Monday, June 30, 2008

The rhythm of a snail's pace

Today took forever to finish.

One bright note.

A family from deep in New Jersey came to visit me. They probably come three times a year to the area. They own a house in Lakeville.

The grandmother was with her husband and she put on one of those Murano glass rings. These rings are clunky and big by nature.

The grandfather was like...

Isn't that a bit big hunny?
The bigger, the better...

She then looked at me and her face was so confused. She realized what she said, smiled, then laughed for a good three seconds...

The husband acted like he didn't understand, or maybe he just didn't hear it.

Freudian slip, no?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Busy times clear the fog

This morning I seemed to be a step behind even after my morning ritual. I was a moment behind the moment and didn't feel like dealing with the incoming customers.

Let it go.

Be present and open to the experience, these are good people Hill.

It's funny how you can psyche yourself into believing anything... there wasn't anything too terrible at dealing with people twenty minutes after we opened, but I was telling myself that I wasn't ready...

After being put there on the spot to deal with a family of four, I knew that I was ready. It wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be... then all of the sudden, the energy shift was swinging wildy in a positive way.

Katie came in. She's a friend of mine who's been studying how to make jewelry. She uses a torch in her studio, I think that's pretty sweet. We were just talking, reminiscing. Mainly it seemed as though she were just watching me interact with the public... She was content in just watching away.

She must have been there the whole time this energy wave was occurring. That must have been at least three hours. Three hours of non-stop free flowin' energy. The first couple of hours we were all riding the wave of love and caffeine. The last hour it seemed like I was on my last leg. Many people were asking me three questions at once, a bit much sometimes.

We started off with Queen Catherine, a blend of three Chinese black teas.
Queen Catherine: Tippy Yunnan, Keemun Mao Feng, Panyang Congou.

The Queen will never let you down, she's reliable... always so steady, so solid. Everyone enjoyed her, she's a good time.

I then proceeded to make some Golden Monkey from the Fujian province. Sometimes I joke around and say that golden monkeys actually pick this tea from fourteen thousand feet up in the Fujian mountains.

I'll occasionally get a snicker, or someone will actually believe me. I am great at saying baloney with a straight face.

Golden Monkey: Chinese black tea with golden tips (tip of the bud of the tea plant)
It's a really interesting tea... sweet, a little smokey, a little malty... It definitely gives off a honey quality.

We just got in this year's Golden Monkey, so good times, good times.

My friend Matt came in. He's a great friend and also my new neighbor. He normally comes in every Sunday to get loaded up on some Yerba Mate and peppermint.

We've officialized the Yerba Mint special, just so you all know... it's pre-blended and has its own big tin for people to taste from...

Matt and Katie started hitting it off and talking it up. A couple of people with refills came in. People refill their four ounce or eight ounce tins with whatever tea they want and get a ten percent discount. Environmentally conscious and just a good thing to do, nice to get a discount especially at the rate gas is going up.

There was no way I could possibly read her tins, I knew what she wanted. She's a regular. Probably comes in once a month to get her refills.

It's such a good feeling to know what your customers want. Then everyone else who's in the room is like, "Whoa this guy knows what he's doing..."

I felt BOSS. You know? I hooked up her two black currants right when she entered the room. She knew that I knew what she wanted.

Then my man with the organic earl grey refill came in.

ORGANIC EARL GREY REFILL? Come on up my man!!
His wife usually comes in to do this but she's four months pregnant, so he's got to run around and do those chores. Good for him!

We were still riding the energy wave...

Puttabong was our next moment.
Puttabong: First flush darjeeling, first picking of the season Darjeeling, distinct from second flush Darjeelings and Darjeeling blends... First flushes tend to have a greener quality, more of a bright Darjeeling pucker and then a drop. You don't want the drop to be too sudden because then you're disappointed, it needs to be a mellow ride through your mouth. Green, astringent, fresh puckery taste, and very light body. Totally yum.

Samantha came in with a 102 degree fever. She wasn't feeling too well. We made her some Relaxing tea, which follows the Ayurvedic holistic healing thing-a-majig.

She dug it.

Mary and Kate came in. Every week they come up from the city to stay at their house in Lakeville. They are some of the most wonderful people ever.

Mary has these beautiful curls, glasses, and just this magnificent smile. She's always so happy to see me and I'm so happy to see her.

