After a whole morning of silence, the talking finally began. Wu De took on a lighter air, smiling for the first time, cracking the occasional joke, using words like “dude” and “rubbish”, but nevertheless discoursing with the passion and authority of a man who has dedicated more than half his life to the subject at hand. I felt like a university student again, filling up page upon page in my notebook as if I were going to be tested later. I couldn't possibly summarize everything that Wu De discussed over the course of those two hours, but here are some random points that seemed noteworthy or struck a chord with me:
· People are changing. Every time you see a person, treat them as if you are meeting them for the first time instead of forming your opinion of them based on past experiences, denying the possibility they might have changed (in other words, you can basically ignore my description of Wu De above, because maybe he will be a totally different person if and when you meet him!)
· The practice of cha dao goes back millennia.
· The famous tea terraces at Wuyi in Fujian were originally (and painstakingly) constructed as altars. The people didn't begin making a profit from them until relatively recently. Tea was considered a sacred plant. There have been recent efforts by locals in the area to re-recognize the sanctity of tea and bring back some ancient tea ceremonies.
· Modern tea planting methods and tea terraces are photogenic but terrible for the environment. Going organic is essential, and “living teas” are ideal.
· Tea is an ancient form of Chinese medicine, but using plants as a medicine requires participation. You need a relationship with the plant. You can only get out of this relationship what you are willing to put in.
· Children still see the world as alive, not as objects to be used, as people in ancient times did. Most of us lose this ability as we get older.
· All the indigenous tribes in Yunnan, the birthplace of tea, believe they were descended from tea.
· Drinking tea provides a sacred space where one can develop one's relationship with the earth, and also be or become the person one wants to be.
· Tea (like food) that is made with love actually tastes better.
· Bowl tea helps to breed equanimity and humility, and helps us to avoid becoming pretentious “tea snobs”
· Gong fu tea helps to breed sensitivity. A balance of both is ideal.
· 3 billion people drink tea every day; it's a unifying medium.
· Biologically, as a high altitude plant, the tea tree has extremely long, complicated roots that access elements in the earth not available elsewhere.
· Tea is an avatar of love; Mother Earth shows her love for us by offering us this plant.
· We can connect to nature through any plant, but tea is special in that it is so ancient, so widely consumed, so healthful, and brings together so many people.
· Wu De considers tea his one true love, and compares looking at other plants to cheating. Tea has saved him and healed him, and he lives a life of bliss devoted to honoring and respecting this gift the Earth has given to us, and to sharing it with others.