Category Archives: 08.無我茶會Sans Self Tea Gathering (Wu-Wo Tea Ceremory)-Chapter 8- Guidelines for brewing, serving and drinking tea -蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

無我茶會Sans Self Tea Gathering (Wu-Wo Tea Ceremory)-Chapter 8- Guidelines for brewing, serving and drinking tea -蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

無我茶會Sans Self Tea Gathering(Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony)-Chapter 8- Guidelines for brewing, serving and drinking tea -蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

《無我茶會Sans Self Tea Gathering(Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony) 180條》

蔡荣章著Author:Rong-tsang Tsai

ISBN 978-957-9690-08-9,“无我茶会Sans Self Tea Gathering (Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony)180” ,First edition: 1999.9, Second edition: 2010.9.《无我茶会180条》,1999.9第一版,2010.9第二版.台北陆羽茶艺股份有限公司.2012.05.20修订版.-English Translator : Katherine Yip,英语翻译:叶德明.

Chapter 8 Guidelines for brewing, serving and drinking tea

88. Adopting the ’simple brewing method’ for Sans Self Tea Gathering

Tea ware for the Sans Self Tea Gathering is simple, so is the brewing method. Tealeaves are to be put into the teapot before leaving home, hence saving the step of putting in tealeaves at the venue. Also eliminated are the steps of warming the teapot and cups. Tea ware is to be washed only when one reaches home. Essentially, an outdoor tea gathering calls for simple ware; with fuss-free brewing one is less likely to become panic. This way, each participant will have the right amount of time and the right mood to brew a good pot, and enjoy the delightful experience the tea gathering offers.

89. When should we begin brewing and serving?

The event flow of a Sans Self Tea Gathering begins with random drawing for seats, laying out tea ware and mingling with fellow participants for tea ware appreciation and networking. When all participants have arrived, everyone will return to the seats and start brewing. The time for commencement of brewing is clearly stated in the ‘Notification’ distributed to the participants beforehand. When the first brew is done, rise and serve tea to others. Take the first cup of tea after serving. This will be followed by the second round of brewing, and so on. The process should be a seamless flow of action without the need to be overly concerned with exact timing at any one point, provided everyone keeps more or less the same pace.

90. How should one serve the first brew? Where should we place the cups?

The first brew should fill the cups you have brought along at your own place before being served to others using the tea tray. When serving, put the cups at the front end of the ‘tea cloth’ – the space reserved as ‘serving area’ – of fellow participants. As to the exact position of the cup in a particular ‘serving area’, observe the following practice:

The ‘serving area’ is to be mentally divided into four positions (on the assumption that it is agreed for each to serve four cups). When serving the first fellow tea drinker, place the cup at the first position within the ‘serving area’ (beginning from the right of the participant who is serving); place the cup at the second position within the ‘serving area’ of the second fellow tea drinker; place the cup at the third position within the ‘serving area’ of the third fellow tea drinker; then leave the fourth position vacant for one’s own cup. The first, second or third fellow tea drinkers are decided by the order of the seats – for instance, if you will have to ‘offer tea to the three fellow tea drinkers on your left’, the person on your immediate left is considered the first, followed by the second and third fellow tea drinkers to your left. Even if you serve tea to the third fellow tea drinker first, you will still have to leave the cup at the third position within the ‘serving area’.

Serving does not go by the order of seats, and you may serve as soon as tea is brewed. As such, you may notice that the first position at a ‘serving area’ is still empty when you place your cup at the second position.

91. When serving, who should be placing the cups? For the mobility-challenged or vision-impaired, what special arrangements can be made?

Regardless if the person to be served is in his seat or not, cups are to be placed by the participant serving, because he will know exactly where to place the cups. Even if the person to be served is at his place, this will spare him the trouble of identifying which cup belongs to whom.

For a participant with difficulty moving about, his fellow tea drinker on the left may lend a helping hand. If two such participants happen to be next to each other, they could be assisted by fellow tea drinkers on the right (of the mobility-challenged participant on the right) and the left (of the mobility-challenged participant on the left).

