As some of you may know, my tea journey began when I was very young, for I was introduced to British (Western) style teas, along with herbals (tisanes). But for me, it wasn’t until I learned and tasted loose teas that my journey began. I knew the basics, my first love being oolong. Then when I started to develop a palate, green tea, specifically Japanese greens were the go to. Going through phases I find is pretty typical for Chajin. I now enjoy almost everything, and knowledge and experience definitely helps. Sometimes, people have a harder time enjoying tea because they don’t have the palate or knowledge that actually really creates an even more incredible bond with the leaves.
So how can one get started on this quest of leaves?
Tea can be a very overwhelming world if you dive in really deeply at first, but like most things, passions should be learned about gradually. You will come to learn more in time, so number 1 rule is to be patient, slow down, and just enjoy it cup by cup.
Constantly chasing new teas and knowledge can make it overwhelming, and too much. Beautiful teas and flavors will get lost because of the distraction of other teas. For me, what helped me gain appreciation and knowledge at first was learning the basics.
All tea is made from one plant, Camellia sinensis. This knowledge can get VERY technical, because there are many different types, but for the purpose of this post we will understand that all tea is generally this plant. Camellia sinensis is a great umbrella to increase understanding of this magical plant.
The leaves are used to make all tea, black, puerh, oolong, red, yellow, green, and white. Every tea has their own unique processing, which makes all of these different from one another, including fermentation amount, location of plant, the age of the plant and leaves, season it’s harvested, etc. The flowers are yummy too!
As a suggestion, start off by trying each of these types and see what’s your favorite! Learn about the processing and where it’s from. It truly makes a difference.
However, buying tea is very tricky. Bagged tea is a no-no. Teavana is a no-no. If you enjoy drinking this tea, go for it, there are zero rules, but in order to truly engage with these leaves, there must be integrity. Tea like Lipton and other popular brands are not quality, grown on multiple plantations, and they support evil industries that use and overwork people. It is a dirty business and I am not in favor of supporting people that are destroying such a great thing. Teavana and other bigger loose leaf tea brands are “better”, but a lot of integrity is lost because it is a huge business trying to make a profit on cheaper teas flavored with artificial flavoring and fruits that tend to be more aimed for the Western palate.
There are many great sources for tea. Our tea for instance is from family farms and is grown with the utmost care and respect. We will never sell tea just to make a profit, and we will never sell anything that we wouldn’t be proud to sell.
Global Tea Hut is another amazing source for quality tea.
Buy tea that you feel good supporting. Supporting these farms can help the economy, and the spread of true tea culture.
When it comes to brewing tea, I highly recommend gongfu, or bowl tea.
Bowl tea is the easiest way to brew, and definitely the most affordable, for all you need is a bowl! Tea bowls are available, but using rice bowls are great too. I use them all the time. All that is needed is a quiet place, some leaves, the bowl, and some water. I usually do a good pinch of leaves. Bowl tea only really works with big, full leaves. Small, broken leaves will leave lots of pieces in your teeth and can make the brew difficult to drink.
Bowl tea is an amazing way to get your practice in development.
Gongfu is ideal for tasting the leaves at their full potential. Gongfu tea should definitely have it’s own post, and is not recommended for beginners (at least those not trying to rush it!)
However, to those interested in the benefits of gongfu, but desire a simpler version, gaiwans are an amazing way to brew. Gaiwans are available for very affordable prices, and are elegant, practical, and easy to use.
Using a gaiwan is incredibly powerful.
Some tips –
Fill the gaiwan with leaves. This tea is our Yanagi Bancha. One of our favorites.
Pour the hot water.
Brew for only a few moments, maybe 5-10 seconds.
Pour into your favorite cup.
Resteep, and resettle ❤
Last but not least, drink your tea. Take the time to do it. Never do 3 things at once while drinking tea. When you create a space , or chaxi, your tea practice can absolutely transform from just drinking a beverage, to a meditational practice that connects you with nature, the farms, the community, and yourself. All the technicalities will come in time, but the most important thing is that you enjoy it!