Last week at Hidden Peak Teahouse, I finally turned my phone off. I needed a break—these last few weeks, the internet has been loud and emotional, and my mind has been racing. But in a courtyard just steps away from Pacific Avenue on a busy weekday afternoon, the dominant sound was the soothing burbling of a fountain.
One of my friends, a frequent visitor to the downtown tea house, recommended that I participate in a gung fu ceremony. She claims that the rhythmic flow and repetition of the traditional tea pouring ritual forces you to slow down, and becomes a kind of meditation. Plus, Hidden Peak Teahouse is a digital-free space, which means no laptops, phones or contact with the virtual world of any kind. I was immediately into the idea—it sounded like a back rub for my brain.
The server arrived with a bamboo box about the size and shape of an intimidating novel, with slots carved into the lid. She set down a small brown teapot, a glass pitcher, a doll-sized teacup and a thermos of hot water.
At my request, she went through the steps of the ceremony, which turned out to be pretty simple. First, the server rinses the tea with hot water, pouring this first run through the slots of the box (it’s actually a tray). Then he or she pours more hot water into the teapot, and lets it brew for 30-ish seconds before decanting it into the little glass pitcher, from which the teacup is filled. Sip. Contemplate. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Over the course of an hour, maybe longer—it’s hard to tell because my phone is also my clock—the repetitive ritual did quiet my mind. I read a few stories from my favorite magazine, and noticed how the color of the tea changed from a light Pinot Noir to dark rosewood, depending on the length of the steep. The taste of the pu-erh was more complex than I thought it would be: peaty, softly vegetal, with a nutty sweetness. Pour, steep, pour, pour, sip.
I knew the world and all its noise was still out there, but my little clay teapot held dozens of mini moments of peace. I wondered to myself: Is this what Zen feels like?
1541-C Pacific Ave., 423-4200. For more information on events, including a Tea Talks series every other Tuesday, visit hiddenpeakteahouse.com.