For a Sans Self Tea Gathering with a small number of vision-impaired participants who brew tea, they could be assisted by neighbouring participants in the way described above; for a gathering with a majority of visually-challenged participants, the following adjustment is recommended: each participant is to brew three cups, one for the person on the left, one for the person on the right, and the remaining one for oneself.  Keep the seats as close to each other as possible; this way, tea can be served by handing over the cups to one’s left and right without having the person to rise; likewise, one can receive the cups by simply stretching the arms, seated. In this case, the person being served will take care of the position of the cups – the one delivered to him from the right will be placed on the right, and the other on the left, while the centre will be reserved for his own cup.

92. How is tea to be served after the second round of brewing?

After the second round of brewing, pour tea into the tea pitcher.  Place the tea pitcher on the tea tray. (For matcha, serve directly from the ‘spouted tea bowl’ where powdered tea is whipped and foamed). Rise and serve. When serving, pour tea into the cups already distributed after the first round of brewing. For a tea gathering with predominantly visually-challenged participants, hand tea pitcher over to the fellow tea drinker on the left and then the right. The tea pitcher will be returned after they have poured tea into the cups.  There have been queries why participants do not serve tea to some other fellow drinkers after the second round; after all, this will enable more fellow tea drinkers enjoying their brew. There are a few reasons for this format:  first, as it is inconvenient to wash tea cups, taking different teas in the same cup may confuse one’s taste buds; second, taking several brews of the same tea in one go allows better appreciation of its characteristics; third, if we were to rotate the persons to be served, each tea will be served only once, and it may be too transient an experience for one to truly appreciate it; fourth, serving many different participants may tip the balance of the ambience and put too much emphasis on ‘socializing’ and mingling.

93. Should we say Have tea, please’ when serving and ‘thank you’ when being served?

Once brewing begins, the Sans Self Tea Gathering is to proceed in silence. To ensure a peacefully quiet atmosphere, to enable everyone to channel attention to tea brewing, and to allow participants to experience the rhythmic beauty of collective action, there is no need to say ‘have tea, please’ when serving nor ‘thank you’ when being served. A slight bow or a smile will do just fine.

94.  Is it necessary to follow the seat order when serving?

It is not necessary to following the order according to the seat numbers. If a participant is to offer tea to the second, fourth and sixth fellow tea drinkers on his left, he does not have to go by that particular order – for example, if the second fellow participant on his left is being served by others, he can proceed to serve the fourth fellow tea drinker first.

95. From which side should we rise and proceed to serve tea?  

Basically, when you are ready to serve, hold the tea tray up and rise, slip into your shoes (skip this if you have removed your shoes for an indoor event), and leave your seat from the left hand side because the carrying bag is on your right. However, space restriction on your left may require you to leave from your right, where necessary.

96. What should we do if we come across a vacant seat or a non-brewing participant when we are serving?

Treat any ‘vacant seat’ as if it does not exist, and count only those that have been taken up. In the event that each one is to serve tea to the three fellow participants on the left, and the seat adjacent to yours has not been taken up, start counting from the occupied seat next to it when serving.

‘Non-brewing participants’ are to be served. For instance, if tea is to be served to the first, third and fifth fellow tea drinkers on your left, and the first participant on your left is not equipped; he will still be the ‘first’ one for you to serve.

The participant on the right of a ‘non-brewing participant’  ‘to be served’  may lend the unequipped participant a ‘wrapping cloth’, which can be laid in front of him to mark the ‘serving area’. At the end of serving and when cups have been collected, this ‘non-brewing participant’ should fold the wrapping cloth neatly, return it and thank the lender.

97. For performers who are responsible for ‘post-tea drinking programmes’ and will be unable to participate in brewing, how should we arrange tea for them?