They've been coming up the past couple of years. Her daughter Kate has made me two t-shirts, using the silk-screen process. She makes them with small hanes shirts too, which means that my skinny muscles can come out and I can show off what my mama gave me...

And the wave continued... more customers, more demands... great day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Flyin' Fridays

Four women from Tri-arts came to visit me in the tea tasting room. Denise comes in and takes notes.

By the end of our stay here we will have tried all of the teas, with reviews and a star rating system.

Sounds cool, makes sense my dear...

I can't believe you're making Yerba Mate and peppermint available to the public, I'm not sure if I'm offended or what...

But the rest of the public need to know what it's like to have a groovy-feelin' soul.

Well... OK.

I met Whitney. She's part of the tri-arts taster-oma crew. They're fun. Whenever they come in, I ask them if they want to be a part of the moment...

So corny, so existential, maybe spiritual? I don't know, but it's funny...

I like to think that I have control of the moment. The universal moment starts with the pouring of the tea from that beautiful glass tea pot... Gratitude, it's nice to work at a place where I can get zooted on tea and talk to unique individuals.

There's a special today, some sort of a fish taco. Smells exquisite from the front at the cash register.

Ari and I were dabbling into the concept of whether it's better off to be stupid and unaware, or to be super-sensitive and conscious of "something"...

Over a pot of a full leaf Assam tea (Meleng estate) we were able to just be grateful for this sense of conscious development.

I'm not too sure what goes on with life... I do know that my heart beats about eight-five thousand times in a day... so there are miracles occurring everywhere, all of the time. Do we overlook this? Sure we do. But that's okay, as long as we can come back to that sense of gratitude.

We're on the path my friends... surely this involves a little tea drinking as well. Once one starts becoming sensitive and in tune with it all, it gets more challenging and the rewards are more plentiful.

What can I say... consciousness is progressive. Once you've turned the switch on just a little bit, you realize that there really isn't a choice. You just want truth, you want to see directly. You just want to see life as it is, nothing more and nothing less. You can't just turn the switch off, you can think that you can but this ain't possible...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My friend Hannah came by to have tea with me. It was really nice because we were able to meet the Chinese man who works at the register for Golden Wok. He and the chef normally pass by in front of the tea store within five minutes of each other or at the same time. The cash register guy had some Meleng broken leaf tea. This is an Assam tea from Northern India with golden tips and its cut is broken leaf. Sweet, malty, and definitely heavy. We all hit one anothers' cup and said cheers. I asked him how his wife was doing and he bashfully said she was good. I asked him where my wife was? He shook his head and said where are your girlfriends? You have girlfriend? I said I don't know what I got.

Steve and his friend came by to visit me at the tea store. He's a good friend of mine from way back and we share the common thread of being Jew brothers. More than that we just get along really well and it's always so nice to have him visiting me. We definitely had some Yerba Mate and peppermint leaves. That's the best mix to hit the market. One would frown upon this because it's not a "tea", but whatever it is, it feels really good drinking a couple of pots amongst friends.

Eric and Deidra stopped by. Eric has been someone that I've had tea with many times at the tasting room. His friend Deidra has come the last couple of times. I was showing them how proud I was of my nails. I have officially stopped biting my nails. She was telling me how I was doing such a great job not touching my nails anymore. I felt such a sense of liberation being able to look at my nails and seeing those whites shinin'. I had some Yerba with them as well. We had it coined as the Love tea while Liz was here visiting with us.

The young ones came in, Devan and Philip. They had a double infusion of Yerba and peppermint with me. We were feeling great, they're just about be be done with school. Tomorrow is their last day. They're both going into high school next year which is kind of exciting but depressing at the same time.

The day dragged on for two very long hours before we closed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sluggish mondays

On Mondays we're usually pretty slow. We were overstaffed by one at least. When my mornings start off properly, my light is on. This doesn't happen everyday. I need to wake up at 7, bathe, and get to work by eight oclock in the morning which gives me sufficient time to sit and have a pot of tea.

10:55 AM: The young Chinese man of about thirty years old was walking down the street with my favorite Chinese chef who's probably fifty years old. When I see them walking across the street I prepare two cups of tea for them. The cups of tea that they get are usually hearty breakfast teas, because at 11 in the morning that's what I usually prepare for the tea of the moment.

