On Learning the Language of Tea

26 Apr

So for a few days I’ve been collaborating with a friend. She’s a  connoisseur of fine teas–I’m talking teas that might sell for $300/lb. Teas that get better and more valuable with age. Teas that grow high in the trees of some exotic country and are picked at night when the moon is full. (This might be a stretch–the moon picking.) Teas that  may have one purple leaf out of thousands–and only the purple leaves are harvested –and I think this is called purple tip puerh. Puerh. Poo-air. Had a really hard time learning to say that word. Sometimes woke up in the night trying it out. But I’ve got it now.

So, my friend pours tea. Chinese tea ceremonies. In all sorts of settings. Private or public. Galleries. Homes. Workshops. The ceremony is exquisite and feels like an ancient connection–the ritual of it all.  They’re slow paced.  Thoughtful.  Meditative.  Reflective of a time and culture when “slow” was honored over “hurry up and get ‘er done.”

She also sells her teas online and in shops.  And right now she is expanding her offerings to include hand-made pouches for tea aficiandos.  People who carry their teas from place to place, sharing with others, experiencing tea-tastings–that sort of thing.    So it’s fitting that the tea pouches will be made in that rhythm–tea dyed vintage cloth, thoughtfully assembled.

We’ve come up with a prototype–two prototypes actually.  For the first one, I soaked vintage fabric in tea for several hours, rinsed, dried and assembled the pieces onto a substrate of cotton.  Then used free motion machine stitching to “glue” all the pieces together.  whole cloth

The pouches themselves measure about 11″ x 5.5″ and I was able to get five out of the cloth.teapouch1

The bag shape is lined with muslin and becomes a long envelope shape. And then folds in on itself and will be fastened with a cord.teapouch5

I’m loving this particular fabric–the mellow colors, the softness. But it was really time consuming and I need to figure out a way to streamline the process. Not speed it up. Just work more efficiently. So this morning while I was cleaning up the chaos in my work space, I noticed a pair of jeans I was going to take to Goodwill. Thought, hmmm. Look at the legs there. What if I cut out pieces of the leg–I’d almost have a ready-made pouch. So I played around for a few minutes and this is what happened:
teapouch 3 A different style. May go together more quickly–I’m not sure. But I’m imagining it now made from soft tea-dyed fabrics. Hmmm. And I need to add that the bags themselves become fragrant. Like sachets. Sachets of wonderful smelling tea that grew in the tops of exotic trees in a land far beyond my imagination.

19 Responses to “On Learning the Language of Tea”

  1. Anonymous April 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    oh…eeeeeeee….i had gone back to sleep after getting up at 4 something am and just
    woke from a very amazing dream and now come here to read this and well…i just don’t
    know What to say…….How AMAZING…, is it for the moment….HOW AMAZING this news is…


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:09 am #

      oh Grace. there were years when i awoke at 4am. wide awake. i got a lot done but i’m glad that’s behind me. and your dreams? next time maybe you’ll share?


  2. deedeemallon April 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    I love the tea-dyed pouches… the way they are in accord with what is meant to be tucked inside… and the tea-picking notes? lovely.


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:10 am #

      the row of five packets, like row houses, reminded me of you!


      • deedeemallon April 27, 2013 at 1:11 am #

        I saw them as a row of houses, too!


  3. gaile April 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    i love this patricia, the cloth is amazing. and the thought of that time honored ceremony of tea, this brings peace of mind and soul.


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:11 am #

      yes, the ceremony. it is so much of some thing that’s hard to express. i find myself thinking–i’m doing this now, and it’s been going on as such for thousands of years. the connection is intriguing and powerful.


  4. deanna7trees April 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    what a wonderful idea and such beautiful pouches. i might make a tea pouch just to carry along my tea bags.


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      do. make the tea bag holder–would love to see it. and thanks for this–i visited your blog today for information on dyeing with tin cans. great information. thanks.


  5. Mo Crow April 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    oh this is lovely! the slowing down, the attention to detail, the gathering of the fabrics, it all has so much of the “muchness” (to quote the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland as played by Johnny Depp)


  6. saskia April 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    fabulous, the tea dyed bags completely in tune with the contents; I like the second design as well (I also like the bright colours) definitely worth trying this design with the tea dyed fabrics; looking forward to seeing more!


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      have learned a lot here. i love the cloth making. the construction, well that’s another story.


  7. Anonymous April 27, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    so, can it be implied that you will be making these bags for her?…like, Many of them?


    • Patricia April 27, 2013 at 1:16 am #

      that was the original plan. but i’m committed to staying true to my heart. the part of this process i love is making the cloth. the cutting, sewing, making part of the bags–that became tedious and oppressive very quickly. so we’re going to find someone who will make the bags from the cloth i provide.


  8. Mindy/Minka April 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Interesting….we are both on a teabag quest. I’m using leftover cloth teabags…and wondering where I can find more since I saved mine so LNG ago, I can’t remember which brand was selling tea individual cloth bags.


    • deanna7trees April 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      lots of sources for cloth tea bags on google.


      • Minka April 29, 2013 at 7:26 am #

        I see cloth teabags but I do not see tea packaged in cloth bags. Maybe I’m doing the search wrong.


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