I went to the teahouse today and I was so humbled that one of the teahouse staff introduced me to a customer as “one of the tea nerds that sit in the back.” I’ve only been seriously into tea for about a month but hearing a staff tea nerd refer to me as another tea nerd solidified an aspect of an emerging aspect of identity. Often when I am in the teahouse, first thing when they open and no one is really in the shop, I will just say every now and then, loudly, “Tea is amazing.” and I often hear a reply, “Yes, tea is amazing.” It’s like the most insecure password that tea nerds can use to identify each other. If I was on the street, and just started saying loudly, “Tea is amazing,” it might really annoy people, and honestly, I would be a little shocked if someone replied to me, unannounced, “Yes, tea is amazing.” But I want to live in that world, where random proclamations about how amazing something is that you’re into are common. Random thoughts about the joy of experiences should be shared. And for a good cause, because tea, as I have mentioned, is amazing.
The staff of the teahouse are, like tea, amazing. They are all so passionate and knowledgeable about tea, and their excitement has definitely passed on to me. I am amazed when I am in the teahouse and someone comes in for the first time and doesn’t shout, “Oh My God.” I should state it one last time in this blog: “Tea is amazing.” Knowing this, I listened intently to their advice this morning. I had planned on getting one of the green teas to help me wake up. I got up really early for meditation this morning, and I was completely exhausted. I almost fell asleep during meditation, I know I needed something a little bit more strong than my regular green tea.
The teahouse asked why I was only drinking green tea. I told them that it was because I was starting to work on a book about the green tea experiences, but I told them how much I was enjoying a black tea I had recently. They asked me why I didn’t just move to Oolong instead of Black tea, because it’s a transitional tea, between the raw green tea experience and the rich, complete other tones of black tea.
The space in between planetary bodies in the universe is known as dark matter. It is a theoretically maintained concept, yet almost undeniably real. Scientists are realizing that gravity behaves in strange ways that could only be described because of the existence of dark matter. It is invisible, yet it is conjectured that 85% of matter in the universe is dark matter. Black tea is my undiscovered dark matter. In a world transformed by raw sencha: the earthy transparency of light and energy through nature, the existence of black tea presents a harrowing problem. I knew that if I began to journey through it, I might not be able to get back for a long period of time. My satellite of experiences, stranded in deep space, might be, at any moment, pulled completely into a black hole, unable to escape.
But what is in the other side of the event horizon of a black hole? Perhaps a new discovery, a broader world, another mirrored universe? Probably only experimental physics and comic books would know, and with them, I would add the teahouse. They know that on the opposite side of the shelf in the middle of the room, separated by the support of metal and wood, sits black tea, in an equal distance from the side that has the green tea. It might change everything for me, but the Oolong suggested an opportunity. What if we could move away from the dialectic of green and black, from idealism to experience, that is the foundation of the two extremes of tea. In perfect balance, Oolong suggests to us that possibility. The tea that was suggested to me was Charcoal Fired Oolong, and as I gazed into the tea leaves, it was in tightly packed round forms, which could be brewed without a strainer. I made my first infusion and tried to see what I could notice.
This was a swan on a calm pond, with clouds overhead, which was probably an influence from the current weather in West Berkeley. Slightly in a haze, from the first sensations of taste, and as I went through subsequent infusions it became sweeter. It was poetic, natural, and had a definite direction of energy. It was so focusing that I left the teahouse early to work on a project. It was one of the first teas I tried with the same ability to micro focus in its effects, but still maintained the expansive qualities that come from green tea. In fact, in my reading, all of the qualities lauded by supporters of green tea are also found in all the other kinds of tea; Black, White, Oolong, Green, so when I discussed this with the teahouse, they said that what tea ends up being is a difference in energy. Not just taste, but in the complete energy of the tea itself. There is no real dialectic of green and black. All teas are simply teas in a complete tea universe and are an impossibly varied system of energies and experiences.