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"Tea has forever been a celebration" - Seasonal Tea Club Summer 2023

"Tea has forever been a celebration" - Seasonal Tea Club Summer 2023

In Taoist medicine, the Fire element corresponds to the heart, small intestines, and bitter flavor, symbolic of the charring nature of fire. It’s with bittersweetness in my heart that I write this today. Yesterday I swept up the final dust in Mountain Gate Teahouse, stood on the landing and sighed into the empty room, flipped off the lights and closed the front door of the teahouse, “permanently.” The building where Mountain Gate was located, here in the mountains of southern Colorado, was purchased in the Spring and our rent became untenable. The teahouse was fourteen years in the making, a long-held dream unable to fully blossom as the world went into hibernation during the pandemic. I believe that how we end something determines our ability to learn lessons and to grow. We must end things with grace, understanding, compassion, and trust so that the next cycle can begin in a healthy way. While a lot of tea spirit and love went into the teahouse, ultimately, it is only a physical space. The spirit that flowed through the space lives on and takes new forms.

While the closing of the teahouse marks a bittersweet moment, the natural world expresses the ebullient joy of the Fire season. In Taoist medicine, we understand that during this transition, the vapor of yang penetrates deep into the earth to make all things grow. The first day of Summer on May 6 will mark a significant shift in nature. The soil is moist and rich, the days grow longer, the weather is hot, and we are refreshed by frequent afternoon rain. Stalks appear, followed by the growth of grains; crickets and toads are heard at twilight; and hydrating fruits begin to mature on trees. Farmers must vigilantly watch their crops as more wild animals seek food. Many animals give birth during this time, the deer grow their antlers, the sounds of cicadas are heard, and the Summer grasses are tall.

Here in Telluride, we begin to check our compost piles, which have finally thawed. Two pounds of fertile soil can contain as many organisms as there are people on earth. We plant our gardens and begin foraging for nettles and osha root in the mountains, both wonderful antidotes to seasonal allergies and the buildup of phlegm from the sedentary months of Winter and early Spring. Wilson warblers and other migratory birds return from the rainforests of Central America, arriving to within 100 yards of their previous nesting sites in the mountain riparian wetlands. Cow elk retreat to secluded calving grounds in the quiet aspen forests. Drowsy black bears with their new cubs emerge from their dens, thin, thirsty, and wandering through the alleys of our town.

June is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the highest-ranking lady in the Roman heavens. Statistically, it’s the sunniest and driest month of the year. Pollen from conifers floats through the air in yellowish, dreamy clouds. The rivers overflow as June brings the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Dandelions fill the meadows, turning them into a sea of cheerful yellow. While many people consider dandelions an invasive weed, herbalists prize them for their edible and medicinal effects. All parts are edible, stimulating the functions of the liver, the gallbladder, and spleen, and acting as a mild diuretic and laxative. Vitamin-rich dandelion can clear heat from the body, detoxify, boost immunity, and provide relief from rheumatism, jaundice, and red eyes. Consider adding dandelion leaves to your summer salads or smoothies.

Finally, over 54 million people mow their lawns starting in June. Annually, they burn 800 million gallons of gas. In half an hour, a gas-powered lawn mower emits more pollution than a car driven 187 miles. Consider sowing native grass seed that do not require mowing, or creating a dry garden with rocks and sand. Another option is the idea of “xeriscaping,” a way of gardening and landscaping with water conservation in mind, along with principles found in permaculture. Permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture, which includes the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. During the summer, we can reflect on our profound interdependence with food production, resilient ecosystem management and resource allocation. Consider shopping from local farmer’s markets and develop a relationship with farmers, responsible food foraging, and the ways that your purchasing decisions reflect your relationship to the natural world.

With the Seasonal Tea Club, the offering has evolved throughout the years in a spiral dynamic, just as we see in nature. Each year builds on the previous. For a thorough exploration of the Summer Fire element, visit the Living Tea blog to read past Seasonal Tea Club booklets. Since 2018, we’ve covered lifestyle in the Summer, heart and small and intestine health, seasonal food and herbs, the spirit or Shen of the heart, cultivating the Shen in the modern world, the six pillars of health during the pandemic, shamanism, Fire in nature, communication, and social virtue during the social months of Summer.  By working with the energies that we find in nature during the season, we have a path of self-cultivation that draws from the climactic, energetic, and psycho-spiritual energies reflected in nature. By connecting more deeply with nature during the season, we begin to recognize profound patterns that help us transcend our egoic, isolated limitations as individuals. The Way of Tea is a path of reconnecting with the natural world and one another through old growth trees, mindfulness practices, and earth-based medicine.

In our “ultramodern” era, many people ponder the extent to which human beings have permanently changed the planet. That seemingly simple inquiry has sparked a battle between geologists and environmental advocates over what to call the time period we live in. Many environmental experts argue for “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “human,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans, and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts. Since the industrial revolution in the early 1800s and accelerating with the atomic age in the 1950s, human impact on the planet has increased. We are now having undeniable impacts on the environment at the scale of the planet as a whole, so much so that a new geological epoch has begun. It is important to consider our relationship to the environment and the extent to which as individuals we can minimize that impact. As Dan Buettner points out in The Blue Zones, social environments that are rich in communication, direct contact, and shared experience demonstrate significantly less material consumption, longer lifespan, and greater general happiness. Tea has always been referred to as the “great connector,” and by developing deeper, meaningful relationships with the Earth and other people through tea, we can simplify and enrich our lives.

