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20 June 2008 @ 11:06 am
Garden To Gaiwan, Berkeley 2008  

Last night was a wonderful event with copious amounts of tea downed, and the analog meeting of plenty of digital tea-folk.

Pre-event time was spent setting up our tables and meeting old and new faces.  The abnormally hot weather promised for a comfortable evening.  Among the crowd were several LJ-folk and local tea-luminaries.

Brian's lecture was very well done and truly informative.  Particularly interesting was the ten minute video of wild-arbor trees being harvested and maocha  being hand processed.  I personally wish there had been more time for Q & A, because I certainly had plenty of questions I would like to have posed.

The post-lecture tea event was exciting, if somewhat technically challenged.  We all rushed out to prepare our water and tea samples, only to find out that most of us did not have electricity due to a blown circuit.  The museum staff quickly rushed to set up a water boiling station, so that those of us without gas burners would have a steady supply of hot water.  They did a great job, and my water temperatures only fluctuated slightly. 

I met some very nice people who joined me at my table for the tea tasting.  All had a general knowledge of puer basics (sheng vs. shu, etc) so we had plenty of room for our conversations to wander away from the topic of tea.  I enjoyed this, for it drove home to me the social aspect of sharing tea.

In all, we stayed until around 10PM, when the very accommodating museum-staff ever so gently kicked us out.  I wandered back into my home around 11PM tea-drunk and babbling about the events to my wife who did a good job feigning interest.  Overall, a night to be remembered.

For more photos, check out the Flickr Puer Group:
scottteascotttea on June 20th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Tea and Academia...Is the residual taste bitter or sweet??
Part of me wishes I was there last night. Alas, I was burdened by my studies. However, what I am most interested in is how Berkeley goes about presenting tea in an academic manner.
I am a grad student there in their Japanese history department and, get this, they do not like it when I study tea! So, knowing that there have been several lectures on Chinese and Japanese teas have been both tantalizing and encouraging. If you can, elaborate on how the University presented tea in this scholarly light. Many thanks!
ALSO...If anyone IS a Berkeley person, please let me know. I would like to start a tea group for students who just want an hour or so of communal tea drinking. If such a group could come into being, I would like Japanese and Chinese tea to be the primary focus. I am currently drinking a lovely low-roasted Winter Alishan right now...on campus...and I have no one to share it with. Needless to say, I am a bit tea drunk. Anyways...let me know if you are interested.
phyll_sheng on June 21st, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
Re: Tea and Academia...Is the residual taste bitter or sweet??
"...and, get this, they do not like it when I study tea!"

Why is that?
scottteascotttea on June 21st, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)
Re: Tea and Academia...Is the residual taste bitter or sweet??
I am not quite sure. I get the feeling that the history department defines itself through the analysis of institutions, not intellectual movements. This, in my mind, limits their scope or, to put it another way, shifts their approach. I have attempted to work on tea scholarship but this tends to come from an economic/social history standpoint. Interesting, but a bit odd.
marshaln on June 22nd, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
Re: Tea and Academia...Is the residual taste bitter or sweet??
Completely off topic as this is grad student gossip -- are they going to look for a replacement for Wakeman? :)
simransimbubba on June 20th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
for those of you around san francisco tomorrow, (saturday, june 21), I'm
having a small informal tea at my place in potrero hill at 3pm. It's next door to anchor steam. Message me if you'd like to drop by.

scottteascotttea on June 21st, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
Interesting. I can't be there, but I am curious to what sort of tea you will be having. I have been trying to do more formal/informal Gongfu cha/Chaozhou cha gatherings but have had limited success. Do you do this sort of thing often?
simransimbubba on June 21st, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
I used to do this often, but haven't for a while. The most fun were themed gatherings. We'd taste n black teas in a row until we couldn't stand, or 4 different puerhs from a single factory.
One of my favorites was the bitter tea party, thrown for a friend who just had a big breakup. Only bitter teas allowed, with kuo ting and bitter melon as the main attraction.

This time it isn't really themed, just an excuse to get together having met some of the electronic denizens on purpose.
Since I'm moving to portland next week, and have already shipped up my entire collection, I only have a few pieces left around -- some nice jing mai shous, an 03 sheng called "jing mai round cake" and little bits of samples here & there. & who knows what others will bring?
phyll_sheng on June 21st, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Sound awesome! Wish I was there. How and what were the teas and how did people react in general (to the teas)?
xiaolaoke on June 22nd, 2008 04:35 am (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
Thank you, David, for the kind review. And, again, I would like to thank all who participated and made the event possible. I expect an email with all of those questions you would have liked to pose, or better yet a gongfu session sometime soon. If those in the Bay area who missed the event are interested and would like to arrange an informal gathering, I would be happy to participate and show my work.

As for Tea and Academia, these lectures have occurred in conjunction with a small exhibit of teawares from the Hearst Museum of Anthropology's collection - it is up indefinitely for those of you who might like to see it. At a previous Hearst Museum event, Gregory Levine from the History of Art department at UC Berkeley delivered a wonderful presentation on Chanoyu as part of a panel session that included: UCSB's Erika Rappaport speaking on British colonial trajectories of tea; Winnie Yu on Chinese tea; and Eliot Jordan, tea director for Peet's.

And, briefly, concerning my own scholarship on pu'er tea, initiated through the UC Santa Cruz Department of Anthropology . . . focuses such as the ecology-human relationship, commodity chains, transnational exchange and globalism ground my work in such a way as to make it theoretically substantial within the field of anthropology.

