Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Feeling the Heat

We’ve had a heat wave the past couple of weeks here, and being in an open-air house with no air conditioning, we really feel it when we’re doing tea.

Moving from our old tea house, with central heat and air, where the windows were all covered with screens, to doing tea in a house where we’re in touch with the elements, has really deepened my appreciation for why we do thing the way we do. For example, in the summertime we try to use bowls that are wide and open, which dispel the heat of the water faster and cool off the tea. Another classic example is the fact that the brazier that heats the water is shifted to a position farther away from the guests than in the winter.

But it’s more than that. Doing tea, even in lessons (maybe especially in lessons) requires a lot of concentration, and that’s really hard to maintain in hot weather. We all find ourselves making silly mistakes or forgetting things that under normal circumstances we’d have no trouble remembering.

I think that’s why, in the tea world, summer is considered a good time to do “casual teas” – using more playful, non-traditional items like glass bowls, and avoiding long and formal gatherings. It’s just too hot to be serious right now!

The worst heat of the season is still to come in July and August, and there are all kinds of season things that we can do to suggest coolness – to psych ourselves into not feeling so hot. But I think the real secret of doing tea in this season is to start by accepting our environment the way it is, and rather than complaining about it, to work with what we’ve got.