Every year, as the new moon marks 立春 lìchūn (“beginning of Spring”), billions worldwide travel back to their homelands and to their families to celebrate what is known in China as 春節 chūn jié (“Spring Festival”). In what is regularly recognized as the world’s largest momentary mass migration, Spring Festival (and the events surrounding regional variations of Chinese New Year) becomes a moment when those who travel seek the respite of home and the warmth of close friends and family. In a period that is often known for great feasts and revelry, tea sits center stage, appearing at banquet tables, family gatherings, and adding an air of refinement amidst the clamorous celebrations.
Back in my hometown, I join my dear fellow tea friend Chris Kornblatt for tea at his sun-bathed tea space in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood. Entering his tearoom, which is a converted upstairs drawing room in an old Victorian home, the simple splendor of a space designed for tea is instantly evident. Set below a typical San Franciscan three-paned bay window, the wooden tea table beams a warm glow.
Placed atop its honey-toned surface, Chris expertly arranged a curated collection of teawares. Splashy Qing period small plates are set in a balanced juxtaposition against more sober contemporary Taiwanese wares.
A flawless Yixing teapot.
A teascoop hewn from flamboyant-grained wood found in an Eastern European forest.
Layers of fabric and woven reeds.
Sweet snacks made of dried persimmon and liquor-cured plums.
Teas emerge, one-by-one, from Chris’ tea chests. An array of Taiwanese oolong teas. A vibrant 高山茶 gāo shān chá (high mountain tea) from 杉林溪 Sān Lín Xī brewed in a handmade 蓋碗 gaiwan.
A beautifully oxidized and roasted 凍頂 Dòng Dǐng (“Frozen Summit”) oolong tea.
A fragrant 杏仁香鳳凰單樅烏龍茶 Xìngrén xiāng fènghuáng dān cōng wūlóngchá (“Almond fragrance” Phoenix single bush oolong tea).
Every object has its purpose to make the moment happen. Teapots for brewing tea. Cups to enjoy it with.
A unique string of beads to count each steeping brewed.
A setting such as this reveals the traces of one’s 功夫 gōng fū. Everything within it are expressive of a life guided by tea, a mind that thoughtfully approaches the practice. With such attention to detail paid, one can’t help but to feel at home and to celebrate the beginning of Spring with dear friends.