Issue #12             March 2011

     At long last, welcome back to Tea Tidings, after a prolonged intermission that has produced the biggest Tea Tiding of them all - a whole book on the subject, The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea.
     But first things first, and first we'd like to wish you all a happy, healthy Year of the Rabbit, which hopped into the world on February 3rd.  This is the first Chinese New Year in three years that we've celebrated here at our Australian home in Byron Bay. We spent the previous three at our other home in Old Dali Town in Western Yunnan, way down in the Southwestern corner of China.
     Basically, the Rabbit serves as a brief respite between the intensity of the preceding Tiger and the following Dragon, a period of rest and recuperation from the Tiger's roar and an interlude to prepare for the convolutions of the fire-breathing Dragon. It's certainly no mere coincidence that the Dragon, herald of change and messenger of Heaven, happens to be the governing sign in the upcoming year of 2012, the "end of time" on the Mayan Calendar and the end of the world in the minds of those who subscribe to doomsday scenarios. More about 2012 later in this edition...

The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea
     Last November, I declared my intention to write a book about Chinese tea, a book that I've wanted to write for over twenty years, and I said that I'd wait until it's done before composing Tea Tidings #12.   Today I'm pleased to announce that it's all done and will be in print by June, available by mail order from Mandarin Books  (
     The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea was inspired and conceived within the ancient walls of Old Dali Town, out on the far western fringe of China, where tea was first discovered and used.  The book distills the core essence of everything I've learned about Chinese tea for the past 25 years, both as a writer on things Chinese and a connoisseur of Chinese tea, within the overall context of a scholarly presentation of the subject.
     Our young German photographer Chris Janzen, who's also lived most of the past three years in Dali, where he embarked full throttle on the Way of Tea under our guidance,  saved me writing many words  with  "pictures that say a thousand words" and  capture the essence of complex ideas within the framework of simple images that speak a universal language beyond words.
     Thanks for your patience in waiting for this book, and for the resumption of Tea Tidings with this twelfth issue.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Calligraphy by my friend in Tao, Master Wu:
"Cha Dao" (The Way of Tea) to accompany his
foreword for my book.
     After decades of anticipation, the world has finally reached the eve of the year 2012, prophesized by the ancient Tsolkin ("Mayan Calendar") to be the last year of linear time in this epoch of creation, which started with the "Big Bang" billions of years ago.  There are many ways of viewing and dealing with this situation, including dismissing it entirely as a hoax and doing nothing at all. However, we see enough solid science behind much of what the Tsolkin predicts, and more than enough evidence in the daily news that something very big and very basic is happening to this planet, to merit some serious attention and make some basic preparation.  One of the best ways we've found to do this is to muse upon various facets of the situation over many pots of our favorite Chinese tea, in communion with kindred spirits with similar concern.
     One of the first things we realized was the distinct possibility that at some point over the next few years,  natural and man-made disasters, which occur now with accelerating frequency, intensity, and unpredictablity, could easily disrupt international trade and destroy key tea production facilities at any time and any place, making it impossible to buy any tea at any price for prolonged periods that could continue for several years.  So appalling looms that prospect at our tea table that we have purchased and stored away enough of our favorite varieties of High Mountain Oolong Tea to last us for at least three and possibly up to five years, in case of a global tea famine.  As firm believers in that old gem of Chinese tea wisdom--"better three days without food than one day without tea" - we feel it's better to be safe than sorry, and we suggest that all our tea friends do the same.
     The second thing we decided to do in response to the big waves of energy that are rising from the cosmos and breaking with growing force on the shores of everyone's consciousness today, whether they realize it or not, is to tune into the primordial pulse of this earth-shaking phenomenon and record its essential vibrational signature in sound, using the ancient yidaki of Australasia as both antenna and clarion.  More commonly known by its English nickname "didgeridoo," the yidaki is the oldest musical instrument on earth, and it produces the most primordial sound - a deep resonant  drone that rises from the chest and carries the player's intent in the universal code of sound, straight from the heart. We ran the idea by one of the most stalwart members of our inner tea circle here in Byron Bay,  Si Mullumby, who's widely recognized as one of the true masters of the yidaki in the world today, and he took to it like a fish takes to water.
     The result is The Tsolkiin Trilogy, a triple cd album recorded at our home in Byron Bay and at 3,000 meters above sea level, deep inside the Green Jade Gorge, high up on Everygreen Mountain near our home in Dali on the far western outskirts of China.  The entire project from start to finish was inspired and fueled by countless cups of High Mountain Tea. Currently in post-production, The Tsolkin Trilogy, which tracks and expresses in sound the new vibrational patterns that are radically reshaping the earth's energy grid as we approach 2012, will be available by May and can be ordered from our tea site:
Steep Yourself in Tea
     We continue to get queries about what to do with the mounds of spent tea left  in the wake of an active tea table, especially when the leftover leaves come from expensive teas.  So far, we've suggested the most popular and traditional use for spent tea leaves in China, particularly the highly aromatic varieties, and that is to make therapeutic tea pillows (cha jen)  from the dried leaves.  Another suggestion was to keep a small compost bin exclusively for spent tea out in the garden, and use the decayed leaves as organic fertilizer for your flower beds.
     One of the most pleasant and soothing ways to make good use of spent tea is to steep your whole body in a steaming hot "Tea Bath."   To do this, save and dry the spent leaves from your best teas, and store them  in big plastic bags. as you would for making tea pillows.  To prepare a bath, take about the same amount of dried spent leaf as you'd use to make a tea pillow and stuff it into one or two fine-mesh bags, such as the nylon net  zipper bags used for laundering delicate items of clothing.  Place the bags full of tea inside a bathtub and fill the tub with hot water.  To amplify the tea bath's potency for tissue detoxification and nervous system recharge, add 500 g (1/2 kg) of magnesium sulfate ("Epsom Salt") and 300 g (1/3 kg) of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to the bath water.
     This is an excellent way to relax and unwind the body after a day of physical exertion, while extracting toxins and acid waste from the joints and muscles and restoring proper pH balance in your bodily fluids.  A tea bath fortified with magnesium and bicarbonate also gives the whole nervous system a tonic boost from minerals and trace elements absorbed through the skin from the tea and the salt.

Tail Piece
     Engraved in elegant calligraphy in the black marble facade at the entrance to our favorite branch of the Yu Lin Tea Shop in Kunming are several lines of verse from a Chinese anthology of poems and prose on tea. I liked these lines the moment I first laid eyes on them nearly three years ago, because they catch so well the essence of the idea that  "Tea and Zen Are One Taste." I've been working on a suitable English translation ever since that first encounter, and it's time to share these words with you:
Seven cups unveil the true taste.
One pot reveals the true essence.
Even a hundred thousand scriptures
Don't tell the truth as clearly
As a single sip of tea.
Daniel Reid

PS Like to browse the entire collection of
Tea Tidings thus far? You will find them here:

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Daniel blowing his new hemp-fiber yidaki.
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