I have gotten so many questions lately about my practice of tea ceremony and I want to offer you all a place to come and read and learn more. Know that I am no teacher or expect of this practice. I have been practicing for a little over a year and for me tea has changed my life. Yes, tea! It has been the greatest teacher and way of life. It has forced me to out of my comfort zone and brought me back to my true nature. It has invited me to love and support this beautiful earth in a whole new way by asking me to show respect to everything I approach.
I want to invite you into what my practice looks like, how I got started and what resources have been vital to this journey. I hope you all enjoy and leave knowing a bowl of tea is always sitting in my home for all of you!
This time last year I was returning home from my first time in Asia and my first solo trip. A trip that was called upon me without time to think otherwise I knew with everything in my being I had to visit The Tea Sage Hut in Taiwan. After meeting and learning about center from dear friends in New York and an experience of sitting in Prospect Park with a group of people all silently being served tea.
As I sat with a bowl of tea in my hands looking into on the surface I saw the reflection of the tree and the sky yet to me this spoke to my heart in a whole a new way. Asking me to see that I am drinking nature, this beauty that is all around me and in that bowl is me. I am nature and I sat silently with each bowl with this reflection. I knew something profound was shifting inside me and what or how what would manifest was not even in my thoughts yet. After leaving the park and returning home I knew this practice needed to be brought into my everyday life. To begin to learn and explore this practice. In this moment in my life I was struggling with finances and knew that buying all these beautiful handmade ceramic tea wares were not in my current path.
So I started the simplest way I could. I used a small bowl from my kitchen, a pot with a lid, and beautiful tea leaves. I slowly created a space in my tiny New York apartment just for this practice. Lying down a small rug, a pillow to sit on and a small tray from my kitchen as the chaxi (stage). I would return to this place every morning and heat the water on my stove and as the water quickly cooled because it had no way to retain the heat I would drink just 3 bowls.
For me it was the practice of showing up to be with this plant and in this silent place then exploring the depth of this truly special plant. I was setting the path of ritual that would continue to evolve. Two weeks after leaving Prospect Park with stars in my eyes and in tea in my belly this practice had become part of my everyday. It was then I knew I had to visit the Tea Sage Hut and so I applied to sit a 10day course. I was in no place to leave my life to head to Asia for two weeks, to take time off work, to invest in the flight across the world but I knew I had to go.
I received a reply that a space was open and next thing I knew it felt like true destiny everything just seemed to align. I found the cheapest flight to Taiwan, an amazing eco-hostel in Taipei that was beyond affordable and a month later I set out. Upon arriving it felt as though I was returning home and to loved ones yet we had never met. Each day we sat in meditation and in communion with tea with no outside dictations on how things were supposed to be. Leaving the center was a day I will never forget we all sat together for one last tea ceremony and I wept. I wept for all the beauty and love we had cultivated and how generous they had been to invite us into this space to be with tea. I wept knowing I was leaving this beautiful family of tea brothers and sisters.
Returning home from this experience left me confused and urging to be back. I was in this place of true love and passion for this practice I had cultivated. I returned to sitting everyday and while in Taiwan I purchased tea ware that would help support me in this practice. To have a deeper relationship with this plant medicine. For me this means showing up everyday to be present with tea to be in the space I created before I left for Taiwan in my New York apartment but knowing I can take it anywhere. I travel with my teaware and love to share tea with friends and family in beautiful spaces in nature.
If you feel called to this practice simply start with the first brewing type, leaves in a bowl. You will simply need water, hot water, a bowl and large leaf tea leaves. When you are just beginning use the resources you have for me that was a pot, a ceramic dish from my kitchen as a tea bowl and leaves that were gifted to me from a friend. When it comes to choosing the tea I cannot suggest enough using what we call Living Tea. This tea is more than organic by choosing this you know you will be using this medicinal plant in its cleanest form.
How to begin?
Create the space
Take a moment to set up a beautiful little space in your home or outside. This could simply mean laying down a blanket and putting pillow to sit on and setting a Chaxi (stage). I love to use reclaimed fabrics or table runners for this you can get creative! By creating this space for the ceremony we show respect for our guest even if your guest are just you and the tea!
Heat the Water
Weather you are using a pot to heat the water or a kettle once you have set you space for the ceremony you can begin to heat your water. I suggest starting with a glass kettle so you can begin to see how the water heats!
Once your water is heated just shy of a rolling boil pour water into your bowls and rinse them. This not only is a way to clean the bowls but to show a sign of respect. You will dump this water into a water waste bowl. Now that you have cleaned your bowl place several tea leaves into your bowl as if scattering leaves across the autumn forest floor. Next pour the hot water into your bowl, taking care to hit the side wall of the bowl to avoid burning your leaves. By pouring into the bowl this way your leaves will begin to dance!
As you sit holding you bowl of tea be present. Know there is no right or wrong here you are simply invited to be present with any thoughts or feelings that may arise. Let them surface and return to the tea when you are lost down the ever thinking mind. Once you have consumed your first bowl continue to brew the same way into the bowl with these same leaves. I invited you to watch as the leaves open to you witnessing how beautiful and ever changing the leaves are with each steeping.
At the end of your ceremony give thanks for the tea and for taking the time to be present. I like to return the leaves back to the earth by scattering them in my yard returning them to the soil they came from!
If you are looking to learn more please watch this beautiful video by Global Tea Hut about brewing Bowl Tea.
Global Tea Hut: an amazing resources to dive deep into learning about tea through their magazine.
Living Tea: The most amazing tea and tea ware to purchase!