The rain was like cats and dogs. My thoughts were like cats and dogs too. I was sitting on the bus waiting in traffic and so worried that I wouldn't arrive at my new "home" - a family teahouse called "Three Fate Hall" (三缘堂) - on time. It was my second visit there. Every minute when we shared tea together was so wonderful and precious that we all agreed on my first visit that our meeting together in this space was a family gathering.
Three Fate Hall was the first place I really sat down to drink tea in Changsha. I found it by coincidence while I was looking for a qipao (a type of traditional Chinese dress) although I was crazy about looking for tea houses during my trip in April from the USA to my homeland China.
A simple classic hand-crafted tea set in the warm light of sunshine from a window first attracted my eyes, and the beautiful view caused my feet to follow. Simple cups with an authentic look expressed the richness of culture and history. Seeing them felt like meeting old friend that I hadn't seen for years. After the appreciation of this tea set, I turned around to see other items in the store. A combination of traditional and modem tea-wares with their distinctive but equally beautiful designs filled shelves around the room with an occasional bonsai nestled among them.
A bookshelf with volumes of Chinese calligraphy and a small collection of calligraphy brushes on its left corner added a flavor of literature. Old, dark, natural wooden furniture returned me to the old days of China. The sound of a little stream of water running over stones next to a tea table provided a reminder of nature. The steam of hot tea was surrounded by a few people and their compliments and laughter were calling my mind, my palate, my feet and very soon my entire body. Without any hesitance, I headed directly to the people who were drinking tea together. As I walked closer, the bouquet of tea was delighting my nose and the enjoyment on the faces of the people was calling my heart louder and louder. My mouth even started to water and I felt like I hadn't had tea for ages! It made me laugh at myself because in fact, I had just returned from a tea expo. Evidently, the unique design of the tea-wares, the setting and atmosphere were lighting up my spirit, to provide an environment I found particularly enticing.
They were having a three-year-old, big-leaf, white tippy raw puer. I invited myself to join them. The host was a friendly young gentleman. He said, we have tea, but we don't have a cup for you, do you have your own cup? I couldn't wait to tell him that I had a cup in my bag, but he continued by telling me I first needed to get a cup in his shop. I was a little disappointed because I sensed that he was trying to sell his stuff. I couldn't believe that he was so materialistic. It didn't match the store and the kindness I sensed from him. Another man came over and introduced different cups to me. The cups no longer looked as refined as I first imagined. I couldn't find any I felt a deep desire for. On the left side of the tea table, there was a very long wooden stool, with a man was sitting on one side. He was drinking his tea from a tiny cream-colored cup with a delicate handle on a little square bamboo tray. The cup looked so comfortable and happy in his hand, and the satisfaction and peace in his heart showed in how gently and carefully he picked it up. Somehow, the cups I had examined became gorgeous again. I chose a cup similar to the one he was using. The host labeled my name on the cup and arranged for me sit on the other side of the long stool, right next to the person (whose name turned out to be Tony) who was using the same style of cup I bought. "From now on," the host said, "this is your cup at our place and there is always tea for you." So simple! I never imagined I could get free tea any time so easily. I was surprised again and felt flattered and of course grateful.
As we sat together, the way I taste tea, and my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of tea opened more and more conversation with the host and the tea drinkers. We started joking, laughing, discussing, and sharing. I shared some of my best purchase from the tea expo, a high-grade Big Red Robe from Fujian. I could see the happiness in their eyes, their relaxed muscles, the lines of their faces, all of this accompanied by the contented sound of slurping. During our conversation, the distance between our seats remained the same, but our hearts walked closer and closer together... We drank, we opened ourselves, we celebrated, we laughed, we illuminated one another. We were drunk from the tea and the people.
That's why I got so frustrated when I was stuck in the traffic on the bus on the way to Three Fate Hall. Finally, I got off at my bus stop and ran to the place. My heart ran faster than my legs and the rain was so heavy and I didn't have a umbrella. I was so wet, like a poor wet chicken. I knew everything would be worth it. Yes, everything warmed me up after having a cup of tea with my new tea family members.