Zen some time to Inhale and Exhale

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There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.

Lin Yutang
Ms Ting Yu Ling explaining the historical background of Taiwanese Tea Culture

Every once in a while, we need to explore and experience something different. For this semester, to give our exchange Sheffield Hallam University students from the UK a foreign experience of Taiwanese culture, courtesy of our lecturer, Ms. Ting Yu Ling.

The act of pouring tea which symbolizes respect and admiration

Tea is an integral part of the Taiwanese cultural heritable with a history that goes way back to the Song Dynasty. It was truly an interesting share as Ms Ting briefed the students on how the Taiwanese people have developed a deep sense of appreciation for tea and the art of thoughtfulness. As such, ICAD welcomed Ms Ting to share the experience of this unique and revered tea culture to our guests to have an immersive feel into a basic introduction to the Taiwanese Tea Ceremony and Culture and how it has become an essential part of Taiwanese life.

When it comes to the preparation, it is a meticulous and ritualized process that requires a certain amount of skill and patience. It is not just about brewing the tea leaves but also the setting up that requires one to enter into a state of mindfulness and peace. As she continues to share, Ms Ting mentioned on how one would take the time to ponder on the floral arrangement – the art of ChabanaCha meaning tea, and bana meaning flower in Japanese. The artform that can be considered as a transient art, wherein the beauty though short-lived is appreciated and honored.

From flowers to setting the table in zen finished with a calligraphic writing courtesy of Mr. Tee Ying Jie (@cissetee)

Interestingly, the setup is finished with the burning of good quality incense with the pure intention of purifying the space for body, mind and spirit whilst awakening the senses to fully inhale the tea-drinking experience. Additionally, it serves as a warm welcome to the guests who enters the space to take time to unwind and admire the hanging scroll and floral arrangements.

Now that we have settled in, Ms Ting slowly introduces the tea leaves that will be brewed – the first round, Taiwan Pouchong Tea and, the second round would be Taiwan Honey Black Tea. It’s vital to know that Taiwanese teas come in many varieties, flavors and aromas with each class having a distinct set of characteristics that will make it unique. The most popular types of tea includes oolong, black teas and green teas, and the highest qualities teas are grown in the mountainous regions of Taiwan, where the cool climate and mineral-rich soil produce teas with exceptional flavour profiles.

That said, Taiwan Pouchong Tea is classified under the Oolong Tea Family whilst the Taiwan Honey Black Tea as per name belongs to the Black Tea Family. Each releasing a different experience of taste and smell to the tea-drinking enthusiasts. Personally to me, I would prefer the Taiwan Honey Black Tea over the Pouchong Tea simply as to the mild caramel taste that comes as an aftertaste to drinking the Honey Black Tea. The Pouchong Tea though sweet smelling, doesn’t not have a very strong aftertaste in comparison to the Honey Black Tea.

One however must remember that in Taiwanese culture, tea is more than just a beverage. It is a symbol of hospitality, respect and friendship. The ceremony involves many elements of etiquettes that are similar to other tea cultures around the world. First and foremost, the ceremony involves the preparation and serving of tea in a specific order. We must each remember that throughout the pouring session, it is respectable to maintain silence to observe and meditate on the tea experience as we go.

Having experienced this tea ceremony (more than once or twice with Ms Ting for me), our esteemed young guest took home an entirety new experience and exposure to the long-old tea tradition and heritage.

The meditative and contemplative art of floral arrangements
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