Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cloudwalker Teas: Beginnings

I first met Mark Chapeskie while practicing kung fu in a small town in northwestern Taiwan in 2004. We trained together most evenings in the home of the master, a very colorful man who had a private dojo on the top floor of an office building near the center of town. We began our study of the martial arts with the practice of qi gong – a meditative practice designed to stimulate and strengthen the network of energy channels that run through the body. Our experiences surrounding this were all very eye opening. As a result, our ears perked up anytime anyone would mention qi.

All of the traditional Chinese arts refer to qi when describing the process by which an art comes to be something more than simply the sum of its elements - when it becomes transcendent. The principle of qi in kung fu is the same as it is in calligraphy, medicine or even the arrangement of flowers. At first I didn’t appreciate this fully. I was respectfully curious about the other arts I encountered, though I wondered how they could ever live up to all the fuss made about them. Flower arranging is all well and good, but what do you do if a fight breaks out? This was more or less my opinion on the impractical arts as I saw them. Tea was certainly ahead of calligraphy and flower arranging on my list of hobbies to take up, though I must admit that initially I would have probably laughed if you told me there was more to it than improving one’s health.

I probably wouldn’t have had anymore than a passing interest in tea were I not fortunate enough to meet with a few exceptional people and a few special teas at the right time. Mark and I were most fortunate in this. We had our eyes opened wide with regard to the wonders of tea drinking. It boggles me to this day how much can be gained from such an apparently simple interaction of elements. Tea has become not so much a hobby as a journey of self-discovery, much like the martial arts, which at its highest level is not so much about learning how to fight as it is about learning who you truly are.

I had planned to write about something else in my first entry but, as I will be taking over the writing of the blog for a while, I will have other opportunities. I will try to relate some of my experiences of drinking tea in Asia in hopes that it is of interest to others who are following a similar path in other parts of the world.



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