Monday, June 18, 2007

Lucky Tea Number 5

Memories are like Lucky Tea Number 5.

While traveling with Semester-at-Sea in Shanghai, I and several friends of mine happened into The Jade Buddha Temple. We enjoyed a tea ceremony and one of those teas, Lucky Tea Number 5, has stayed with me.

It has been just over 2 years since that time, and I still have a sample of it among my international bag of memories. The leaves from Lucky Tea Number 5 have crumbled significantly and lost their discernible shape.

Regardless, today I pulled the ancient leaves out, heated up the water, and performed my own tea ceremony. The flavor is as strong as ever and now has a mysticism about it that takes me to bamboo jungles and drizzling rain, haggling in the markets and racing to the taxis.

I could tell you of how I found a secret, misty garden of ancient bonsais no less than 300 years old being kept by a Chinese man who looked the same age who wore a long, white fu-man-chu mustache that lightly touched the slate tiles. I could tell you of dynastic bells and dog meat. This is what Lucky Tea Number 5 does to me.

Lucky Tea Number 5 is like any good memory. Over time, the shape crumbles, fades, and even loses the scent. But, when the right incantation is performed, and the time is taken to draw the elixir from its leaves and stems, the memory returns more robust and full of mystery. It whisks you back into ancient lands where the memory was formed, and draws you into the excitement of the future where more magical moment will materialize.

Once you have uncovered your own Lucky Tea Number 5, the taste in your mouth never really fades, but merely recedes until the right occasion.

That taste is fresh in my mouth once again, and I feel the pull forward.
So, if you try to contact me and can't, try finding me on a side street in Old Town Shanghai.

Go past the woman bathing her child in a bowl in the street.
Turn left at the "Right Turn Only" sign past the rickshaw rental booth.
Pull up to the curb at an unassuming enclosed courtyard.

Step on in and smell the aroma of burning incense and clanging of bells.
Lower your voice, and when the monks pass, slip off to the right, down the wood walk-way.

At the first teak-wood beaded curtain, slip off your shoes and walk in, take a seat and experience the Tea Ceremony for yourself.

If you can't find me still, buy yourself some Lucky Tea Number 5, bow and say "xia-xia", slip out the back door, go down the steps ever so quietly, and peak around the corner. You will find me there, sitting silently next to an old china-man, sipping my own Lucky Tea Number 5.

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