My passion blog posts for this semester will be a continuation from last semester. My posts will focus on the various experiences I have as a Japanese-American at Penn State.
Last week, I went to the involvement fair, and I found a booth for the tea club. The members all told me that they just “sat around and drank tea,” but in my opinion, that was an understatement. I went to the first meeting yesterday with a friend, and I had a very pleasant experience! It was held in a tiny room with many Asian decorations. We drank tea while a tea institute member gave a very indepth presentation about the history of tea. It was fascinating and informative to hear about how it originated and was spread across the world. We also learned about several legends that involve tea. My favorite one is the legend of Bodhidharma. Apparently, he came to China to teach Buddhism, but one day fell asleep while meditating by a cave. Out of anger, he ripped off his eyelids so he would never fall asleep again and threw them to the ground. Then tea leaves grew where his eyelids landed. The legend says that is why tea has caffeine in it, to keep those who are meditating awake and alert.
After the presentation about the history, we had another presentation about the various preparation techniques. Tea leaves are picked, dried, then heated (amount of heat depends on the type of tea). We also talked about the different methods around the world of brewing tea, and we used the Chinese way for that day. We tried two different types of oolong tea that day.
Another thing that I found out from this club is that there is a program to learn the traditional Japanese tea ceremony! Making tea in this way is very intricate, delicate, and spiritual. In Japanese culture, this tradition is all about tranquility, peace, and putting your heart and soul into a single pot of green tea. It can be a bonding experience for someone to put so much effort into making this tea for someone else. It takes several minutes due to the extreme attention to detail and care by the brewer to make a single pot. This tradition is taken very seriously, and it can only be taught by people who are trained and qualified. My mother told me that my grandmother actually had a master license, and now that I think about it, I remember seeing a large display of tea utensils and cups at her house when I was young. I’ll be taking classes starting Tuesday in honor of her. My mother was also trained in Japan when she was younger, and when I told her I would be taking classes, she was very excited. She told me it’s a way to “share your feelings without words.” She said, “I don’t really know how to explain it, but I know what it feels like. It’s the Japanese spirit. It’s simple and beautiful. It’s not sad or happy. It’s just ‘I am here.'” I like that description a lot.
Overall, I had a great experience with the tea club and I’m excited for my classes. If anyone is interested in trying different types of tea, check out the Tea House in 34 Ritenour Wednesday through Friday from noon until 4 pm.