About Exhibition Tea Utensils: Old and New What is an Occidental Teahouse? Tea Heart, Tea Mind: Are either a chemical trait? Gallic Perfume: Proust and Tea in French Culture Wabi: the tea esthetic re-examined Temae: Procedure, Performance, Continuity in Change Explore the way of tea: Links on WWW Found Materials in Context
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Thé: une ceremonie d'infusion - Aprille Best Glover - Renior Museum August thru October 2002

Why tea? Why not coffee or hot coco? Or mulled wine? What are the qualities of green tea that make it ritualistically powerful? Is the tea ceremony truely defined drinking a beverage from the brewed leaves of camellia sinensis plant? Just as Rykyu change the outer form of certain tea utensils to revitalize their inner significance, could the outer of tea could be transformed? Personally, my answer is a qualified yes. I believe it is essential for the tea, green or otherwise, to serve rather the inner purpose of chado. In Japan undoubtably matcha serves the tea ceremony best. For those learning through a iemoto teamaster nothing could be better than direct transmission.Yet all the Promethean quality of chado, it remains chained to flawed mechanics of material world. But it is the inner properties of camellia sinensis that server chado not its outer form, no matter how lovely. For those outside the iemoto system in the "occident" might, just might, be served in finding the path to chado by mindfully re-examining teaism's roots and looking with beginner's eyes around for chado their own doorsteps. Even if in the final analysis an occidental teaist chooses a strict traditional path, I respectfully believe such reflection can only enrich tea's practice. Indeed this tea occidental is homage to the way of tea and perhaps you might even say a line of investigation rather than a replica. Like any investigation, the results are not in advance a forgone conclusion.

 

The custom of drinking tea originated much earlier in China. Initially tea was considered as a medicine and was taken in many forms including mixed with meat or salt. Drinking tea as a beverage began in the Zen Buddhist Monasteries of China. Because of the stimulants in tea, Monks began drink infusion of tea to help stay awake before long and rigorous meditation sessions. Particularly difficult mediations traditionally began with a group monks drinking tea in front of a simple alter, typically decorated with images of the Buddha or calligraphy. Over time the monk recognized the meditative qualities of drinking tea in its own right. Gradually the tea ceremony spread to other parts of Chinese society and with each group adapting it to their particular interests and needs.

What qualities make green tea so special?

  • medicine & aid to other forms of meditation
  • its genius loci - literary & horicultural
  • its beauty

Green tea, while a stimulant, has a subtle effect on human biochemistry; that is enough to be noticeable but still faint enough to require close self-examination to recognize. Most alternative beverages, for example coffee or wine, effect our mental chemistry to such an extreme degree that they can interfere in process of quiet introspection. Tea did not transform into a native custom until it was grown locally in Japan. By the time the charactericly Nipponese style chado evolved, tea had already both a rich literary and horticultural history in Japanese life.

 

The most important difference is that tea occidental is designed for not for the drinking green tea as such but rather tilleul, an herbal infusion made from the flowers.

Tilleul also has it origins in folk medicine. It is a mild relaxant, which is customary is supposed in French folk traditon to bring pleasant dreams and cure stomach ailments. Its biochemical effects are likewise mild. In the over stimulated environment of western society its calming properties could also serve as an aid to mediation. Tilleul grows all over France and a magnificent tilleul tree was less than one hundred feet from the the installation site at Musée Renoir. It is upon drinking a cup of tilleul with Madeline cakes that Marcel Proust’s protagonist remembers his childhood in Combray and by the magic power of memory mingled with taste begins Proust’s eight-volume opus, À la recherches en Temps perdue. The scroll inside the teahouse has the quote below* Tilleul unlike most herbal infusions is best when using whole dried flower and the tea itself is a soft glowing gold with a nature sweet bitter taste

At last, taste, delicious and fugitive, leads us back to chado itself and to this occidental tea ceremony. To fresh olives served in a garden of olive trees. To sharp fruity rosé in a glass. To a kettle boiling. To a light lemony madeleine dipped into bittersweet tilleul. Back to that impossibly complex and unpredictable matrix of one single human being’s direct experience and memory operating inside the sympathetic vibrations on a deliberately constructed situation. Perhaps that person responds to a quote on scroll oriented to the left,

« Et tout d’un coup le souvenir m’est apparu. Ce goût, c’était celui du petit morceau de madeleine que le dimanche matin à Combray (parce que ce jour-là je ne sortais pas avant l’heure de la messe), quand j’allais lui dire bonjour dan sa chambre ; ma tante Léonie n’offrait après l’avoir trempé dans son infusion de thé ou de tilleul. La vue de la petit madeleine ne m’avait rien rappelé avant que je n’y eusse goûté… Mais quand d’un passé ancien rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l’odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout let reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l’édifice immense de souvenir. »

-Proust *

Detail.Tilleul in the sunlight. 2002.

Perhaps, that person responds to nothing at all. But maybe, just maybe, still another person responds by turning westward and staring into teapot full of flowers glowing green-gold held up to the setting sun.

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About Exhibition Tea Utensils: Old and New What is an Occidental Teahouse? Tea Heart, Tea Mind: Are either a chemical trait? Gallic Perfume: Proust and Tea in French Culture Wabi: the tea esthetic re-examined Temae: Procedure, Performance, Continuity in Change Explore the way of tea: Links on WWW Found Materials in Context
  [Home]*[Current Project]*[ Memory of a guest that lingers...]*[Alchemic Light]*[Poetics]*[Open Secrets]*[Archived Site]*[Contact]

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Why tea? Why not coffee or hot coco? Or mulled wine? What are the qualities of green tea that make it ritualistically powerful? Is the tea ceremony truely defined drinking a beverage from the brewed leaves of camellia sinensis plant? ...

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