It is ideal if these performers also participate in brewing. However, if this is impossible, the organizer will have to make special arrangement so that the performers are also served. If there is only one performer, just treat him the way you would a ‘non-brewing participant’; if there are two to three performers, or more, the organizer would have to prepare some cups to be distributed to the participants seated near the performers, and assign the person responsible for brewing an extra cup for a certain performer. As each person assigned is to brew only one extra cup, it should not create too much inconvenience to the participants concerned even if they are only informed on the spot. Furthermore, as seats are decided by random drawing, it would be hard to decide which participants have to bring along extra tea cups. Prior arrangement may also prove to be impractical since the person assigned to brew extra cups may be seated very far from the performers.

Meanwhile, when arrangement for the performers is made by ‘assigning particular participants to serve tea’ to them, the performers are not counted. Assuming that tea is to be served to one’s fellow drinkers on the left in a certain tea gathering, tell the participant on the performer’s right that the performer’s seat is to be considered a ‘vacant seat’. This will help avoid mistake.

98. If there is a presenter at the Sans Self Tea Gathering, how should we arrange tea for him?

In general, if there is a presenter, the Sans Self Tea Gathering concerned would have planned to offer tea to onlookers.  In this case, tea can be served to the presenter alongside onlooking audiences. In the event that tea is not served to the onlooking crowd, the arrangement for the presenter would be made by ‘assigning particular participants to serve tea’ to him – the organizer would have provided an extra cup for a nearby participant and inform this particular participant to offer tea to the presenter.

99. How should we offer tea to members of the public?

Clear instruction should be included in the ‘Notification’, under ‘Rules for tea serving’, if tea is to be offered to members of the public. For example: ‘The first and third brews are to be reserved for the three fellow tea drinkers to one’s left, and the second and fourth brews for the onlooking public. Extra cups will be supplied by the organizer.’ If this is the case, the first brew will be served to the three participants on one’s left, with the cups placed on the tea tray. The last cup will be reserved for oneself (if it has been agreed that each person is to brew four cups). When the second round of brewing is completed, take out the four cups provided by the organizer from one’s carrying bag, and pour tea into these cups. Place the cups on the tea tray and offer them to the onlookers. When the third round of brewing is done, bring along the tea pitcher (or spouted tea bowl) and pour tea into the cups of fellow participants and one’s own. At the end of the fourth round of brewing, bring along the tea pitcher (or spouted tea bowl) and pour tea into the cups of onlookers (these could be people other than those to whom you have served the second brew, as onlookers tend to move around). When serving tea, nod and smile without uttering any word.

The number of cups for the public issued during registration may not be the same as that of the cups brought along by each participant. For example, the Notification may have stated each will have to brew four rounds; but there are not as many onlookers as expected. In this case, the organizer may provide each participant with just three extra cups. For a tea gathering with 50 participants who will be offering three cups each to the public, a total of 150 onlookers will be served the second and the fourth brews. On the contrary, if there are more onlookers than expected, the organizer may issue as many as five extra cups to each participant; but there will be less tea served in each cup. Having said that, each person should not be given six or more cups – the amount of tea served will be too little, and there may not be enough hot water. In the event that a large number of public has turned up, and the organizer wants to make sure each of them be served, eight cups can be issued to each participant. Use four cups for the second brew, and the other four for the fourth brew. For the fourth brew, the priority will be people who were not served the second brew. This way, each onlooker will be served once.  For a tea gathering with 50 participants, 400 onlookers will be offered a cup each. This is what we called ‘offering four cups each for the second and fourth brews’ when the members of the public are served.

If the number of onlookers matches that of tea-brewing participants, the organizer may give out only one extra cup. According to the agreed rounds of brewing (say, three rounds), one extra cup will be offered to the onlookers each round. Give out the extra cup issued by the organizer at the first round. From the second round onwards, bring along the tea pitcher and serve tea to both fellow tea drinkers and onlookers (serve fellow participants first). In this case, both the onlookers and tea-brewing participants will be taking the same number of brews, as what is described as ‘offering one extra cup each brew’ when the members of the public are served.

