This is a project for a book club I am in. We read the essential tea book, Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic. For this project I took photos of every tea session I had for a couple weeks. I tried not to do anything special and just take a quick photo – these sessions were not set up to be special for these pictures. I will then see if there’s any patterns or observations about them that link to ideas in the book.
The first session presents itself as a global chaxi – jianshui teapot from yunnan, jianshui bowl from the czech republic, teacup from slovakia, mat from siberia, rock from walden pond, pyrex from USA. Surrounding the chaxi are hints of the personal context of me, the experiencer.
The duck cup, made in Jingdezhen, says on the bottom, “made in the ming dynasty, LOL!” joking about the idea of authenticity. In the book, authenticity plays a central role. This duck cup reminds me of White2Tea’s Treachery Pt. 1, which reads “This tea is fake” on the wrapper.
“‘being loyal to one’s senses’ is actually mixed up with conscious and unconscious acceptance or rejection of external influences” (Zhang 202). Would I ever use a pyrex if not for White2Tea? No! The name of this mat from Tea-Masters is “dark connections” and I like to think about all the connections present underneath the circumstances and setup of the tea session.
hua – transformation, gradual change (145). Light illuminates the chaxi, different every time. Also notice what changes and what stays the same.
“it is upon bad fortune that good fortune leans, it is on good fortune that bad fortune rests” (Lao Tzu, Zhang 145)
Occasionally you’ll see accumulation of teaware in the background. Sometimes sessions are messy like this.
The book discusses how it was said that if you don’t buy lots of puer tea early on, you’ll regret it later. This was a big idea in the Puer bubble of 2007, which is discussed in chapter 5. I think about the sheer volume of tea produced in that time, and the sheer number of tea sessions I’ve consumed – maybe there’s sometimes a similar problem? This picture is a bit blurred in places, but the tea in the pitcher is crystal clear.
Look at the contrast from the last picture. I think I had just been on a hike, opened the windows, switched cloths.
Light shining from the left, lonely teapot in the back right. Jiri lang cup and pot. “a return to the original vague ‘raw’ situation” (Zhang 119)
Puer tea is valuable, but what is the true value of Puer tea?
“The yunnanese themselves said that yunnanese things were “earthy” (tu), rustic, or backward” (Zhang 94). Here the earthy things are from europe. The tea itself here has been “made elegant” somehow. Or has it?
Flavorless flavor was mentioned in the book somewhere. An idea that’s hard to pin down.
Some body, some body, some body, somebody (TwoDog 2020). Do you think puer tea is somebody, like it has a personality? Or is it just Some Body, just plant matter?
“One such tourist, a nostalgic woman from Guangzhou, had imagined before her journey that she would be able to sit on the flagstones of the Tea-Horse Road in Yiwu, fantasizing about caravans ringing their bells” (72).
I really like this quote (on the kindle)
A switch to a more “traditional” porcelain pitcher.
The jianghu of puer tea, a central concept in the book, is basically – puer tea is contextualized and defined by multiple actors. Even me and you. To me, even a teapot is an actor in this jianghu, this space where wandering knights battle it out and debate, a highly individualized space.
More jianghus and jianghu actors – tea shops, blogs, instagram, discord, vendors.
Not forest tea, but tastes like a forest.
Regular dinner plate, now a tea plate. Two favorite tea books on the left.
puer tea close up, when you look in this way, you don’t understand at all.
Reading The Time of Tea, a similarly academic tea book. By comparing different contextualizations, you can begin to understand. I don’t think you can understand puer tea from one point of view, just like there isn’t one chaxi here that is the most correct. I do like the sunny ones, though.
Another session lost to time…
“Imagined originality” (53) I feel like I stopped looking for Puer tea’s authenticity in a historical context long ago, or was never interested in the first place. Traditional handcrafted tea processing is a technique passed down, and as long as the basics are right, it’s more interesting to have your tea here and now.
“these connoisseurs’ standards suggest that both the raw and the aged are authentic” (54).
Thanks for reading! Remember, tea never ends… I’m having more right now!