After a couple of years spent studying kung fu, Mark and I were now quite firmly fascinated by Qi and the many arts which held it as their guiding principle. It was perhaps inevitable then, that we should end up in a very special teashop in Miaoli County, Taiwan where, for a number of years, a group of artists and intellectuals of various disciplines had been gathering to drink strong tea and meditate on the effects it had on our respective consciousness’. A friend brought me there one afternoon, suggesting that if I were interested in Qi this place would likely be right up my alley. I remember asking, “So what’s tea really like?” To which I was told “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you - just come on and find out for yourself.”
This was the first real teashop I had ever really been into - apart from the English tea and cakes joints we have back in Victoria, BC. And while I still have affection for the Kipling Room and other such highly civilized institutions, this place was to be something else entirely. I still remember very clearly the first time I walked in the door - past the waterfall and through the doorway - over which hung calligraphy that read, “Only experts are permitted to know.” I couldn’t read this at the time, which is just as well as it wouldn’t have made any sense to me anyway.
On a hot summer’s day, lightly touched by the spray from the manmade waterfall, I walked in and it was as if I was being washed over by a wave of humidity mixed with the smell of fermenting teacakes. More than this, as I stood there trying to take it all in, my whole body began to tingle as if under a very mild electric current. I had felt similar things before while practicing Qi gong, and immediately took it as a sign that I had come to the right place. It was the feeling of discovery, of finding something that you didn’t even know you were looking for. The tea only went further in confirming this initial impression.
It was really quite magical when I realized for the first time that I had absolutely no idea what tea was. It was a wondrous realization to make this discovery; something akin to Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning and asking the young boy on the street “have I missed Christmas?” only to realize that the day is still very much before me. It was much the same for Mark as I recall, and we would often drink tea together in the evenings after work and simply laugh in amazement that this really could be true. Could tea really be this good? It was as it turns out - though at the time we were just beginning to understand how deep its currents ran. I am still in the process of discovery - the mysteries of tea ever unfolding.
Tea is a most remarkable nectar - somehow different with each steeping. Though the difference is perhaps not so much the tea changing, as we ourselves are changing a little bit through every interaction with good tea.