If there are only half as many onlookers as participants, the organizer may distribute one cup each to half of the participants (such as those who have drawn odd numbers at the time of registration); as such, only half of the participants will have to offer tea to the onlooking crowd. This is known as ‘half of the participants offering one extra cup each brew’.  If the number of onlookers is less than half of the participants, the organizer will assign at its discretion, as in the case of ‘assigning particular participants to serve tea’.

It may be hard to estimate the number of onlookers before the event; and yet, with flexibility and adaptable arrangement, the organizing team on site could decide the number of extra cups accordingly, and give participants simple and clear instruction on the ways in which members of the public are to be served.

100. How to decide the number of cups and brews?

Information about the number of cups and brews is specified in the ‘Notification’; participants will have to prepare the teapot and thermal flask of appropriate sizes.  When making decision on the ‘number of cups’ and ‘the number of brews’, the organizer has to consider the weather and the energy level – strenuous activities under the hot sun such as a Sans Self Tea Gathering held in summer after walking up the hill warrant more cups and rounds of brewing, an example will be four cups with three rounds of brewing. This way, each person will be able to drink 12 cups of tea. This, however, may be too much for an indoor tea gathering in winter. In this case, four cups with two rounds of brewing may be more suitable. Each person will be drinking eight cups of tea; this can be adjusted to three cups and two rounds of brewing, and each person will be taking six cups. Normally, there will not be more than be four cups with four rounds of brewing unless under special conditions – going beyond four cups will mean not just more cups but also a bigger teapot to carry; and anything beyond four rounds of brewing will require a comparatively big thermal flask. The preparation will become laborious.

A Sans Self Tea Gathering for practice purpose will normally use four cups for two brews. This way, participants will be able to practice the ‘positioning of tea cups’ in a more effective manner; meanwhile, they can familiarize themselves with the use of cups and serving with tea pitcher.

101. How should we proceed when we are required to brew two types of tea?

When two tea types are to be brewed, prepare an extra teapot and pack another type of tealeaves in it, if small pots are used. In the case of matcha, bring along another type of powdered tea, or use small pot for tealeaves as an alternative. After brewing the first tea and a break (there will normally be an intermission or another activity in between):

a. For small pot brewing, put away the original teapot and take out a second teapot, rinse the tea pitcher with some water, and drink the water after rinsing. Proceed to brew the second type of tea;

b. For matcha, put away the original tea caddy of matcha and take out another type, rinse the tea bowl with water, and then pour it into the cups and rinse. Drink the water after rinsing. Proceed to whip the second type of powdered tea;

c. For matcha followed by small pot brewing, put away the whisk, scoop and tea caddy of matcha, rinse the tea bowl with water, then pour it into the cups and rinse. Drink the water after rinsing.  Take out a new teapot, brew and use the original ‘spouted tea bowl’ as tea pitcher for serving the brewed tea.

102. How do we replenish water for brewing should we run out of it?

For a tea gathering that requires participants to brew two types of tea, the amount of water needed will increase accordingly. It is necessary to remind participants to bring along an extra thermal flask of hot water, or specify in the Notification that there is hot water supply at the venue for replenishment.

Replenish hot water during intermission if hot water is available on site. The organizer should ensure that the water supplied is suitable for brewing, and the container is free from unpleasant odour. When replenishing, do not hold the thermal flask up to avoid being hurt in case of a spill or splash; instead, place the flask down in an upright position on a level surface and fill it with hot water.

103. If tea time snacks are to be shared during the tea gathering, how should we go about?

The Notification will state clearly, under ‘Procedure of the tea gathering’, tea time snacks are to be shared after which rounds of brewing. When snacks are served, bring out two pieces of paper towel (or two small dishes for snack) – one of these is to be placed at the tea brewing area where tea, and snacks, will be served by others; the other is to be placed on the tea serving tray for the snacks you’ve brought along. Take out the snacks and offer them to designated fellow tea drinkers.

