Yesterday we held a semi-regular tea session for local industry people and friends. There is no formal structure for the event, nor is it scheduled much in advance. Tea friends will bring in their latest offerings so we can taste and compare. This time there we a couple of cliff teas, some yellow tea and three Pu Erh for my part.
The order in which you drink different teas is important. Much like with wine, we drink younger before older (within tea type) and more lightly oxidized followed by darker. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but this is the basic theory.
The mother tree tie luo han (cliff tea) that Beijing Lisa brought was of tremendous quality and so it could be made after a round of aged Pu Erh. Tea quality and energy (cha qi) can trump the general principles of tea ordering. The rhythm of the cliff tea was so light and buoyant that it could sit atop the heavily sedating vibe of a 1960’s Pu Erh tea cake.
Needless to say the five of us were rather tea-drunk by the time we wound the session down. The contrast of the feeling and energy of the cliff tea, oolong and puerh produced a magical feeling that would not have been possible by any one tea alone. Tea brewing is Taoist alchemy in a sense. When done in a carefree, jovial kind of way, it lifts up the spirit and mind to heightened states of conscious awareness.
We often say that ‘tea and zen are of one flavour’. It is truly the triumph of the mundane — the ordinary. That but something completely ordinary, one’s worldview can be completely transformOn-the-Jobed, is a most curious and extraordinary thing.

Erick Smithe