Our Life with Tea

If we think about it, tea is just a leaf growing in the wilderness of life — in the high mountains and clouds, on the slope of unattended soil, beside the green bamboos, among the rocks and stones, in the fragrance of mountain orchids, beside clear pools of deep water, and under the wild fruit trees — the forest birds sow tea seeds, and the mountain springs bring tea seedlings. Year after year, the predecessors plant tea trees like this. 

In such mountain space where humans rarely access, the tea trees live their life and grow sporadically or into a sea of tea. Through the seasons of spring and summer (as well as autumn), they are being picked, kneaded, roasted, dried in the sun, dried under the moon… As the energy of nature stored in the bud leaves meets hot boiled water and releases itself, the fragrance of tea overflows. A few cups into the belly, and looking over the mountains covered by the tea greens, how can one not forget time easily in the human domain!

There is a Chinese saying, “In the daily life of the ordinary, these seven ingredients are necessities: burning wood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar, tea.” Tea is one of them even though being the last one on list. Tea is such an ordinary thing that without a careful look we would not notice its existence — We may take tea for granted.

A tea leaf is like our body — dry and humbly silent. Water brings the leaf to life, like ink with paper for painting or calligraphy. In front of people who understand them, though, tea presents itself fully and vividly. Like all words being hidden inside of a human heart, the intricate essence of tea releases itself and expresses its secret through steeping and serving over and over again — only with mindfulness can we recognize the changes in tea. From strong taste to light color, tea is like a person aging through life, becoming more simple and at ease, gentler and clearer to the senses, until the end — sitting on the bottom of the teapot or cup, tea completes its life and then returns to mother Earth.

The simple and clear tea reflects our mind directly. It teaches us to live in the present. The practice of drinking tea in the here-and-now invites us to stop living in the shadows of the past, or dwelling in some imagined future that may not come to pass. We often say that peace and clarity can nourish the mind, helping us to feel more harmonious and connected within ourselves. Indeed, in silent time, we experience the tea nurturing our body, mind and spirit. 

Life with tea is full of wonder. The fragrance of tea may be subtle, easy to gather and disperse, like floating clouds, impermanent without a lasting or unchanging state. Yet, simply picking up (and putting down) a cup of tea helps our mind to return to peace and calmness. The different temperatures of hot, warm, or cold tea are like expressions in our communication; we feel the tea like we do with our friends.

For those who have developed the habit of drinking tea, we cannot imagine a day without tea. When traveling, carrying a bit of tea for the journey and enjoy some quiet tea time is a usual comfort, not a luxury. 

Life with tea is like life with love. 

[原创]Edited translation by zenteaone.org from posting of The Five Petals Tea Hut.