A Journey Through the World of Tea

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How to have a daily Magic practice

 

My favorite quote from Aleister Crowley’s very quotable Magick Without Tears is from the forty-fifth letter in which he addresses the “Unserious Conduct of a Pupil.” After listing what he sees as specific failures in his student’s drive to actually be a magician, he writes, “To advance—that means Work. Patient, exhausting, thankless, often bewildering Work. Dear sister, if you would but Work! Work blindly, work foolishly, misguidedly, it doesn’t matter in the end: Work in itself has absolute virtue.”

There’s a point in many a magician’s life that the question of “Should I have a daily practice?” is answered with a swift and resounding “Yes!” Another, more difficult question arises soon thereafter: What should I practice daily? Luckily for us we have a seemingly limitless number of daily practices, techniques, prayers, rituals, devotions, meditations, lessons, visualizations, and more at our fingertips, all tailored to fit our particular cup of magical tea.

It can get confusing, however. Many books and websites say we should meditate at least once a day. But this book says a Vipassana-tinged mindfulness practice is more-or-less a necessity, and that website over there says Zen’s the way to go, listing many convincing reasons as to why this is the case. However our friend says we don’t need any of that and we’re just wasting our time doing it, and instead refers us to Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul, saying if we stick with it for a year then wonderful things will happen. Oh, but our friend also says we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we start at any time other than Easter Sunday, which is unfortunate because that was two weeks ago.

After some time lost in this void of endless opinions we stumble upon some advice that says in big bold letters JUST START WITH SOMETHING. Such a simple notion, but perhaps the best advice we’ve gotten so far. So we choose a meditation practice, do it every day, but then remember we’ve read from several reliable sources that we should banish every day. Or wait, was it invoke every day? No, it was invoke in the morning, banish in the evening. But we read on a forum that we should banish in the morning and invoke in the evening. We choose to start this daily ritual by banishing just once a day, and we’re content for some time. We now have a daily practice! But then one night we read about people just like us who experienced some very distressing side effects after doing our chosen banishing ritual daily. We also read that if we’re not experts in the Qabalah then we’re just fooling ourselves by doing this specific banishing. So since we’re no experts in Qabalah, considering how confusing it seems to us, we might as well quit, right?

I’m sure this string of dilemmas is common to many no matter if they’ve been involved in the occult for decades or just stumbled upon Modern Magick last week. We’re told one thing and we’re told another and get lost some place in the middle. The internet, along with its unlimited access to solid information, also provides us with snooty experts, arm chair magicians, and various degrees of trolls that serve no good to our magical and spiritual journey. This is where a good teacher, experienced and educated in a field we’re interested in, comes in handy. However many of us early in our magical lives don’t have access to any real teacher, so the responsibility is on us to seek out information. It’s a paradox: we need to learn from some source, whether digital or physical, but everything seems contradictory. It can be a bit disheartening and overwhelming, but mostly because all this chatter only serves the purpose of distracting us from our goal of learning Magic.

But that right there is the key: purpose. What is our purpose? What is our reason for doing all this? Let’s take performing a daily banishing ritual as an example: are we doing it to banish all the negative energies surrounding us, or are we doing it to simply get better at banishing? Neither is in itself a foolhardy goal, but the key is to have a reason for doing it other than just for the sake of doing it. This purpose is the armor that protects us from the loud and ubiquitous stream of information that flows into us on a daily basis.

For those wishing to develop and embark upon a daily practice, I’ve noticed the word “daily” seems to outshine the word “practice.” “Yes,” we may think, “I need to do something, the same thing, every day, and that is how I will become an elite magician.” That word “practice” holds ugly connotations to many, particularly those of us who endured years of piano lessons or sports classes growing up. When something grows from being a mild interest to an unavoidable calling, however, the only way to advance is to work hard at it.

