All the information here — even my approach to imparting it — is filtered through my perspective and experience.
The way I experience tea, and tea cultures, is not only shaped by my individual beliefs, interpretations, aesthetics, and shortcomings (I guess you could call it my b.i.a.s. :), but, also those of the (individualist) culture in which I grew up.
Of course, this is true of everyone, and all our perceptions. But, tea (and, to a tremendous degree, tea cultures) emerged among individuals, times, places, and social contexts much different from me & mine, and which operated with beliefs, interpretations, aesthetics, and shortcomings much different from mine, as well.
The differences between and among these can have a tremendous impact, even on such a seemingly simple act as that of brewing.
For instance, if you grew up in an individualist culture, your approach to tea is likely to reflect a desire for self expression: the equipment you use, the way you pour, your choices of ornamentation; all these can be used in the service of such expression. However, if you grew up in a collectivist culture, your approach, your choices, and the underlying feelings that guide them, might be aimed at expressing something of which you are only one small part: the lineage in which you’re a participant; your teachers’, and their teachers’, and their teachers’ teachers’ lessons; or even, simply, as a way to express the tea itself, and the lineage of skills and traditions contained in its creation.
As careful as I am to consider all this, the intersection of such differences can lead to misunderstandings.
What’s more, there are few, if any, hard and fast answers in tea, as in life. These are subjects not only rich in subtlety and complexity — subjects which are subject to lively debate — they are subjects with a subjective, living, changing, evolving existence of their own.
I do my best to represent these teas and cultures in accurate, well-rounded ways; but think of me, mostly, as a translator. Translation is good, important, creative work; but, it’s not the same work as the creation, continuation, and propagation of source material.
So, rather than falling into the idea that anything here is authoritative, or set in stone, I hope you’ll occasionally remind yourself of all this as you read what I’ve written.
I find it incredibly enriching (and I think you will, too) to continue moving closer to the source: the people, plants, places, principles, and practices nearest these teas’ and cultures’ points of origin. I named this project 茶溯 in recognition of that process, and I hope it will help you — help both of us! — on our way.
Thanks for reading. : )