Saturday, April 12, 2008

HSU Tea Demonstration April 10, 2008

Each year, Humboldt State University's Associated Students and the Multicultural Center organize an Asian-Pacific Heritage Celebration, a week of events and exchange of Asian culture.

We demonstrated ryakubon date (O-bon temae, tea made on a tray) in a three-mat "room" for about 19 attendees — students, staff and faculty. It was a very simple and informal demonstration, but perfect for the occasion. The tea we served was Pacleaf "Starlight."

photo of tea demonstration

Above, L to R: John, Kristin, Harvey, Pia and Laura. (Holly is behind the camera.) Harvey gave a brief introduction before Kristin, Pia and Laura demonstrated tea:

photo of tea demo

After our demonstration, Shuai Chen demonstrated Chinese tea ceremony. I was impressed by how differently each ceremony expressed appreciation of tea, yet I could sense an underlying similarity — perhaps a common stem from which both ceremonies grew. The tea she served was Oolong. Each step of the ceremony had a poetic name — and forgive me if I get this wrong — such as "Peacock Spreads its Tail." Her motions were as graceful as a dancer, and small flourishes while pouring or closing the teapot lid were deliberate and restrained. The tea leaves were rinsed once (a preliminary infusion which, I assume, should remove most of the bitter elements such as caffeine) then there was a series of seven infusions. The first infusion was poured into a tall teacup called the aroma cup, a shorter cup was placed over it then both cups were inverted. When the tea was served, the participant would remove the aroma cup (now on top) and appreciate the fragrance of the tea before drinking from the second, shorter cup. Here are photos of her beautiful equipment:

photo of Chinese tea ceremony equipment

photo of Chinese tea ceremony equipment

After both ceremonies, there was a relaxed time for questions. Shuai made more tea, and Kristin, Pia and Laura made bowls of tea which we shared with attendees in paper cups. Not as good as a chawan, but good for a first taste of matcha. (I'm always amused by the variety of facial expressions when someone tastes matcha for the first time!)
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