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Tea Sep 5, 2014   Tea

A sketch.

The water comes from somewhere north from here. It might get here through strange pipes, but it does eventually get here. It might get filtered somehow, perhaps. Maybe not. It eventually flows into a transparent holder. The faucet makes a bad noise. It has been making that noise for years now. No way to correct it.

The water flows into a holding place, it flows over charcoal. Once it is ready, it is ready, it is poured into a different place, where it meets some bamboo charcoal.

The water is boiled. Maybe seven cups of it are boiled. Sometimes five. It is often the last thing I do before I leave the kitchen, before I go to sleep, for the few hours I sleep. I often also wash the bowl. It is a beautiful short winter bowl. Well, I think it is beautiful.

In the morning the water has cooled down, and a small dance begins. The water heater is turned on. At the same time, the right amount of tea is sifted into the bowl. I use a dark Chashaku. I used to use a lighter colored one, but the darker one feels more difficult. Somehow it is the right one.

By the time the tea has become a gentle mountain landscape at the bottom of the bowl, the water begins to talk. I do not use a thermometer. I listen to the sounds of the water. It pretends to boil at first. Maybe parts of it boil. Then they stop. Eventually the heat starts rumbling, as if we were walking closer and closer to a mountain brook, just to discover that it is actually a rock slide, and then a larger stream, and louder and louder. I can’t exactly describe when it is time to turn off the water. But when the time is right, it is ready.

And the right amount of water is poured over the tea. The right amount also varies. It needs to be right. But right is such a subjective term. It always is. But it just all becomes so completely clear when making tea.

The Matcha attempts to lump itself together, but it is too late. It just turns a dark muddy green. The chasen should be wet. There are a few ways to wet the chasen. They also seem all to be right. And they vary dependent on how dry the air is, or how dry the moment seems to be.

The chasen is a bit violent. It is a brief storm in the bowl of tea. Rapid movements transform the dark muddy beverage into a frothy and bright green one. The color depends on the grade of the tea. And there are so many qualities. And I know so few. It feels like I could spend a long time discovering the various grades. I use a rather good grade of tea. It allows me to be a bit less precise with the temperature and the time, and the surprises of flavors are often positive. Just a tiny shift with the wrong kind of tea can create a beverage that is very bitter and very challenging.

Once I managed ot get my hands on the top grade of tea. The winning one. It tasted like a completely different something. It had hints of meadows, and happiness among living things that had no word for happiness.

The chasen changes the tea. It can complete the tea. Or it can prepare it for a different water, some water that is a slightly different temperature. When they mix, they create glimpses of variety in the tea. All of this is possible.

The surface of the tea has become a bright green froth. The size of the air bubbles is a reminder of the violence and speed of the chasen. Was other water added, then there is evidence of that too.

The tea is placed on the wooden table. I admire the color and how the shadows vary completely from moment to moment. This is when I tend to take the picture for “views of my tea”. 

I drink the tea while often looking inward. The tea has such variety of flavors. It is a reward to be able to listen to them. And the flavors vary as the time varies, the temperatures, the person drinking. We all are in such constant change. The ritual of the tea seems to be a constant, but it is a constant variety, a constant refinement of the understanding of little differences.

Once the tea is finished, once the last drop has left the bowl, a certain cooling down moment happens. The bowl slows down, it cools down, it turns into a rock that is cooled by the evaporating liquid.

A last smell of the tea remains in the bowl. I place the bowl on the table in front of me and there is one more moment of thought.

No sweets.

The bowl returns to its wooden plate.

The tea continues…

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