Perhaps the most important practice is making mistakes. We heed the advice of some people and ignore that of others, then we set out on our own and learn what sticks, what doesn’t and what makes us lose our jobs and significant others. We travel upon supposedly promising trails that disappear right under our feet, or we discover that the most well developed plan leads nowhere at all. But whatever happens we learn because that was our purpose from the start. If our purpose is to learn and to grow then it’s very hard to get waylaid by the constant influx of knowledge and advice we receive, both good and bad, because everything becomes a learning experience. The world of magic lies within us, and all the various outward accouterments aren’t what create rock solid magicians. So work! Work hard, work consistently, work on something, and you’ll see that once vague path growing more vivid, leading to new and exciting places.

 

Perfection is Irrelevant

One of the worst distractions presented to us on a daily basis is the notion that anything less than perfection equates to failure. We know this to be false on a deeper level, and we may pay lip service to the “path” over the “goal,” but when we don’t meet our own high standards how common is it for that feeling of unworthiness and failure to creep upon as and cast a dark shadow over everything we’ve done or plan to do? Perfectionism keeps us from that loving relationship, it stops us from going back to the yoga mat, it puts that writing project on hold, and it discourages us from sitting down and meditating each day. Perfectionism is that voice telling us to give up. Perfectionism is that hopelessness we feel when things don’t go according to plan.

The idea of Perfection with a capital P is a lofty ideal, and also an unreachable one. Being so focused on Perfection fast tracks us to disappointment and feeling that no matter what we do, we’re not good enough. Perfection is an illusion when we believe that it’s something we have to get or achieve. Perfectionism takes us out of the present moment, that place we’re at right now, the place that is real and tangible and here. If we leave the present by thinking that some other place, some other time is preferable to what is going on in the moment, then our minds are no longer focused on what’s right in front of us.

Look outside. Look at the plants, the animals, the mountains, the forests, the sky. Perfect lines and our artificial ideas of what symmetry should be do not exist in nature. Even deeper than aesthetics, look at how our planet operates. Nature can be sweet and nature can be vicious. Nature is not fair. Nature just is, operating the way it has been since life began. But in all its imperfections, nature is perfect.

Now look at yourself. Maybe there’s a line on your face that wasn’t there yesterday. Maybe your muscles could be more toned. Maybe your teeth aren’t as straight as you’d like. But that is you! You’re made up of all of these elements and more. You are unique, and like no one else who ever was or will be. But perhaps you feel like a failure because you’ve clung to trying to be Perfect for so long that no other option seems viable. Not only do you not see yourself as perfect, you see yourself as unworthy of perfection. You’ve made mistakes, you’ve given up on things you’ve wanted to do, you’ve maintained relationships with people who’ve hurt you, you live with regretting things both said and unsaid, and you find yourself identifying with your mistakes.

But that is not you! You are not those new wrinkles or that bad habit or that regret. These things are part of you and part of your history, sure, but they are not you. Your experiences, your perceived failures and successes, have all led up to here, to this moment, this place that is perfect in its imperfections.

Growing up, there was always a piano recital in my near future. I’d practice and practice for that recital, stressing myself out over the shame of public embarrassment if I were to make some egregious error. While practicing I’d confront difficult passages, but I’d keep working and working until I’d ironed out all of my mistakes. Then recital night would come, I’d go up on stage, play my piece, take a bow, then sit down. It’d be all over very fast, and I’d feel overcome by a great sense of relief.

But you know what? I made mistakes. Maybe a passage didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted, maybe my fingers hit wrong notes, or maybe my timing wasn’t perfect all the way through. None of this mattered in the end, however. I made that piece mine. I owned it, mistakes and all. Of course not long thereafter I’d be stressing out over another recital, and the cycle would repeat. Growing up it seemed like there was a never-ending cycle of piano recitals in which I’d have to perform, meaning therefore a never-ending cycle of distress I’d have to endure.

