Tea drunk is something which is widely known to exist, but, for some reason is not the experience of everyone that drinks tea. Having had this experience — feeling — with high quality tea, it becomes the standard by which many of us gauge our tea. In the Chinese conception, the best teas have the best energy (cha qi). My teacher used to say “we drink the energy of the tea, not the flavour”. This is a good approach, for if you are overly engrossed in the flavour of a tea, you may miss the energy all together.
All teas, all things, have this energy component. The ‘living’ quality which a thing possesses, is a reflection of its Qi. The more life, the more vitality a food source or tea brings to you, the more Qi it is said to have.
The notion of Qi takes some getting used to but for others no explanation is required.
Yogis, meditation students and Tai Chi practitioners often grasp it instantly, as energy work is the major element of their art forms. Others, with no real training in the subtle arts are just pllain lucky, the Way of Tea comes completely naturally to them.
On Tuesday a fireman excitedly came to the office door. At first I wondered if the building was on fire. He told me an interesting story about drinking a tea in a Chinese restaurant as a child and being overwhelmed by the feeling it gave him. He had been searching after this same experience for the last 30 + years but had not found it.
He remembered the experience but not the details of the tea itself. He said that he thought it might have been a green tea and went about trying every green tea he could get his hand on. Then in the last year a friend suggested it might be Bo Lei (Cantonese for Pu Erh tea). He bought a number of Pu Erh teas here in Vancouver and recognized the flavor as the tea from the restaurant years before but it failed to provide that same feeling — a feeling better experienced than described.
Having seen me on tv the week before, describing my experience with Pu Erh tea, he felt that perhaps we might be able to help him connect with the real thing. Making a mug of tea for him, it was fun to watch his face change with childlike enthusiasm as he sunk into the cha qi. Being able to connect people with this type of experience is a big part of why I do this work. It also reminds me to look to the energy of the tea that I drink and to savour the joyful feeling that it brings — a feeling that we sometimes sum up as ‘laughing at the world’ (perhaps doesn’t translate well but many tea lovers will know what I mean).
The funny thing about good tea is that, once you know its out there, it has a way of finding you.

DSC_1090Erick Smithe