Fun times speaking at our Global Tea Conference in Istanbul, Turkey
In my conceptually free-wheeling hay days at art school I would be pegged as too methodical.
Maybe that’s because when your success was determined by a group of people standing around “critiquing” and asking a bunch of questions about something you care about, you make sure you have an air-tight answer for everything that gets thrown your way…
This mentality still applies today.
But it’s hard to answer the questions as eyebrow raises of my investigators reach peak altitude.
“So you got a MBA?”
“So you’re working corporate?”
“So are you still making work?”
“You’re working at Coca-Cola??”
"Are you a corporate sell-out??"
“Do you even drink soda???!”
Yes, I drink tea in corporate now. (And on extremely rare occasions a Coke Zero.)
In my cubicle I low-key bother my co-workers with the rumble of water boiling, clinking ceramics, and obnoxious slurping sounds as I prepare specialty tea from handmade ceramics vessels. Sometimes I'll hi...
My Grandmother would tell me stories about my life as a toddler living in Taiwan.
In her proto-typical Asian matriarchal way she reserved the same few stories to tell me during our infrequent in-person meetings and phone calls. After niceties were said, we would begin our familiar ritual.
"Did you know about this?"
"Yes Nai Nai you've told me this story before"
"Oh, well. Still, do you remember...."
These stories became a tradition of their own, the retellings an essential part of our bond. They were not only a time capsule of the past, but also a way to engage fantasy in the present. Her retellings allowed for us to keep our connection to moments when we were always together, fading the reality of our present distance.
One story she would tell me was about the how I would play as a child.
When I wasn't asking her to go to the park or for more food to eat (I apparently could eat stream of consciousness style as a toddler), I would have all of my 90's color plastic kitchen gear...
But what better way to start a grossly overdue post with a terrible pun.
Regardless of which side you lean on there is really no good excuse for my delay, life (MBA) got the better of me and tea-blogging went into hibernation.
However, a lot has since happened:
I moved into a Co-op house of 12 people and converted my room to a tea drinking/living space, (I also started grad school)
Various people came over and drank tea, I saw the successes of the space and aspects that were not as hot
I got an internship with a startup based out of Manhattan that worked in the sensory space predominately for beverages doing pretty amazing things for the future of your drinking and tasting experience. I also got to drink tea with some intensely knowledgeable people who started the company
I had the opportunity to consult a new coffee shop on their tea offerings and recipes, meeting awesome new people in the beverage industry....
"A place where tradition and innovation meets, where discovery crosses paths with chance encounters"
The Japanese often take provincial skills - masonry, metal-smithing, paper-making, coffee making - to a new, kinda crazy, lived practice level. It seems like everything should be done "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" style in in this country, as though no skill is not deserving of years of intense, focused dedication. So it is equally, if not more so, exciting to see new interpretations of a Japanese tradition already soaked in rituals and formalities being reconsidered and added to by present day Japanese. Magic happens when you break the mold to make a place for yourself, not to be counter-history but to line up in the lineage of your birthright.
It was totally by chance that we ended up at Sakurai during our trip to Japan in June 2016.
The day was filled with haphazard planning and I stumbled upon another website recommending this shop while sitti...
It’s been a week since I’ve returned from Taiwan and I’ve been mulling over how to write this post. After all, how do you succinctly write about a life changing experience without being overly cliche or enthusiastically un-relatable.
One of the first lines that I drafted was, ‘I am still going through feelings of loss as I become more aware of the distance I am from paradise.’ - yuck.
When people ask me how my trip was, I grapple with the words and say things like:
“It was a life changing experience.”
“I’m homesick for a place that is not my home.”
“I’m a fuller person.”
“It’s hard to explain, because how do you fit the past three months of your life into a sentence?”
All these answers really don’t get to the point but merely dance around the answer to the question. Yes, it’s quite stereotypically Asian of me to do so. So in honor of my ethnic prerogatives and the dream I had while I was in Taiwan of Bruce Willis’ Pulp Fiction character, I’ll use a movie anecdote to elaborate on my experience...
One of the things that I was most excited for prior to coming to Taiwan was the cut throat, “not good enough”, monk-type, slightly masochistic training that I was going to endure on my road to masterhood.
In preparation, I kept an Youtube video cued up on my phone of an interview with the teacher I was originally going to study with...for nearly a year (I’m all about that visualization training). There was a line in the interview where he says he smashes around 90% of the works that comes out of his kiln with a grin. I would grin as well.
Afterall, I have plenty of experience throwing works away.
For every 10 pieces I throw on the wheel I would (in the process of getting a work completed) throw away 9. Something seemed to always happen in the process of making that would result in my assured dissatisfaction with the piece. Even though others would tell me that it’s perfect, I was only ever sure that there were better things to come, better works to be made.
There is a scene in Howl’s Moving Castle where Sophie steps out from a portal into a landscape of never ending flowers and utters, “It’s like a dream”.
This is the reality that I have found myself in, here in the mountains.
Although I didn’t even know the name of my teacher prior to the day I went up the mountains, the providence of how compatible everything is still unbelievable.
My teacher’s name is 何啟徵 (He Qi Zheng), the studio I’m at is named 古意窯 (Gu Yi Yao). It is an open floor-plan house space where you can work with clay, drink tea, farm, daydream while watching the fog roll in, perform a formal tea ceremony all within a stone's throw from one another. Aside from the bedrooms and living room everything is completely or partially outdoors. The music vibrate off of the wooden floors and dissipates into the soft pattering of fog mist. At night a choir of frogs enthusiastically serenades you to sleep.
There are three white shiba inus that reside here, they greet you ev...
**I want to start by saying that I am no expert in tea, nor am I at all a credible source of tea shop reviews. As stated earlier, I’m merely some Midwestern Asian-American with some weird compulsion to occasionally display her curated thoughts for the “world” to see.**
Recently I went to New York to visit friends, but my real reason for going was to visit tea shops. (Sorry friends).
I’ve been intentionally going on “vacations” to visit tea shops for the past year now. This endeavor, I’m first to admit, is truly as bougie as it sounds. Flying to another destination just to sit in one location for hours on end is a slightly unforgivable level of decadence. This exercise, though, has been incredibly enlightening in unofficially feeling out where tea commerce and appreciation is at in North America. Needless to say, I am excited for what the future holds.
It is just leaves and water, but tea makes sense of all facets of my life.
Thank you for coming here and reading this far. I will be working off this website as a compilation of thoughts, updates, and work/artwork sharing. I have been thinking about this blog for awhile now, so if I sway to the overly philosophical and cliche waxing please forgive me.
With subsequent posts I hope to better articulate my own thoughts captured in the first sentence of this post, as well as share some interesting things about tea, tea-culture, and ceramics to the gracious individual that stumbles upon this blog/website/thing.
In a few days I’ll be on a plane to Taiwan to study ceramics (specifically wood-firing) with a “master” in the mountains.
This is, at least, what I have been telling myself and others for the past few months. Sometimes I worry that I’m building it up (que Kill Bill-esque movie montages) and that I’m sorely misrepresenting what I’ll end up doing. But the truth is, aside from knowing...