Yet time went on, and a funny thing occurred: I started to appreciate the journey of practice. I was always worried I wouldn’t be perfect on stage, and no matter how hard I practiced I still made some mistakes, as imperceptible to the audience as they were. I would never be the perfect pianist I wanted to be, but I was also proud of my performances, and my parents and teacher were also proud of me. No matter what happened, I was always okay in the end, and a little bit better and wiser.

Practice became not about being the best pianist in the world, but the best

possible pianist that I could be in that moment. Each time I practiced I got a little bit better, but I had rid myself of being so attached to the idea of Perfection. Each tiny little success built on itself, and I learned from each mistakes. I became unconcerned with the outcome and just learned to appreciate the ride, and unlike many of my peers at the time who were force fed pianistic Perfection, I grew up to always enjoy playing the piano and other instruments, and have yet to stop practicing years later.

Instead of Perfection, we should focus on approaching our lives and the things we encounter as being stepping stones along our journey’s path. We won’t ever be Perfect in some future sense of the word, but we can be perfect in the moment we’re in, just by enjoying and loving ourselves.

Look Back on 2010..well sorta

Looking back at last year, tea became a even more prominent part of my life. But Tyros hasn’t been updated in quite some time, and that is alldue on my part. I let myself get busy and neglected it, and if there is one thing I have learned from tea, it is that you need to slow down some times to enjoy life.  So I would like to apologize for not updating regularly

It’s 2011, 2010 went by fast, and with new years brings new teas to review, and people to meet.

The following pictures are some of the tea treats that I have had the pleasure to part take in this past holiday season. I do apologizes at the quality of these pictures, my good camera has died on me.

This little lovely beauty is my first Yixing Clay Pot, (named it Gin) that I received from my Best friend Wes.

Along with the pot, Wes also got me this 2006 Pu-erh cake (above) and a 2009 cake (below). The 2006 cake has become the crown jewel of my teas because it was made the year I graduated from high school. I plan on taking my first sip of it come my twenty year reunion.

(/\2009 cake /\)

Last but not least this big bag of goodness is a custom blend specially for Tyros. Thanks to my friends over at Bourgea Tea for making this custom Blueberry white tea entitled “Blueberry Yum”. Keep your eyes out as I will get giving away some samples away sometime this week.

 

Over all this past year has been a good year for me and tea. Was able to cross off about 5 of the Lengendary Tea’s of China off my list, I met alot of awesome tea bloggers via twitters, blogs, and facebook, and got to take a look on how some of my favorite tea companies got started. So I raise a cup to 2011 and hope it will be another great year of tea.

Ken of Lahikmajoedrinkstea

Who are you?

I’m a musician and writer living in Munich, Germany.

 

What Blogs do you run?

Lahikmajoedrinkstea and lahikmajoeinbayern

 

How did you get into tea?

My wife turned me onto tea.  I was a coffee drinker until I married.  While brewing her a pot, I’d sometimes have a sip.  I’d had green tea on a trip to Japan, so I wasn’t completely new to tea.  My heart raced when I drank coffee, and slowly I started drinking more and more tea.

 

What’s your favorite tea?

Dark, strong teas are more to my taste (Assam Khongea and a good Friesland Blend).  I’ve slowly developed an affinity for more subtle tea, but 2nd flush Darjeelings (Singbulli and Margaret’s Hope) are still my preference.  The best Ceylon seems to come from the highest elevations, so I’ll never turn down a cup of Nuwara Eliya.


What’s your preferred method of steeping? (gaiwan, sorapot, etc.)

Am a bit embarrassed about this, but as much as I enjoy other sorts of steeping I don’t have any of the gear.  When I’m in a tea salon, I’ll happily go the gaiwan or sorapot routes, but at home I brew my tea in a very sturdy Art Deco pot that has treated me quite well.

 

What advice do you have for people just coming into tea?

This is actually what I try to address in my blog.  Don’t be intimidated by the snobbery.  The tea people who’s hearts are in the right place will be thrilled that you’ve joined the flock.  As much as there is to learn, and it can be daunting, we all had to start somewhere.

