This story takes place when my boy was a baby and we had a company named Chaikhana Tea Culture. Our friend had a temple named Medicine Buddha.
For years, numerous friends had been telling me about this man Master Wang and his hidden San Francisco tea retreat.
They said that he medicinally served Pu-erh tea 24/7 and that if only I would make the trip up to see him I'd find that we were cut from the same cloth.
I believed them, but being that I almost never travel out of the Santa Cruz area the intention remained only that - an intention.
Master Wang, I later found, lived in similar sustainable manner rarely leaving his home zone.
Luckily, a mutual friend insisted one day that he accompany her on a trip down to Santa Cruz and luckily he felt the energy moving and accepted. When old friends that have not met in this lifetime get to see each other it is grounds for rejoicing. The connection wasn't instantaneous because it was already there, and Master Wang, within only moments of meeting, invited me to join him on his next trip to China.
The next several months had numerous visits to the Medicine Buddha Temple - I found this trip worth leaving my usual micro-geographical orbit! Master Wang and I spent countless hours drinking tea, eating clean food (the man can cook!), drinking more tea, discussing life, medicine, diet, America, China, alternative culture, many things... He offered for us to sell his teas at Chaikhana and really helped me to see, in real time, the nature of what a wholesome tea is in contrast to most of the marketplace offerings. I learned that I hadn't learned much even though I had been drinking whole leaf teas for 20 years and actively studying and selling tea for nearly a decade.
First and foremost, I prize Master Wang's friendship, but the gift of "palate work" (which is actually inextricably linked to true friendship) has been a priceless jewel that has rippled into the Santa Cruz tea community and far beyond. How I mean that it is inextricably linked is that honest friendships dwell in the house of clarity and that is discerned by palate. Your taste buds and olfactory sense are indeed the first superficial layer of palate but the journey must be withinwards in the realm of your conscious true knowing. Just as you recognize a disturbance in the presence of a human friend you likewise discern the same in the meeting of a tea, in the act of drinking.
So anyway, as fate had it I wound up in Yunnan with him that Chinese New Years at his hermitage Song Yuen in his native Tengchong. We spent a month (which to tell you all would take up much space - maybe a later installation?) traveling throughout Yunnan - mainly between Xishuangbanna, Kunming, and Tengchong studying hundreds of teas with everybody from millionaire Pu-erh tycoons to humble street vendors. All the while, we carried the Unblended Brick (then not even two years old) and Trinity in a bag to use as antidotes for the constant toxic effects of unclean teas.
The point was for him and his lineage-partner to show me the massively confusing endless offerings of Pu-erh Tea in Yunnan and to clarify the matter by using these pristine teas as benchmarks of purity. As I said the story of that first trip would fill many pages, but I briefly mention it here because my life, my family's life, our tea house, and tea community have never been the same since.
Master Wang and I have spent many years now reasoning and meditating on how to spread this teaching, in a sustainable way, as far as possible. Trips to China are foundational in my understanding of this benevolent plant and what it actually takes to support an integrated practice/cultivation of world bridging through tea.
At the current moment the Pure Land Tea Foundation is in chrysalis, building the chi to produce a healthy emergence into the marketplace world, and the Hidden Peak Teahouse is also building energy, gaining its footing, and expanding to be a useful community hub to welcome all from far and wide.
We are looking forward to connecting this work on this side of the Pacific to the far Himalayan corner of China, Yunnan, in an effort to promote conscious living through exchange of culture, fine tea, and true friendship.
We look forward to meeting you too!