At times, making tea feels like trying to transfer hot water from one bathtub to another with your hands, making the transfer without spilling a drop and in time to allow someone to get into the second bath while the water is at least still warm. Yet this is the nature of the harvest.
Depending on the tea farm, working on the tea harvest is like working for an artist in their sunlit studio: the creativity, anxiety, at times monotony; anger and joy flow freely and lead back to inspiration. The pressure comes from the top down.
The top in the courtyard where the tea is actually processed is human often times referred to as a teacher and sometimes as the Master. This figure is primarily in charge of the tempo here, conducting the human aspects of tea production in concert with the land, tea bushes, weather, and production process. It’s as if the sound of all of these elements coming together at once can be sensed in your cup. The better the tea, the cleaner the resonance.
Yet only some tea makers are more than producers of product and are able to approach the work as artists. If the farmer or tea maker is merely making a product, then they are solely in charge of currency, whether that be tea or money. The artist tea maker on the other hand is more than an artisanal maker of an enjoyable thing, but rather an arbiter of culture. Making tea in this setting, in this way, is deeply connected to the culture here, extending from music to medicine.
The Master works hand-in-glove with Nature, and yet Nature is the real boss. A true Master listens — rather than dictating with petrochemicals, or even organic fertilizers — to what his gardens tell him, listening to the crickets, bees, frogs, and birds that have come back to the land after years of being forced out by way of neurotoxins. While in the Master’s gardens they hum and buzz with the sound of the aforementioned life. It has been said that “we cannot live on bread alone,” and especially during periods of growth and other painful transitions in our lives, tea is as healing as it is giving in terms of subtle yet profound insight. Its medicine is inspiration and insight.