Sometimes they'll get Hao Ya B, which is a Chinese black Keemun tea that is rich, hearty, smoky, malty, and a bit chocolaty. It's kind of like a chocolate mousse. Hao Ya B is delicious but you don't want to have it all of the time because who would want to eat chocolate mousse all of the time? Don't get me wrong, it's really good but also really rich. Or sometimes they'll just get a blend... a nice breakfast blend.

I handed them each a cup of tea. My chef always has this grateful look on his face and the light in his eyes really exude conviction of some sort... He just knows, what does he know? He's a knower... he has faith, in what? Maybe it's the moment, nothing less, nothing more... They both finished their tea and shook my hand. Off they went to work, caffeinated and ready to rock n' roll.

Twice a week I challenge my chef to an arm wrestling match on the front counter by the register at the Chinese take-out spot. The whole family gathers around and they all giggle, probably asking themselves what the hell is this skinny, crazy, Mexican-Jew doing? I'll walk up to the register and rattle off a "NiHAO!" which means hello in Chinese. My chef will walk towards me about two steps and look at me as if to say, "are you serious man? You're no match for me!"...

The whole family starts giggling and the match starts. He has an advantage right off the bat. He has much bigger hands than I do and he is able to twist my wrist a little bit to get an advantage. I usually last for about a minute and this is with my strong hand, my right hand. Game over, I lose.

But it's not about winning or losing, it's just the experience... The experience of sharing a unique experience with someone who's so different, different culture, different person... language barrier. There I am, speaking in English and he obviously can't understand a word that I say but he understands something much more substantial. We have an understanding. It's a common level of respect. He just looks at me, gives me a little nod, and we walk off to our own separate yet connected realities.

Sometimes I even think he and I share something deeper and more beautiful than some of my friends that I talk endlessly to... It's no judgment upon him or them, there is just this level of depth that I express to him. I look up at the sun, point up, and smile... then I hand him his tea and he's so happy.

11:30 AM: It was just about to rain and I saw my friend from the other night. He's a performer and a poet... wonderful man. He was visiting some friends down the block when I screamed out his name. He approached me and shook my hand. I told him to come and join me for a cup of tea. He did... and it made perfect sense. He started speaking in Arabic to a beautiful woman who was coincidentally there at the same time. Her name was the same name of his ex-wife. You could see the emotion and the level of transformation that he was going through... at first he was shocked, how could this be?

He was just coming in to get a cup of tea and now he's speaking in full-blown Arabic to a woman who's beautiful and shares the same name of his ex-wife who he still feels for...

This was a great experience to be a part of... because they shared so much in common. In Morocco, there's a patriarchal stronghold on women... as in many Arabic countries. You could see that they were understanding some things on a level that no American could understand... I saw it all unfold, and he was happy to have by chance seen me and come in.

Life seems to make sense all of the time. Even when life doesn't make sense the only reason it doesn't make sense is because one is judging it. If each and every experience is just felt without a right or wrong attached to it, it makes sense because it's just pure... It's pure of judgment, it just is... it's seeing things as they unfold and they make sense because it's just felt.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mellow sundays are fun days

Sundays at the tea store are always wonderful. Normally, I get into work at about 8:30 to get myself into the flow of work. I'll get into work, have some silent time, drink a pot of tea and then start my regiment of cleaning the store. On Sundays work starts at 11 oclock. This means that I can get in about 9:30 and be able to do the things that make me sane before the day starts. I was able to do this, which always gives me an edge. It gives me something, some sort of essence which allows me to communicate on a very natural and instinctive level.

I started tasting tea with a very interesting young man, probably twenty-five years old, 5'7, light hazelnut hair, olive colored cargo pants and a black button up shirt. He had a pair of sweet aviators hanging from the second button from the top of his shirt. There was something about him that screamed, "I'm a writer, or a poet" kind of deal. He was very quiet and shy. There was a lot going on upstairs, I could tell. That introspective and pensive aspect is something I can relate to on a very personal level. He was just taking it all in, the whole atmosphere, the beautiful environment. Yesterday he came in as well because I definitely remembered him. E and M were taking care of him.