 

Green or Black? Why?

Although I love Oolongs and green tea, I find myself drawn to black tea.  At first, it was that I was interested in the history of tea and tea-producing cultures.  I’m fascinated by Japan and curious about China, but there’s something about India that I simply can’t shake.

 

How many cups or pots daily?

This one’s really hard to answer.  If I’m home in the morning, I can easily drink three or four pots before lunchtime, and I carry a few thermoses if I know I’ll be away.  I can easily polish off seven or eight pots in a day.

 

Tea enjoyed better with friends or solo?

When I first started doing research in preparation for my teablog, I found sites describing people getting together sharing rare varieties of tea with one another.  Am sure I’d take part in such experiences if I had more of a local tea community.  As it is, most of my tea comraderie is online.

 

Share with us some randomness?

One of my clients told me about a scam in some Shanghai teahouses where they prey on the gullibility of Western tourists.  They pour limitless tiny cups of tea without explaining that each one is rather pricey.  The dupe doesn’t want to appear rude, so he drinks everything that’s set in front of him, and unfortunately the bill can easily run in the hundreds of euros/dollars.

Featured Tea Company: Samovar

First of all let me start by apologizing for the rather long hiatus. With school and my father being sick, things got a little busy. Thank you to all of those for the prayers and wishes.

Today’s post is something I am rather excited about, today’s featured tea company is Samovar. For a little history on Samovar and how it came to be you can read their story here.

I’d like to thank Jesse for taking some time to answer a few questions.

Where are you located?

San Francisco

From what Country’s do you get your tea from?

China, Taiwan, Japan, South Africa, United States, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos

What do the customers mean to your company?

Everything. There is no company without our customers. We exist to share the tea experience with our customers.

What are some of the difficulties with selling tea?

Teaching people that good tea is so simple.

This is a three-parter. What tea does every one order?What  tea would you suggest for tea newbies?What is your most uniquetea?

1.They are all different, just like every person is different.

2.Ryokucha, Earl Grey, Ocean of Wisdom, Downy Sprout, Nocturnal bliss, Samovar breakfast blend, Moorish Mint

3.Nishi Sencha, Bai Hao Oolong, Masala Chai, Ryokucha, Royal Garland, Maiden’s Ecstacy

What makes your tea company unique?

We are not a tea company. We are a company that is here to foster positive human connection. Tea is our vehicle, and the means which we achieve our mission: creating this connection. We are also unique in the deep artisan relations we have with our suppliers, and, the fact that we are the only tea company in the country with the high caliber of tea that we offer, and make available in 3 urban locations, and on a website.

In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?

Positive Human Connection.

What is the companies mission?

See above. Also, please check out our mission page which speaks to our unique culture.

Be sure to check out Samovar on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Tea Company: Bourgea Tea

What’s the history behind the company, how did you get your start?

We started in October 2008. I wanted to supply students on my campus with higher quality tea. I also wanted to change peoples views on tea.

Where are you located?

We are based out of Anderson IN.

From what Country’s do you get your tea from?

The teas are grown in China, Sri Lanka, India, and South Africa.

What do the customers mean to your company?

Customers are obviously important to all companies. I want my customers to feel that received good service and if they are new to tea I want them to fall in love with tea.

What are some of the difficulties with selling tea?

Most people think tea tastes bad. There is also lots of competition. Sometimes it can be hard to standout when you have a small budget.

This is a three-parter. What tea does every one order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most  unique tea?

The white peach and detox are the most popular teas. I think that people who are new to tea should start with the white peach. I call the white peach my gateway tea because its the tea that gets people into tea. My most unique tea is my lucari chai. It has pineapple in it and uses green tea as the base instead of black tea. It was created for a couple that got married and wanted their own tea.

What makes your tea company unique?

Every tea is hand blended. It was started out of my dorm room.

In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?

indy, healthy, charitable

What is the companies mission?

