Friday, November 15, 2013

I am doing it all wrong

OK so I've been resisting the tea sommelier thing (seriously - look at this piffle: tea sommelier)
This is because I was afraid of what I call a Cherry Sunburst moment. Years ago, I was living in a small village, working in a winery and singing in a band. As the singer, I felt it was my professional job to know nothing about guitars. They all look like guitars to me. But the guitarists, and there were two of them, so I was outnumbered, talked about them for hours on end. One day they referred to what I thought of as the colour scheme on a a perfectly ordinary as a 'cherry sunburst'. From that moment on, it didn't look like a guitar any more. It looked like awesome. And I couldn't not care about guitars because I knew now about the Cherry Sunburst thing. This is the heart of advertising - creating caring where there was no caring by the cunning use of words and images. I like cherries. I like sunshine. The idea that both cherries and sunshine could live in a guitar is appealing to me, who has no real interest in the instrument. Damn! Snoogled by cunning marketing! Again!
This is a Cherry Sunburst guitar, according to google images, where I pinched the image from (thanks, therandommind).

So I was nervous about learning about the complex world of tea because I thought I might have a moment where I get seduced by all the language and folklore of tea and become a completely inaccessible wanker who is incapable of buying tea from the supermarket any more.
So that happened.
I picked up a book on tea, and suddenly my world collapsed, and I found myself knowing an unholy lot of stuff about the six types of tea, only one of which is black. And the English introduced tea to India, and before that it was from mainly the south and southwest of China. And that all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis species, of which there are three main cultivars. And I found myself wanting to try the three main cultivars and seeing if I could tell the difference. I started rethinking my attitude about buying black tea from the supermarket. And I started thinking about actually using the tiny, clay teapot I once bought from a lovely old woman because she reminded me of my grandmother, who I was missing. Apparently, those are the proper teapots and the giant western teapots are all wrong. Apparently, drinking large amounts of black tea out of big mugs with milk or sugar is all wrong. Apparently, buying tea without checking that the leaves aren't old or dusty is all wrong.
Then there was a whole lot of stuff about leaves which I skipped. Leaves. Seriously.
So it's happened, I've turned into an inaccessible tea wanker who is out of touch with normal tea drinking and I believe this thing is pretty contagious, so expect further facts about tea.
Also, I'm thinking about trying to grow tea in my garden. We have a lot of Camellia bushes in my area, so therefore, my thinking goes, tea should be a doddle. And I'm thinking of separating all the different bits of the bush and seeing what they all taste like. I have fantasies about roasting the leaves over burning pine roots and making my own lapsang souchong (which is Chinese for 'crappy tea for export only'), but common sense and past experience tells me none of this will ever, ever happen.
But what are we humans without dreams? Do my dreams tie me with the ancient Chinese person who, having dried and steeped tea laves for generations, experimented with drinking the tea that had fermented by accident, where it had got wet after the roof leaked? Do my dreams tie me with the rapacious British, who realised their dreams of global commencial dominance via tea? Do they tie me with someone in Sri Lanka,  standing in their own field of tea and looking out on a sunny day towards the sea and feeling deep and abiding contentment? And do they tie me with the very first person who was climbing the huge Camellia sinensis trees that grow in the mountains, and who grabbed a few leaves and threw them in a pot of boiling water to see what happened?

Who are we without our dreams? I believe the internet is a deep and abiding space for collective dreaming. Similar to our actual dreaming, we see many of the demons that lurk in our subconscious, but we also see what we value and treasure, and sometimes we see the way forward. I'm dreaming of tea today, but I wish you well in what you are dreaming of, what you treasure, and in your own way forward.