The beginning of the new year contains with it many meanings and many observances. In tea, these abound, as each moment reflects the “first time” one will perform such an action for the new year. In the practice of 茶の湯 chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony), 初釜 hatsugama (the “first kettle” of the year) is often met with great celebration. Winter has arrived and yet we can enjoy that we are together. The year can begin fresh.
As I sit to enjoy my “first kettle” of the year, I play off of the formalities often found in hatsugama. I opt to utilize a vintage 文琳 bunrin (“apple-shaped”) 茶入 chaire (ceramic tea container), but rather than use it for 濃茶 koicha (“thick tea”), it fill it with hand-ground Song period-style powdered 白茶 báichá (“white tea”).
With this I aptly pair an antique Japanese 天目茶碗 tenmoku chawan.
The revealing of the chaire from its 仕服 shifuku (brocaded silk pouch) feels like the opening of a new year.
With this action, I somehow, silently, commit to a promise I’ve made with myself, a resolution.
As I whisk the Song period-style 抹茶 mǒchá (“powdered tea”), each folding of the whisk into the thick paste of tea seems to push time forward.
I do this mindfully until the tea is whipped into a fine, bright white foam.
A final moment passes before I lift the tea to my lips.
A first kettle alone. A meditation in silence. The aroma of tea.
What endless possibilities this year has.
If you are interested in learning more about Song period-style powdered white tea, please read my article on “History in a Bowl of Tea: Tea of the Song Period”, in which there is a link to a video of and slide presentation for a tea talk I gave in 2018 focusing on tea and tea culture of the Song (960-1279).
Should you be interested in tasting this tea, which I hand-grind from various varieties of contemporary Chinese white, green, and oolong teas, please reach out to me via this blog or by email at scotttea888 (at) gmail.com.
Thank you and here’s to a beautiful new year!