He asked me if he could taste black currant and get a quarter pound of earl grey viennese. Black currant is a black tea flavored with the essential oil of black currant and Earl Grey Viennese has a base of Keemun, Formosa, Ceylon, Assam and an addition of Darjeeling. Earl Grey naturally has a bergamot quality which is quite citrusy and Darjeeling has an astringent and puckery quality which goes well with the citrus quality of the bergamot.

He looked like a writer. I had to ask him.
"You look like a writer, are you?" I asked.
"I've been journaling since 1994 without missing a day" he replied with a coy grin on his face.

He told me how important journaling is in his life. I agreed. In fact, I brought out my journal which was handmade by one of my friends' friend. It's so beautiful, and he recognized how special it was. This common thread of interest helped connect us as people. Whether it be through our commonalities or our differences, I think it's important to find ground for authenticity with another person.

Once you're able to connect with someone as a real, genuine, decent human being, they're able to lose a lot of the pretense that would otherwise naturally occur. This is what it is, I accept that we're all a regurgitation of what our society, upbringing, culture, friends, archetypal molds and preconceived judgments that are completely unfounded. There's a difference between discernment and "judgment". "Judgment" in the sense that we're allowing some stereotype or some past reference to determine and equate our present moment. It's not a question of that being right or wrong, but there's a more direct way of experiencing our reality. Perhaps this just means being open to what comes to us... accepting our reality, acknowledging what is in our minds and hearts, then letting it go just like the millions of thoughts that seem to attach to our sense of reality.

We almost became brothers, just because we shared a cup of tea, talked about journaling, and just we're able to treat ourselves like decent human beings.

Aged mapled counters, smooth as silk and Buddhist environment which is so conducive towards being natural can help someone be themselves. There are more experiences to come and to be written about...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tea, Buddhism, Psychology.

On this beautiful Saturday, June 21, 2008, I was working at Harney & Sons, the retail store in Millerton, NY. I officially have the best job in the world. Of course this may be argued and is completely relative, but I want to convey my gratitude to the world, to whomever will read this blog. I'm twenty-three years old and I've been blessed to work with the best company in the world, with people who really care. In my experience, I've been able to connect with people on many subtle energetic levels. I feel that the level of compassion and empathetic understanding that occurs naturally in this tea tasting room, this room of magic, is beyond belief. In this blog, I hope that people are able to feel some of that energy, some of that beauty that I am able to experience on a daily basis.

I meet wonderful people all day long. Basically, I get to drink tea and talk to people about their lives, their issues, their concerns, their happiness. On an even more general level, I am able to be myself with these people and that quality of authenticity permeates the whole room. People feel relaxed in this room. The layers of pretense, the masks, the materialism, it all gets dropped for a second.

One gets lost in time and space in this magical room. It is my intention to share some of my experiences with people and to convey the lessons that I have learned from them. It is also my intention to somehow connect tea, psychology, and Buddhism to one another. In my humble opinion, I think that tea goes hand and hand with Buddhism, which not only exemplifies, but lives the true embodiment of mindfulness. Being mindful means being present. Being present means being here, being now, being everything that is in the context of whatever moment, whatever experience, right then and there, on the spot, on the DOT.

Any good psychologist or therapist wants to make their clients self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency to me means being able to deal with all adversities, with all aspects of life, with a level mind. Having a tame mind comes and goes, but being able get back to the breath and letting go is one of the most crucial points of life, if there are any. It's so easy to attach. Buddhism throws you into the fire and let's you make of it what you will. Buddhism lets you take that leap of faith every moment because the mystery is always there. We can only know now, we are only now, we are only here. I continue to challenge myself in ways that bring me closer to all that is right now, and fully immerse whatever essence I am to become a part of this bigger essence, whatever this life is.

Through the mindfulness of pouring tea, being with the tea, preparing the tea, and enjoying every sip of the tea, I believe that much can be learned. While appreciating the subtleties and different flavors, not only can we have gratitude for this tea, but in fact we become the tea. We become one with this tea. Tea is a ceremony and an appreciation for life. It's the gratitude for the moment that can be so delicious and tender. What moment better than now? Enjoy your cup of tea and I hope to see you at Harney & sons the store in Millerton NY.

Please come back for more posts... regarding philosophical perspectives on tea, my experiences with beautiful people, and the interconnection of tea, Buddhism, and psychology.