My quiet, side-line interest in herbs has stepped up in fervor and I recently signed up to a Herbal Education site called Herb Mentor. I was particularly struck by their advice for learning about herbs:
‘The secret to learning about herbs is that you learn about herbs by having simple herbal experiences.
Want to learn about dandelions? Then, make some dandelion root coffee.
Each time you have an experience with an herb, your brain makes another mental “file card” for that herb. You’ll forget a fact you try to memorize. You’ll never forget a sensory experience.’
Exactly! It resonated with me because it’s true for learning tea also. Want to understand green tea? Brew up some Japanese green tea. Maybe try cooler water next time. Or a shorter infusion. Or more leaf. Perhaps try Chinese green tea next. Google a few facts online or read from a tea book to add to your experience (I recommend Heiss & Heiss’s The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook). Piece by piece the ‘puzzle’ begins to come together.
I remember in my early days of tea learning, a pu’erh tea master gave me a cake of sheng pu’erh and instructed me to drink that every day for a month. As someone who likes to flit between different teas as my fancy takes me, I was a little resistant to this approach. Day 1 I brewed the tea and got distracted; I came back to find it over-steeped and horrible. It was a good lesson in being present and in respecting the tea.
On day 2, I carefully steeped the tea and didn’t wander off (in body or in mind). In response she* offered me some delicious and elegant stone fruit notes. Ahh! Her true nature was able to shine forth when being treated with care.
That may be going on a tangent somewhat, so back to the main point: little steps, regularly taken will build tea knowledge on tea. Make it hands on, make it fun and you’ll learn (and enjoy it) a lot more.
As some wise sage once said ‘If you want to understand tea, drink tea’. To that I’d add ‘with curiosity, respect and gratitude’.
*To clear any confusion; I refer to tea in the feminine from time to time. I feel she has that gentle nurturing spirit 🙂