I am surprised that you have met with such resistance within your department. You had mentioned the analysis of institutions - what about, for example, the institution of the tea house and its relation to social reform? - certainly significant within Chinese history and, I would assume, also within Japanese history.

When I first presented my research proposal to Professor Yin of Yunnan University - an ecological anthropologist who has committed 20 years to the study of swidden agriculture in Yunnan Province - he found the subject of tea rather innocuous. Subsequently, upon presenting my initial findings regarding the landscape transformations taking place as a result of the pu'er tea industry being decentralized, he reconsidered the significance of my research pursuits.

I hope this might answer your questions and provide some encouragement! Please feel free to contact me with any other questions - brianskirbis@gmail.com .

~ Brian

marshaln on June 22nd, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
Speaking as a grad student also in a history department in a school on the right coast -- I must say I can see how tea scholarship at the graduate student level is probably not something to be encouraged.

I believe the primary problem is predictability -- it is very hard to find the right kind of sources that will neatly fit into a dissertation when you're working on pre-1949 institutions relating to tea. The sources just aren't there (for the most part). Yes, teahouses were certainly important institutions in life, but how does one go about studying them? These teahouses are, by and large, all dead. They didn't leave records that are easily accessible (if at all). Tea makers were amalgamated into Zhongcha in the 50s, and any preexisting records are probably lost. It also gets you into potential hot water topics of collectivization, etc, that a budding scholar in history probably shouldn't tread in without knowing what's there. I have a colleague who was going to work on the transformation of businesses from private into public companies, but discovered that there simply is no access to potential sources on such topics. They're still sensitive.

Anything pre-1911 is even more difficult -- and I suspect not a project that should be undertaken when one's under the constraints of a graduate student career. Post-tenure, perhaps....
xiaolaoke on June 22nd, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
Point well made, Marshaln. Clearly, approaching the subject from either an historical perspective or an anthropological perspective, each will contain certain contingencies.

For myself, I can look at a book such as The Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海经) as a precedent for early Chinese views of frontier lands and peoples - thus gaining insight into world view, notions of centrality and periphery, . . so forth. Cartography also provides a valuable resource, as does 18th century Chinese ethnographic illustration and writing. However, I can understand how this approach might not lend itself as well to a strictly historical approach. Also, the greater part of my research consists of field work rather than such above-mentioned textual sources.

I would highly recommend to you historians/non-historians alike a recent history of southwestern Yunnan that includes a chapter on tea - Asian Borderlands: The Transformation of Qing China's Yunnan Frontier by C. Patterson Giersch. See http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/ics/journal/papers/issue%2047/review-08.pdf for a review.
marshaln on June 22nd, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
But in the case of Yunnan and other border areas, there are ample historical material to work with -- the Huangqing Zhigongtu itself is a rather interesting piece. I remember seeing the actual pages in Beijing's FHA... that was fun.
scottteascotttea on June 25th, 2008 07:43 am (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
Thanks for the encouragement, Brian. Funny, I, too, went to UC Santa Cruz (02-06) and I found them to be a bit warmer to the topic of tea. I am, probably like yourself, more a cultural historian and try to find leads into tea by any means possible. I am just at the beginning of my graduate program at Berkeley. As I progress, I will see how I can bring my interests in tea into a larger picture.
Already I've done some work on Taiwanese oolong cultivate/distribution through the networking of Taiwanese/Fujian/S.E. Asian/Japanese businessmen. It was interesting to see how several individuals could become so influential through tea since it had a common thread amongst China, Japan, and Taiwan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
What I am most interested in, however, is how tea becomes a common thread before the modern world. I see veins of this in Chanoyu, Senchado, and various other affectations concerning the tea ceremony. Whether this becomes an analysis of scholar culture, Buddhism, or whatever, only time will tell. Again, I am in the beginning of this and it all seems like an uphill battle (esp. in a program that likes to look at the lives of government officials, K-Waves, and tax records). I look forward to seeing more of the wonderful waves you make in tea. Hopefully they will help to turn the tide ^_~
marshaln on June 28th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
Re: Garden to Gaiwan . . . & . . . Tea and Academia
We should figure out a project to work on together (or heck, figure an AAS panel together or something at some point). I have a few ideas about what can be done about tea on the Chinese side. I don't know if the sources are there, but there are glimmers of hope.
borya_boborya_bo on June 22nd, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
Hey David!

It was very nice to meet you!

I really enjoyed the evening. The atmosphere was very warm in all senses of the word. The patio where we had tea felt as if it was specifically created for this purpose. The teas were very good, and I got a real kick out of that 83 tuo-cha. And also, it's such a good feeling to have tea in a company of like-minded people. Felt a little like [in my imagination] in the old days the Chinese gentlemen would get together, recite poems, enjoy nature, and drink tea.

The lecture was also illuminating - I looked at puer from a very different angle, seeing it as a force, changing the local economy and culture, not as a "product" that I buy and consume.

All in all, thanks so much to all the organizers, and I hope this is not the last one.

davelcorp on June 25th, 2008 05:47 am (UTC)
It was nice to have you and your family at my table. Feel free to drop me a line and I'll let you know of future Bay Area get-togethers.

davelcorp at mac dot com
adrian_l on June 23rd, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
good time, thanks
thank you, brian, for including me at the berkeley event.

v-interesting lecture (just scratching the tip of the iceberg), beautiful slides and movie - and how wonderful to spend the rest of the evening brewing tea.

and of course it was a treat to finally meet jason (bearsbearsbears) and david and the rest of you.

sorry to have missed saturday's follow-up session, if there are pics or descriptions of tea, pls post 'em.