The other day I was wondering what makes a “great tea master”?
I met many people who describe - themselves (!) as tea masters (this has nothing to do with the tea masters website whose author really is tea master)
There are people who can tell you the age of the tea tree, location/s, how many different trees were used in a specific cake, with minute details how the tea was stored, for how long, whether the tree was in a shadow or on a slope … etc. And all this without ever even tasting. Great!
Then there are the great blenders of tea. Those who could blend various tea to get the required taste. Indeed Tea masters too.
Yet I found one characteristic that was dominant in the greatest tea masters. They all knew how to brew a perfect cup of tea from not-the-best-of-leaves.
This is much harder then it sounds. Shortly after I arrived in Taiwan, I had a tea brewing competition with Stephane. I left there with tears in my eyes - figuratively speaking. You can read about it here.
The greatest tea master (according to my idea of what makes a Great Tea Master) was a mysterious old guy.
The same teas always tasted best when brewed by him. His secret as he put it was the ability to understand the tea at hand - and the available brewing equipment.
Understanding the tea is key for a successful brewing. The one that brews the best teas given the same equipment is for-me at least- the greatest tea master - this is if you like my litmus test.
This brings me back to a conversation I had with Stephane of which the conclusion was something like this: If one brews the best tea, yet does not understand the tea. In other words not brewing to its maximum potential. The tea is likely to taste about 70% of its potential.
However 70% of a best tea is still amazing!
Making an average tea taste like the 70% of the best tea is however what we all should aim for.
A great tea master always brews the perfect cup i.e. 100% potential of the tea. And this comes from a deep understanding of all aspects of the tea.
What is your definition of a tea master?
A recommended reading
A note on “what makes a great tea master?”
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I omitted by mistake the tea masters that skillfully prepare the leaves for consumption.
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