Thursday, May 31, 2012

DIY Ryurei

Our aging knees and aching legs have yearned for a set of tables for Ryurei, a tea ceremony performed at a low table. We covet gorgeous lacquered sets (like this one, or this one) and we've dreamed of being able to present cha-no-yu with such a luxury. It was a luxury we had to do without, until recently.

Here on the far North Coast of California, we live the life of country mice, semi-rural, and far from the madding crowds of Portland or San Francisco. On the down side, we're far from shops that sell tea wares. We rely on the Internet, mail order and semi-annual trips to the City to stock up on tea, sweets and dogu. We also get creative with our dogu. A vase or bowl acquired from a thrift shop can coordinate beautifully with Japanese wares. We use what is at hand in the best spirit of Chado. It was in this spirit that we came to put together our "do-it-yourself" Ryurei set from odds and ends.

It all began with a trip to Target, a casual stroll down the furniture aisle and the accidental discovery of black folding TV tables. Sold individually for or in a set of four:

As we paced around in the furniture department, musing over the TV tables and all their possibilities, we discovered these stools with tubular metal legs:

The stools were sold in two heights, but even the shortest one was too tall to use for Cha-no-yu. Speculating, we bought one to see if we could cut down the legs. Thanks to our handy friend Rich and his pipe cutter, we had success. We went back and bought four more stools and the set of four tables.

Then came the problem of the table.

We considered purchasing a card table from Target, but it had some drawbacks. It was brown. It was quite heavy. It was too tall and would need to have its legs shortened. It was kind of expensive. Then, to our surprise, a friend mentioned he had a card table he was going to get rid of. Free? Perfect! But what an eyesore:

It was transformed with a little elbow grease, some touch-up paint and, again, a shortening of the tubular metal legs with a pipe cutter. It's quite handsome now when topped with a half-tatami mat.

Our lightweight, portable Ryurei set cost around $100. And it looks kind of nice too.

World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Baby!

world tea expo banner

"Dedicated to creating a vibrant community, World Tea Expo is the largest trade show and conference in the world for premium tea and related products; it’s the three days each year when industry professionals connect face-to-face to unveil new products, optimize high quality merchandise, gain in-depth product knowledge and network with peers."

New teas, tea tasting, tea goodies, tea wares, tea competitions … one quick visit to the website is enough to make a chajin swoon with the overwhelming possibilities, let alone the thought of actually attending. Plus, Las Vegas has declared June as World Tea Month in honor of 2012 World Tea Expo and its 10-year Anniversary. 

It all starts tomorrow at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tea TV

Viewers of public television may have been fortunate to catch recent episodes of Martin Yan's Hidden China and Travelscope featuring tea and travel. 

Martin Yan's Hidden China, Episode #10, "For All the Teas in Western China"
"Yunnan Province is well known for its tea production. Martin visits the famous Pu-erh tea region and gains some ‘hands-on’ experience at the tea plantations. In addition to picking tealeaves, Martin discovers how tea and tea products are processed and packaged. He learns to make the famous ‘tea cake’ – a brick of tea compressed into a round shape, which is then labeled, stamped and aged. At the tea museum, Martin views many historical teacakes and learns about their value and social significance. Finally, a local chef shows Martin how tea can be used as a cooking ingredient. He tastes and comments on two fabulous local tea dishes."

Joseph Rosendo's Travelscope, "Taiwan - The Culture of Tea"
"The mystery and majesty of tea is explored when Joseph spotlights the culture of this royal beverage on Taiwan. During this adventure he travels to Lujang to join in the creation of traditional tea snacks, visits an Assam tea farm in Nantou, participates in a formal tea ceremony in Tainan and tops it all off with a visit to the annual Lantern Festival in Chiayi. Along the way he meets the masters of Taiwan’s pottery, tin-sculpting and lantern-making arts."
Click for a 30-second trailer of the episode:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tea Time

Tea time: Kirkland branded
Ito-en green tea with matcha,
available from Costco.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sometimes You Go to the Temple …

Sometimes the temple comes to you.

We experienced a sort of reverse pilgrimage when the Maitreya Project's Relics Tour visited Humboldt County last weekend. An ecumenical opening ceremony enjoined speakers from various traditions to share the spirit of loving kindness that is promoted by Maitreya Buddhism, and view relics of 40 masters from several Buddhist traditions.

The Maitreya Project seeks to erect a statue of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of Loving Kindness who is yet to come, on the site of Gautama Buddha's death. These relics will be installed in the statue when it is complete.

Altar to Matireya Buddha

Tour organizers reverently and meticulously
arrange the relics in cases.

Arcata mayor Michael Winkler welcomes the Relics Tour
and attendees after the relics were arranged. Representatives
from a variety traditions including Hindu, Sufi, Christian, Jewish,
Native American and Buddhist offered thoughts, prayers,
songs and a Balinese dance.

A small statue representing the just-born Buddha
is washed before viewing the relics

Holy water in the bowl beneath the statue is ladled over the statue
in a ritual bath commemorating the birth of the Buddha.
Buddha's birthday, Bushoe, is traditionally celebrated in April.

Maitreya Buddha, altar detail

Lights were dimmed as the general audience viewed the relics

Altar detail

A case containing some of the relics

Read more about the Maitreya Project and the relics tour at