Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei has an installation on Alcatraz Island. Our friend Bonewoman sent along this image. We also want to share a wonderful article from our local Durango Herald which considers the dangers of tea bags, problem with tea balls, the value of loose leaf tea which we purvey as you know.
Known as Mei Lan Chun, Drum Mountain Cloud and Mist has remained one of my favorite green teas. There is something special about this tea. It always seems to transport me to a pleasant place.
One of China’s finest green teas! it is made with the slow-growing varietal, “Mei Zhan.” As the name suggests, this tea is grown in clouds and mist that shroud the mountains producing a compact and very aromatic leaf. The processing of the leaf is complicated, requiring skill and patience as its production is slow and tedious. As a result, fewer farmers are making it and the tea is becoming increasingly rare. The liquor is pale straw, while the cup boasts flavors of warm spices and wild honey. With just the right sweetness, the flavor is uplifting, full and balanced as it dances from the front to the back of the pallet, leaving a wonderful lingering finish.
I try to appreciate every cup of tea I drink and respect everything that goes into its production eventually resulting in a cup such as the one I am enjoying now. We all too often get caught up in the fast-paced-lifestyle that we forget to appreciate the things in our life and recognize the quality of the goods we consume. The very process of having to steep a proper cup of tea demands ones attention. I am not saying that to brew a ‘proper’ cup of tea is difficult, (after all, one needs only to heat up some water, steep the tea and decant), but the overall pleasure that one gets from being present when creating something as simple as a cup of tea can be heightened when there is intention.
Why do I drink tea? What is it that I love about this magical plant? I don’t know if I’ve ever really asked myself these questions. I know that I associate drinking tea with pleasure and a sense of well-being. I can also say that some of the best conversations I have ever had were shared over a cup of tea. Tea has a healing quality that uplifts the spirit and revitalizes, refreshes, and rejuvenates the mind and body. What is there not to love about tea?
We are in the winter months here in Durango and the weather is cold outside, but a warm cup of Drum Mt. Cloud and Mist and I am feeling comfortable and uplifted. There is a kind of pure essence that is awoken from these leaves. I think of fresh spring water coming out of the mountains, low hanging clouds among the mountain tops that produce a crisp rainy air. It is as if the tea leaves transport me to the time and place they were picked and despite it being 30 degrees out, for a moment I am on the mountain, within the clouds and mist.
Sometimes I get caught by surprise. I look around my life and discover that something has happened I wasn’t quite aware of and there it is…an accumulation of event or object I hadn’t realized I was inviting into my life. As I look around this morning I notice I have collected several large Chinese antique storage jars, two really wonderful tea jars (tsubo) from Japan, an Anasazi storage vessel and several storage objects from contemporary clay artists.
And it is the time of the year for storage. It is a mystery to me, my interest in these objects. And now as the fall comes to the mountains and the town of Durango, it is time to store things. Pickles are a big favorite here as well as all other garden excess. And we have had some great gardens this year because of the rains.
Forever people have been storing up food for winter. The fermented foods. The grains. Dried meat and mushrooms which were also in abundance this year. I went to gather mushrooms with my friend Brady and ended up collecting most of what I brought home, including porcini, from his well stocked refrigerator in which he stored them. He is also experimenting with a mushroom jerky for preservation.
Good fall. We are offering a free canning jar with each bag of tea purchased as long as our supply lasts.
I met some boulders left by the glacier, terminal moraine they’re called. I was flooded by Japanese memories of gardens I had known. I decided to bring a Japanese Garden to Durango, Colorado. It would include a tea pavilion where folk could drink tea and admire the beauty of the coiffed trees and the stone placement. There would be borrowed view of the mountains and a dry stream to suggest water.
I decided I didn’t have time to oversee that extensive a project. Probably not enough energy to do that and to run the White Dragon Tearoom too. So I let the Japanese Garden concept slip back to the place of good ideas.
I was hiking in the hills outside of town and I wandered into a natural Japanese Garden of stony outcrop and native trees. This would be the prototype garden that Japanese garden makers studied and duplicated in their gardens of restrained beauty. I sat and admired the perfect beauty and when i was done i faced North and took the view of the snow capped peaks of the La Plata Mountains.
In Japan and in America too, there are kilns known as anagama. They are wood fired for days and they are usually built up a hill so that the chambers of the kiln have different environments and different results in the ash and fire and air finish of the contents. The kiln glazes the pots. The term in Japanese to describe this phenomena is YoHen. I translate the word as the mind of the kiln. A potter never knows what will come forth from the anagrama. He can increase his likelihood of a specific result through trial and error and she never knows for sure. I am thinking lately that the world is YoHen and I just have to stay around for the kiln opening and see what emerges. Thunder/ Durango/ Wednesday/ March/Windy Day.