For tea gatherings where onlookers are served, they will be served tea snacks as well. Tea snacks will be served to fellow tea drinkers and onlookers – first to fellow tea drinkers and oneself, then the onlookers, as it is hard to control the quantity if onlookers are invited to take the snacks first. If there is a large number of onlookers, the organizer may have participants with odd/even seat numbers offering tea snacks to the onlookers only; this way the guests will get to enjoy two to three types of snacks, and the participants will have two types of snacks each instead of four. This contingency plan may be stated in the Notification, or be shared with participants when they sign in.

After all the snacks have been served, remove the paper towel or small dish from the tea tray. Meanwhile, put away the paper towel or small dish at the tea brewing area after snacks have been taken. Continue brewing. Take home tea snacks that you have not finished. Wrap any discarded part with paper towel and put it in the carrying bag.

It may be a good idea to brew one more round of tea for cleansing the palate after snacks are taken.

104. May I bring along tea snacks to go with Matcha even if the particular Sans Self Tea Gathering does not call for serving of tea snacks?

There is no need to prepare any snacks if the organizer has not required participants to do so. However, if you strongly feel that the snack is an integral part of the tea you are serving by bringing out its flavor, you may serve it alongside the tea. Just leave the snacks next to the cups you are offering.

105. How should tea be served at a Sans Self Tea Gathering dedicated to a special occasion?

A Sans Self Tea Gathering dedicated to a special occasion honours a person we would like to highlight or commemorate. This could be a friend or someone who is no longer with us. It is more symbolic than physical in nature – even for someone who is present at the gathering, he will not be able to finish each and every cup of tea dedicated to him. Considering this, only the first brew will be served to the identified person, and from the second brew onwards, tea will be served to fellow participants or guests. Meanwhile, as each participant will be offering their first brew to the same person, queuing is necessary, be it in a single file or at several spots in the tea offering area.  Essentially, queuing expresses one’s respect and remembrance to the party concerned.

The organizer may arrange a session dedicated to ‘praising’, ‘scripture reading’ or ‘memory sharing’ as ‘post-tea drinking programmes’  to add impact to the tea gathering; alternatively, meditation or music appreciation could be arranged.

Collect the cup for the dedicated person first when it is time for packing, and then proceed to collect other cups. Return to one’s own seat. Finish the tea in the first cup if it is intact and not taken, before ‘packing the tea ware’. If tea is served to a friend as a gesture of welcome or farewell, he will have to drink the tea or empty the cup.

106. How should we respond to enquiries or requests of onlookers?

If there are a lot of onlookers at the venue, they may raise questions about the Sans Self Tea Gathering or the Way of Tea, whether they are offered tea or not. A participant engaging in an extended conversation with an onlooker may affect the procedure or undermine the integrity of the event. In this case, give a simple response, and direct the onlooker to the place where they can obtain relevant information; or else, pass him the information leaflet you have brought along. Failing which, you may ask the person to hold on for a while and indicate that you will talk to him at the end of the event. The point is, let him know that no talking is allowed during the tea gathering.

107. Etiquette during tea serving

For floor seating, squat down and place the cup in the appropriate position (for the first brew), or pour tea into the cup already distributed (from the second brew onwards). If the person to be served is at his place, look at the person, smile, and give a slight bow, and then turn to leave.

Do not leave the seat when a fellow participant is serving tea to you – wait until he has finished and bowed. If you are in the midst of pouring out your brew when being served tea at your place, you may continue; otherwise, the infusion will become too strong. This is acceptable on the common goal of ‘brewing a good pot of tea’. If you have already stood up and are about to put on your shoes when a fellow tea drinker comes along, stay when you are, wait for him to finish serving and bow before leaving your own place. Under this circumstance, wait until the person stands up after serving, then bow. If a fellow participant is serving tea to you when you are reaching your seat after serving, quickly sit down and accept his offer. If the person has just finished serving and there is not enough time for you to sit down, stay standing, and wait for the person to finish and bow before taking your seat.

