There are a lot of types of tea culture, and for me, I find all have their mark on my own tea sessions. There’s the gorgeous minimalism of pu-erh.sk and essence of tea for example, and there’s the direct maximalism of white2tea on the other side (at least in a lot of the art, as w2t is minimalist in other ways), the quality-focused community of teaswelike and daxue jiadao, the friendly fireside tea sessions, the spiritual global tea hut community, the edgy, music-focused kuura, and it goes on and on and on. After going on Instagram and seeing the way people are drinking and talking about tea around the world in so many different ways, the question is always, what am I going to do today with my tea?
As natural as just grabbing a tea and a teapot on autopilot and drinking it while doing/watching whatever is, I find the nature of tea to be an opportunity to set an intention, using tea culture as an inspiration. For me, there is not just one ideal. I can decide to put on Laraaji ambient zither music and have a very meditative tea session, where the tea sparkles in the light through the window as I breathe in the fresh evocative aroma of incense. I can feel my body relax as I seem to suspend time. Where did I get this from? Was it participating in tea ceremonies at Puerh Brooklyn? Was it from drinking tea with friends? Was it from watching pu-erh.sk’s stories and reading the half-dipper and mgualt doing the same sort of things? I have to say yes, it’s all of that and more. But this is not my only way of drinking tea, and it’s not the only ideal either.
Sometimes I have a very different kind of session. I get a loud, huge chabu I bought from white2tea, with art I really don’t intellectually understand, pick a rough-looking pot, grab a high end tea, grab a cassette tape or a phone and some headphones and just blast a playlist. Not ambient music – just my favorite music, anything. Intense, energetic, noisy, whatever I want. Time doesn’t stop, but it seems to melt, as one track plays after another, one pot after another, the teaware seeming to be the architecture of some nightclub, tea in technicolor. Where did I get this from? White2tea stories, of course — but it’s almost as if it’s something I would have done anyway, but also w2t gives me permission to do this and feel like I’m not the only one.
There’s also beginner’s tea – just the first gongfu puer sessions I ever did – it was just making tea in a quiet room, that’s it – no frills, no distractions, no preconceptions, no ideals. I remember how powerful those experiences were, and that’s still something I like to return to.
It feels like tea would be inherently minimalist, as it’s such a slow activity, but it’s really not that simple. Tea drinking is very fluid, and there’s maximalism in minimalism and vice versa. In a quiet, simple, low-stimulus tea session, everything is amplified, and the complexity of the tea is revealed. And in a noisy, musically and visually overwhelming tea session, everything blends into one seamless whole. I’m thankful for the tea community being so diverse, as it brings continued inspiration to my own tea table and to my life.