Making up the Tealands in the East are China, Sri Lanka and India, the ancient lands that gave birth to tea. Exploring the region on a tea route and greeting the hands that play a part in the process of tea, a few life lessons start to reveal themselves… Here are some that influenced us.
PAY ATTENTION TO SENSES. As much as wine teaches us to attune our palates and noses, so does tea, demanding we pay more attention to our senses. The body is an instrument and like the Lahu guitarists from Jingmai, China, at the Bolian Resort and Spa, we can tune our instrument, perfect our craft, and learn to better detect all the subtleties of not only tea, but life. A good variety to test this on is Pu-erh tea, considered the most complex tea in the world, with delicate aromas of underbrush, humus, leather and musty house, as well as Jingmai tea, considered the purest expression of the origin of tea and said to taste like orchids.
SIMILARITIES, SINGULARITIES. Tea is a common denominator of all the countries in Asia but also many parts of the rest of the world. It is the universal beverage; today, people all around the globe, from East to West, sip this ancient drink. As such, it reminds us of the similarities we share with people we often believe ourselves to be so different to. On the other side, as much as we are so alike, we are also unique. Fermented or unfermented, raw or ripe… our tastes are so varied, both in terms of how we like our preferred brew and in life, as a whole.
BRING ATTENTION TO THE PRESENT. The ritual of tea drinking is a lesson in awareness; it reminds us to bring our attention to the present. “Tea and Zen are one,” as Mrs. Lau, the owner of three Relais & Châteaux properties in the Yunnan region of China, says. The religious leaders of the Bolian Resort in Kunming embody this, practicing the art in daily ceremonial tea rooms or acting out sketches at night in their traditional costumes, in a tribute to the inherently Zen nature of tea.
OPEN MIND TRAVEL. Travelling in the East challenges visitors not used to its ways. To truly experience a place you have to be open to it, to dismiss judgment and welcome acceptance. It is the same with trying new teas and other beverages and cuisines unknown to you. The Tealands are the greatest test of this – with such distinctive countries, customs, cultures and people. The reward, as with all authentic travel experiences, however, is boundless.
THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. Growing tea is a test of not only hard work but faith, hope… Hope that the weather gods will protect your crop and that the markets remain in your favour. Try your hand at hope with a blessing from a Buddhist monk in the ancient Kothduwa Temple in Sri Lanka. To keep the prophecy alive, you are encouraged to wear the blessed piece of string on your wrist for eight days. Give into life like the spellbinding notes of the sitar in India’s Malabar House in Fort Kochi, Kerala, and see what happens.