Have you seen any videos of tea being made?
I’m sure you have. Whether it’s on YouTube, Instagram, or on a tea vendor’s website — or maybe you’ve even done it yourself on a tea farm! — I think we all know that there’s quite a journey that our teas undertake before they get to us.
You know the drill. The tea’s gotta be grown, maintained, and harvested, and then processed, usually by a team led by an experienced teamaster.
And then someone has to pack it carefully into bags (which are often lovingly designed by someone who really cares about the tea) before it gets shipped out to you.
Sometimes that story begins even before any of us were born. Think of those old pu’erh trees in Yunnan, or about any tea you’ve tried from a “tea making family”. My teachers Ai and Fang, for example, continue a line of teamasters that dates back from before 1850!
It’s fascinating, and honestly pretty humbling.
But what’s even more crazy is the fact that they pass the torch to us.
That’s right. If you really think about it, it’s not a teamaster who gets to put the finishing touches on a tea, it’s you.
With wine or beer, we’re pretty much working with a finished product. More or less. But tea is different. There’s no actual tea until you show up in the process, and that’s kind of a big responsibility.
This is why Cha Xi — the “tea stage”, “tea play”, or design of the tea session, whatever you wanna call it — is so important.
And yes, on the surface, the process of setting up a tea session might look a little… extra.
Like, does it really matter if the tea cloth is white or black or peacock blue? Or if the cups we use are unglazed or crackle glaze or whatever other glaze you wanna call whatever’s on the cup you just happened to like the look of?
I’m not going to lie, it is a little fussy.
But tea is such a subtle thing that even the smallest choices can influence the outcome.
And you wouldn’t believe all the tiny adjustments your tea has ALREADY gone through up until this point.
A window in the tea factory, opened here. A temperature dial, adjusted by just a degree or two there. Using old shoes rather than new, since the smell of new rubber soles might somehow impact the leaves.
So when we find ourselves fussing over glass vs. porcelain cups or the best way to lay down a tea towel, that’s perfectly natural to the tea, really.
Everyone before us has certainly done the same, and they’ve left the rest up to you and me.
Exciting, isn’t it?
P.S. We’re deep into the Cha Xi Challenge on Instagram and Discord now, and I’d just like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who’s joined in so far!
I’m not kidding when I say that EVERY tea session that’s come in has been so thoughtful, beautiful, and inspiring — and if you haven’t already, I invite you to browse through the #ChaxiChallenge posts and get inspired! Cha Xi is such a little-known concept in the tea world but it is another critical area of practice if you want to up the tea game: and as always, it’s a practice that we learn better together.