“Silently and serenely, one forgets all words,
Clearly and vividly, it appears before you.
When one realizes it, time has no limits.
When experienced, your surroundings come to life.”
Some forms of Chinese poetry, and some of their Japanese counterparts, always evoke a feeling of peace in me, which I have found on an RoI (Return-on-investment) basis, to be unparalleled. The poems also sound as if, at the time of their inception, the poet was riding high on some pure, premium quality Green Tea! I, myself, have dabbled previously in both, their poetry and their tea, but this time around in Hong Kong I decided to go all out and visit a traditional Tea House.
This one happened to be located inside the Nan Lian garden, itself a slice of paradise (comes highly recommended for anyone visiting HK). I was alone on that sweltering day, thirsty, looking for a place to rest. As I went in, an attendant came outside to help me out. As she walked me past the empty tables, I took in the sights and the sounds. The place was all wood, far as the eye could discern, dispersed carved panels depicting traditional Chinese people doing traditional Chinese things. The table tops were spic and span, well-polished; you could sense by looking at their design that there was more to them than met the eye. The absence of any other soul in the place made its presence felt. As I chose a seat and settled in, I could feel the masterful plucks of the erhu filling up the air around me. The sound was a heavy and all-encompassing fog, like the settling smoke on a cold winter night.
The server came along with the menu, and as I fished around my wallet to check my working capital, I decided I would go for “the experience” today. I lay my index finger on the top right corner and slid my way down, and settled once I found my drug. It was a Jin Fo Shou tea. A quick google told me that it was a rare form of high quality tea, whose name literally translates to “Golden Buddha Hand”, and which is cultivated exclusively on the below hill. Intrigued is an understatement.
The tea came in a tiny porcelain petri-dish, along with a manual on how to go about preparing it, the Chinese way. Thankfully, the server took pity, and walked me through the fascinating baby steps:
- Fill kettle with water from tableside tap
- Open secret compartment on table top and place kettle on mysterious looking boiler plate (I will, for now, assume this is the way it worked in ancient China too)
- Bring out three sets of cutlery:
- A mini teapot to let the tea soak in the goodness
- A slightly smaller buffer cup (nope, not autocorrected) whose purpose will be to hold the tea before distribution among various people at the table; this is done so that everyone gets to drink the _exact_ same thing as everyone else at the table. Details!
- And lastly, a tiny ceramic cup for your own self. Calling it a cup doesn’t somehow do it justice – let’s call it a “tea holder”
- “Warm up” all of these cups with the perfectly boiled water from the kettle (Oh yes, multi-tasking required. Focus, people. Focus!) And drain the liquid in a secret drain right in the middle of the damn table! Chinese old timers can put the Q07 pair to shame, I am sure.
- Now using a peculiar looking spatula (wooden, of course) slowly and carefully pass on the tea leaves into the teapot, and let the china from 4.1-4.3 do its job.
- As the slightly golden liquid finally reaches your holder, pinch the cup between your thumb and index, take in a whiff from the escaping vapors, taste a sip, and relax.
That tea was a mild conquest of the senses; not an attack mind you. The music, the wood, the *clinks* of the ceramic, the customs. The experience was calming, natural as if I had willingly surrendered my city to these invaders and accepted them as my own..
As I left after what seemed like a few hours, the sun had started its journey downwards, but I was comfortable at my zenith. As I sat down on the nearby wooden bench, my mind raced yet was in no hurry; it hammered out this little piece:
“As my eyes close
My senses open
They soak in the peace
Music flows between them
A sense of calm in the air
Flowing yet still
Bridging the divide
Between the thought and the mind”
(I could have sworn they added opioids in that tea, somehow!)
This is a part of a mini-series of independent posts, starting here