Gongfu Theater

Taking a break from the tea shop writing to focus on writing about my experiences traveling as well as art and design. This has been a really amazing experience writing about tea, and I have to say my tea fascination has blossomed into what seems like a lifelong appreciation of gongfu tea.

When I first started writing about tea in the teashop, one of the tea masters was insistent about calling the tea shop experience “kung fu tea”. It was a really good gateway into understanding Chinese culture from a common international gateway from a normative cultural experience we understand in the west: Kung Fu Theater, like the ones that came on TV in the late 80s. Kung Fu Theater was a series of really weird english dubs of what seemed like a bottomless well of 70s kung fu movies that fascinated me. I even kept a white Buddha from a chain Chinese food restaurant, and sometimes in the sweltering Texas summer would dress up as a ninja in a costume made by my Grandma. It was definitely a first entry into a minor goth influence.

So when I asked for a black tea, for one of the last times to write about it, I talked with the tea shop buyer about the experience for some time. I’ve always been really interested in being an evangelist for tea. It’s been a life changing experience, no doubt, and I always am looking for ways to add to the collective conversation about simple ideas that could really make the world more peaceful. Tea is one of those things. If everyone cared about tea and prepared it slowly once a day, it truly might change the world.

So I was really interested to talk to the head of the tea shop and get her views into the history of the shop. I had a lot of ideas about how to help the tea shop. As it turns out, they had tried it all out. Which honestly for me is fine. I absolutely love the tea shop and want it to never change. I love West Berkeley. It is quiet and unassuming, and has some of the best food, coffee and tea, the central life forces for my experience.

She had some interesting observations. She first said that most people come in and ask for Earl Grey. I was shocked. I really think this tea shop has fantastic prices that help you really explore a variety of complex teas at minimal cost. I thought that the majority of the customers would be super opinionated and advanced tea drinkers. Apparently this was not the case. She told me that most Americans want American tea.

Additionally, we talked about tea culture between China, Taiwan and the US. It was her view that it was almost a class issue. She said that most people in China only make traditional tea when they retire, because most of the culture is too competitive to really allow young people an entrance to the practice. This was shocking to me. I realized I had imagined the culture as this incredibly tea soaked environment that revolved around traditional culture. Apparently I was living in Kung Fu Theater.

I never tried to get into tea as a class thing. It was more a fascination with the lure of exoticism created by living in a suburban culture in Texas in the first twenty or so years of my life. I’ve almost been away from that for so long that it doesn’t really register with me any more. Instead I am most interested in the mindfulness component, and also because it just tastes so good, it’s good for you, it’s as endless as a collection of Pokemon, and it’s so much fun.

It was great studying and learning the ropes of creative writing while writing about tea here. I may return to it some other time, but for now, I think it’s a good place to stop.

The tea that was suggested to me today came from a one hundred year old tree in China. It is not cultivated. It grows wild in the mountains. It lasts for up to two days. It changes over time with each steeping into a new world of sensations. The pot sits in the center of a large bowl. There is a poem on the side. I asked what it meant because it was in Chinese, which I can’t read, so I asked the head Tea Master. She replied that it’s something about energy existing and concentrated in the tea pot.

I’m enjoying it today as I move on to writing in my other blog about my experiences with art, design, and world culture. The tea shop was an incredible introduction to personal cultivation, analysis and peace.

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