When you are serving tea or collecting cups, bow or salute when you are squatting down or seated (for floor seating), and not doing so standing up after serving tea or collecting cups. The exception is when both parties are standing up. Meanwhile, there is no need to bow when the other party is not at the seat, just serve tea reverently.

108. When do we start taking tea? Which cup should we take first?

As there is no event director and master of ceremonies, the Sans Self Tea Gathering goes by the pre-agreed programme which every participant has to observe. Coordination among participants will help synchronize the event flow.  When a participant has finished serving and is back in his own seat, he may begin taking tea provided all the cups are filled. It does not matter which cup to begin with.

There are, however, two circumstances under which one does not have to wait until all the cups are filled to begin drinking.  Firstly, prolonged waiting may affect the progress of the tea gathering. There is always the possibility of human error – the tea supposed to be served to you may not be coming your way.  In view of this, you may start taking tea anyway. Secondly, if the seats are far apart, or participants have to walk for quite a distance to take in the beautiful view at the peak or avoid direct sunlight  when they serve tea, the concern would be more of taking the tea while it is still hot, rather than a rigid  observation of ‘synchronized pace’. In this case, participants may take the tea as and when it is offered.

109. At a Sans Self Tea Gathering, is tea to be taken swiftly or slowly?

In principle, Sans Self Tea Gathering is a leisurely and peaceful way to enjoy tea. By right, the brew is to be taken slowly. By ‘slowly’ we mean not hurrying or in a rush; but not so slow as to leave the tea cold.  On the other hand, Sans Self Tea Gathering encourages a positive attitude and an aspiration for accomplishment. There is a serious side to the occasion; slovenly behaviour has no place here.  

110. What should we do when the tealeaves are steeping?

When brewing begins, you will have to do the necessary – turn over the tea cups, unscrew the cover of the thermal flask, take off the lid of the tea pot, pour water in and wait for the tealeaves to steep (if you are using a small pot for brewing). While you are keeping track of the brewing time, you may just relax and contemplate the relationship between you and the world around – the land, fellow drinkers, tea ware and the tea infusion – experience the ‘presence’ of oneself at that moment. There is really no need to look to your left and right and check what others are doing.

For members of the organizing team, it is hard not to be distracted because they are concerned if the tea gathering is progressing smoothly. For one’s peace of mind, it is important to plan in as comprehensive and realistic a way as possible. Stay true to the spirit of ‘simplicity and frugality’, for this is the only way for every participant, including members of the organizing team, to enjoy the delightful experience bestowed by the Sans Self Tea Gathering.

111. How to adjust the pace of tea brewing if one has gone too far ahead or behind?

Make a conscious effort to slow down if you are way ahead of the others; alternatively, take time to mediate and wait for the others to catch up. Conversely, speed up when you are lagging behind; you may even start brewing when you are drinking to save some time waiting for the tealeaves to steep. The rhythmic beauty of collective action is one of the key contributors to the uniqueness of a Sans Self Tea Gathering. Having said that, the rhythm does not require military precision; it is rather achieved in a natural manner which allows for slightly-varied paces. As a matter of fact, this variation would prove to be necessary in some occasions; for example, it would be a hassle for everyone to serve tea at the same time in a cramped venue.

112. How could we prevent photography/video filming from spoiling the ambience?

When all are seated, participants will form an enclosure whereby the process of tea brewing, serving and drinking can be seen. This is a thumbprint of a Sans Self Tea Gathering. If someone were to stay for an extended period of time at the centre, this signature visual impression would have been undermined.  For this reason, photo or video filming is best done outside of the enclosure except for the ‘tea ware appreciation and networking’ session. It may, however, be necessary to get inside for a good shot. In this case, do so as fast as possible and retreat to outside of the enclosure promptly. It is important to alert the personnel responsible photo or video filming of this.

Posing for group or individual photographs may only be done during the ‘tea ware appreciation and networking’ session. Once brewing has begun, you may only request a non-participant to help photograph/film you or the entire gathering. Failing which, you may take a snapshot at your own place in between, if you really want to have a photo as a memento.