The vision of the company is to change the persona of tea from its stigma as a drink for older ladies in fluffy hats and young girls at tea parties to its splendor as an amazing, flavorful resource for all those who need something spectaculicious to drink. Throw yo’ pinkie up and let the TEA revolution begin!

Don’t forget to check Bourgea Tea out on Twitter and Facebook.

Matcha 411

I love matcha. I love everything about it; whether it ranges from the vibrant green color to the distinct vegetal aroma. Ever since I was first introduced to this special treat back in early May, I have been drinking one bowl every day. As a matcha tyro, my goal is to spark your interests in the art of this unique tea.

Origin:

Now, imagine that you are a gyokuro leaf, a special type of Japanese green tea. Your roots are buried deep into Uji earth, a region in Japan where only the best matcha is produced. Fifteen to twenty days before your leaves are picked off; only 10% of sunlight is able to shine through the trees above you. This important step will provide the sweetness and robustness found in your leaves and no where else. Leaf processing begins thereafter where you are steamed and carefully dried. Your stems and veins are removed so only the most delicate parts remain. The end product is ground in a traditional stone grinder and a very fine powder is produced. Hooray, you are now matcha tea!

Preparation: The General Procedure

  • Have all of your utensils CLEAN and READY
    • Japanese Tea Ceremony
      • Chasen|Whisk
      • Chashaku|Bamboo Scoop
      • Chawan|Matcha Bowl
      • Chakin|Hemp Cloth
      • Tea Caddy
      • Ceremonial Grade Matcha
      • Etc.
    • Janna/College Student Prep:
      • Chawan (A tea bowl/cup)
      • Chasen (Whisk)
      • Chashaku (Bamboo Scoop)
      • Filtered Water
      • Matcha of your choice

Note: As a college student, the matcha process can be very expensive; especially in terms of buying ceremonial grade matcha and the associated tea accessories. It CAN be done, I promise! Don’t be afraid of the price, it is well worth it! Also, you can hold back on purchasing specific materials, etc., but always make sure you are using high quality matcha and filtered water for premium results. When I first started, I only had my trusty chasen. Now, I have a chawan, chashaku, and a chasen.

  • The Process
    • Place 3 scoops of Matcha using the Chashaku into your matcha bowl/cup. If using a teaspoon, measure out 3/4ths.
    • Boil water to around 170 ° and measure ~1.5oz.
    • Now add a little bit of water in order to avoid making clumpy matcha. To ensure that the powder does not clump together, I make a paste first. Pour a little bit of the boiling water into the bowl. Use the Chasen to whisk in an “M” shape motion. Do this several times until the mixture becomes viscous.
    • Add the rest of the water, and whisk vigorously. This process should last for a minute or two and there should be a good layer of froth at the top. Your arm should also be tired! For the picture below, I added organic soymilk for a different treat:)
  • Enjoy!
    • Sip it alone, or sip it with others. Personally, I enjoy matcha alone so I can harvest its benefits & experience the Zen. Also, be sure to slip it SLOW! Savor the moment!

Tips for Purchasing Matcha:

  • Know the main differences:
    • Food/Culinary grade: Used in baking in cooking
      • I.E. Yummy Matcha Cupcakes
    • Ceremonial grade: Used for tea drinking
      • Thin (aka Usucha)
        • More common
        • Stronger than thick tea (in terms of taste)
      • Thick (aka Koicha)
        • Made from older tea plants
        • More expensive
        • Sweeter
  • Buy smaller portions at a time:
    • Instead of buying 200g at one time, purchase only 30g at a time so your matcha can be guaranteed fresh
  • Look at the color:
    • Is it bright? Or is it dull?
      • The brighter the green, the fresher it is!
  • Expiration Dates:
    • I’ve found that the more reputable matcha sellers have expiration dates on their products to determine freshness.
  • Review the website:
    • Does the seller claim where he/she gets their matcha?
  • Order from a trusted site:

Enjoy your matcha experience!:)

xoxo,
Janna

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