I hesitate to call it a practice. Truthfully, I even hesitate to introduce tea. With a reputation for being fussy or overly complicated or just foreign it always felt that it had to be the right place and the right time to bring tea to a friend’s house. Typically the intention is of having what is commonly referred to in the tea world as a “session”. This often consists of putting a kettle on, heating a gaiwan or yixing teapot, pulling out the really good tea, being willing to sip out of small tiny cups that look comical, taking some time to sit together, and then allowing time and the conversation to unfold, keep pouring the hot water in, keep pouring the tea out filing cup upon cup until everyone is a little more relaxed and a little more awake. With a bit of courage, and with tea in hand, I drove up to Sea Ranch to meet an old friend, and to be introduced to two new ones.
They kindly waited for me to arrive so that we could all share lunch. Driving from the East Bay, through Petaluma, across to Bodega Bay, and finally reaching the winding cliff road snaking it’s way against the ocean shore, felt like a subtle transition. Until I actually got out of the car at Sea Ranch. First breath, deep ocean brine; diffused light from the fog – thick despite the mid-afternoon hour, waves against rock, and a hearty welcome. Their house, designed with a reverence for the site and the cedar trees which stand here, is nestled atop a cove’s bluff. Built with steel, concrete, copper and wood, it gently opens to the ocean beyond. I felt excited and grateful to be spending a few days here. Lunch was immediately served.
After lunch, we put the kettle on. I pulled out my yixing teapot that I had wrapped up in a linen kitchen napkin and without enough care had put into a paper bag with tasting cups and a few small containers of tea. We decided on some pu-erh. The fog called for it and the setting really could not have been more perfect. As we poured out the deep earth brown liquor of the pu-erh and drank cup after cup everything settled and opened at once. We all took some pictures and then we kept drinking. And talking. And the part of it that feels like a practice became clear. Perhaps because you start with a simple intention. Or rather the tea does. This practice handed down thousands of years ago, across oceans and mountains, from the master’s hand to the tea purveyor, to people sitting with each other sharing a single pot of tea. The tea itself carries it’s own story, it’s own intention. And as we serve it, it in a way serves us.
My initial hesitation in bringing tea was gracefully swept away. And all that remained was gratitude. Here on the rocks of the pacific ocean, under cedar and redwood, tea again was a way to say thank you. To bring gratitude; for health, good company, and the startling beauty of the world around us.
Suggested teas to share:
Pu-erh A our five year aged Shu Pu-erh with deep and earthy forest notes is settling after a mid-day lunch.
White Peony King the perfect early morning tea, soothing and refreshing with melon and grass notes.
Baochong Premium Oolong for the late afternoon this green oolong bursts with notes of mango and gardenia.