Last week was hectic. It was one of those weeks where I felt like I just couldn't quite keep up. I was late for a couple appointments for the book (I'm usually on time or early) and felt overwhelmed by too many freelance deadlines. In the mornings coffee didn't seem to have the usual zing to the point that it felt like someone may have switched my beans out for decaf. And then I drank tea. With the Tea Monk -- aka Paul Rosenberg -- of Portland's Heavens Tea and Sacred Arts Center.
As I walked up to the big purple Southeast Hawthorne area bungalow that's home to Heavens Tea I felt a tug of deja vu and when I stepped inside and saw Robyn Shanti at the dining room table I knew why. I'd been to this house -- Shanti's house -- in late 2006 to interview her for a story for the Portland Tribune about the Sustainable Business Network of Portland and its Buy Local Day. A few months after that interview the Tea Monk moved in. I talked to Shanti for a bit and then took off my shoes before heading upstairs for my date with the Tea Monk.
At the top of the creaky staircase I was met with incense, candles, shrines and offerings, tea in all sorts of shapes and sizes, sacred art from various centuries and a tiny burl table with pillows for seats on an Oriental rug in the middle of the attic room. We took our seats across from one another and for the next few hours did nothing more than talk, laugh and tell stories over round after round of rare and transportive teas.
I hope that more people will experience the magic that I did in drinking tea from more than 200-foot tall trees; tea from 1,500 year old trees; tea that tasted like the essence of root, bark and leaf from one steeping to the next. With a lot of aged puerhs -- which Rosenberg specializes in along with aged oolongs -- you can get more than 20 steepings from the tea. Each steeping brings something new to the cup.
I tried a couple Chinese and Taiwanese teas that afternoon that were so deep and elemental in flavor that I had what Rosenberg refers to as "memories of things that never happened." I hope that's not just a nice way of saying delusional.
If you get a chance I highly recommend you check out some of the Tea Monk's tastings. Some upcoming sessions include:
Rare oolongs of China and Taiwan Drinking the forest -- the aged teas of China The art of brewing tea and the classical tea ware of China and Young puerh tea tasting
Here are some images from the afternoon that saved my week...
Heavens Tea and Sacred Arts Center 503.230.0953 www.heavenstea.com Visit the website for a full calendar of Heavens Tea tastings and tea sessions