A Japanese tea master wishing to teach his student the importance of perception dashes a cup of tea to the ground, breaking the cup and spilling the tea. The tea master wished to illustrate the point that the broken cup was no longer a cup but just a pile of shards, while the tea was still tea, immutable and unchanged. But as the tea could no longer be consumed without the cup to hold it, the true importance of the cup becomes clear. It is the empty space of a teacup that performs the most essential duty, one with greater importance than merely the fleeting beauty of a pleasing shape, fetching design, or lustrous glaze.
from The Story of Tea, Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss
There's a lot going on in that quote, but one substantial point comes through clearly, at least to me. Tea is always tea, setting aside the relatively minor fluctuations of brewing time, water temperature, vessel- much like people are who they are. Moods, locations, appearances, these all can shift, but think about it: do the people you know ever really alter their essence?
I think it's very rare. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you accept this and can uncover the distinct flavor in each different one.
I'm back to green this morning, one of my absolute favorites from Japan: Yame Gyokuro Gentei. More on gyokuro green teas next week.