With a single plant, innumerable varieties of sustaining, stimulating infusions have been created over the centuries. The tea we drink today is the result of an ongoing interdependent co-creation between the tea plant and the human beings who cultivate it. In relation to landscape, weather and climate each harvest differs from the last. Keeping the tea experience the same for the end-user, no matter what the annual conditions, is a fine art. It is an art that includes the variations of influence much like wine. And with tea the variations within each batch reveal the intimacy between the grower and plant, along with the conditions of preparation.
The perfume industry created stable artificial molecules at the turn of the last century, so as to offer their clients the exact same scent without the instability of the natural molecules. Tea does the opposite, celebrating this natural instability. Uncontrollable, as nature is uncontrollable. What is stable one year is not so the next. Yet the game is to create recognizable and unchanging teas.
Because it is perishable, in many cases tea is to be enjoyed within a limited time frame, closest to its time of harvest. The tea drinker participates in the compression of conditions expressed by the leaves as recorders of that growing season.
One leaf infused in a cup of boiling water unfolds and expresses just this – and it is an exquisite Gaian technology born of the relationship between humans and plants. A microcosm.
A sip of tea is a sip of this natural information, once stored, now revealed by infusion. Where the leaf grew on the plant, soil, harvest, how the leaf is treated after picking, all innumerable arts of tea. Then the preparation of the drink itself, with its own variables of water type, temperature, pot and cup. Time of day, time of year, place: a variable environment of location, season, weather and time. Coming to the tea drinker – with emotional variables in play also, ready to match the infinite variety of natural information the infused leaf brings in.
I am amazed!