While, there always seems to be something at each annual Victoria Tea Festival that makes it unique. This year there were, at least, a few things which made the festival worth a visit. There was one exhibitor which was really impressive and where one had spent the majority of time at (more on that later). Met a few fans of MattCha's Blog which was also really nice and said "hi" to some of the festival veterans as well. The presenters David Caudwell and Greg Demmons were both extraordinarily good. With a special interest in Korean tea, Greg Demmons' performance of his Meditative Korean Tea Ceremony was the highlight.
Greg could be spotted in the busy crowd of the festival before his presentation walking through the crowds in full Confucian Joseon Dynasty governmental official hanbok. For his presentation he was doing a demonstration of the version of Korean tea ceremony which his master taught him from a modest mountain teashop on a mountain in a city just outside Seoul. He received the blessing of his master to preform the ceremony which he planned to do for the first time in North America at the Victoria Tea Festival.
Towering much taller than almost any other Korean man, Greg humbly set his tea setting in preparation for the ceremony. He mindfully brought the wooden slab with covered teaware out after placing the cusion down. Then he brought out the warm water kettle and waited to be anounced, to start his presentation.
He gave a simple synopsis of the Korean Tea Ceremony explaining that normally he would not ware the formal clothing and that the ceremony would include a longer duration of mediation than what will be demonstrated today. He said that the movements of the Korean tea ceremony (the purpose of the movements and the speed of the movements) are not only aesthetically pleasing but that they are also done for the purpose of getting the water to an appropriate temperature. He then went on to preform his meditative tea ceremony...
He moved very deliberately and with such mindful concentration. Those in the audience marveled at the beauty of this movements. They weren't overly exaggerated, drawn out, or artificial nor were they matter of fact, lazy, or without exact intent. Every movement was done to make a wonderful bowl of matcha (Kor: malcha). Deliberate, soft and graceful- one of the best Korean powdered tea ceremonies one has witnessed. Some of the hand movements, especially with the white hemp cloth was extraordinary.
After the performance Greg took some questions from the crowd. He answered all questions true to the Korean Way of Tea even squeezing in a quote from the Saint of Korean tea, Cho'Ui. He explained that in Korea there are no lineages of masters or families with strict rules. He also explained how each person slightly changes their ceremony. He also answered questions on the intent of the person preparing the tea- they are placing all their energy, their qi, into the bowl of tea. They then transmit their intent to those receiving the tea through the performance but mostly through the tea - this is the Korean Way of Tea.