot water
"Appreciates the Good Tea"
Appreciate the appearance, smell and characteristics of the tea leaves
"The Black Dragon Enters the Palace"
The Zisha is filled with tea
"Rinsing from an elevated pot"
The leaves are rinsed with hotter
"The Spring wind brushes the surface"
Any bubbles or debris are scooped away from the surface of the zisha and then the tea is closed with the lid and sealed with hot water
"Bathe the immortal twice"
The wash is discarded into the cups
You are now ready to serve the guest!