The Summer is the most active social time of the year for most people. We are living during an interesting moment for human communication with the preponderance of digitally-mediated interactions.  The issue with the digitization of reality is that it dematerializes and disembodies the world. We live in a world full of communication without community or social rituals. Digitization fails to celebrate the magic of the solid, tangible, real, and commonplace. Social media falsifies events, and the still beingness of everyday experiences is lost in the noise of information. We develop a low tolerance for boredom and begin to relate to reality as an inexhaustible source of new stimuli. We become blind to the quiet, unobtrusive, small, and common beauty of daily life: the experiences that ground us in being. Tea has forever been a celebration of the humdrum – the light across the tea table, the subtle flavors in late infusions, the music of water boiling or landing in the cup. This connection to the moment as it is – without filters, shock-value, or hidden motivations – is essential to happiness and authentic connection. May you find time throughout the summer to connect through the simple, profound medium of tea. The sharing of tea is a “non-transactional” gift without strings attached, unmediated by algorithms, filters, or goals. The purity of this gift opens the doorway to authentic connection, vulnerability, intimacy, and the meaning that arises from shared experience.


Living Tea seeks out farms or wild tea gardens that have a healthy, reverent relationship to all aspects of tea production. The following are qualities of a Living Tea: seed propagation instead of trees from grafted clippings with shallow roots, plenty of room for the trees to grow instead of tight rows as on tea plantations, biodiverse growing regions instead of clear-cut mountainsides or valleys, growing practices that avoid all chemicals including pesticides, chemical weed-killers, and fertilizers, no artificial irrigation, and living wages for all employees.

LEAVES: We recommend using 4-6 grams of tea per session, or simply, use enough leaves to lightly cover the bottom of the pot. For a stronger or milder flavor, increase or decrease the amount of leaves used, as opposed to brewing for a longer or shorter time.

BREWING SUMMER TEAS: We recommend brewing these teas by pouring off the first flash steeping to “awaken the leaves,” and brew the first five to six steepings for very short amounts of time (2-4 seconds). This practice of short steepings is different than European tea whereby you steep the tea for a long time. Each of these teas is versatile enough both for sidehandle bowl tea and gongfu brewing methods.



This stunning floral sun-dried tea comes from a small organic farm in Fujian. It is a late Spring harvest Cheng He varietal, which comes from the name of the tea town in the north. The leaves are roughly 15 years old, with a blend from different years. The brew is forgiving and easy to prepare, ideal at 190°F, though you may enjoy experimenting with water temperature to learn the effects. The age has yielded a mature leaf, so a higher temperature is necessary to break down the cell wall. Illumination is a delight with a few leaves brewed directly in a bowl on Summer afternoons.



Pervasive aroma of stewed fruit with a rich floral, creamy flavor that fills the whole mouth. This well-roasted “Milk Oolong” is balanced, comforting, substantial and refreshing. Jin Xuan is a variety of Oolong first developed in Taiwan in 1980. It can be grown at higher altitudes, and the creamy quality comes from heavier oxidation. The sprightly, uplifting Qi and light floral flavors make this an ideal tea for warmer Summer days.



This unusual and rare tea comes from tea trees in Taiwan that are bitten by bugs in Summer and Spring, which triggers the plant’s self-defense mechanism, initiating the production of terpenes. Terpenes act as an insect-repellent and attract natural predators to these insects. One such terpene, hotrienol, is also found in honey, grapes, roses, and second-flush Darjeeling, for example, and is understood to be responsible for the highly desirable muscatel aroma. The picking and processing of Mi Xiang red tea is similar to t hat of Jin Xuan oolong, except that it undergoes light crushing and no kill-green phase, thereby promoting and allowing full oxidation, thus qualifying it as a red tea. Unlike most red teas, however, we recommend brewing this one at lower temperature and using longer steeping times as this helps accentuate the musky, sweet-sour, grape-like flavors . The meaning of the name Honey Fragrance really becomes apparent in the aftertaste of this tea, which is delightfully sweet and exceptionally long-lasting.



This loose-leaf sheng puerh comes from the rare Da Meng Fei cultivar, from old-growth trees over 100 years old. The organic farm at 1700m above sea level produces a small number of teas that rarely leave Yunnan.

The large, thick leaves have a sweet “autumnal” balance, partially due to the significant presence of furry bud tips. This wonderful medium-bodied tea sustains flavors of clean spring water, fresh leaves, green grapes, apples, and slight caramel in the aftertaste. The Qi is strong, moving, and grounding, as one would expect from old-growth trees. The leaves were aged for 8 years in their original mountain environment to absorb the atmosphere and age evenly. We especially love the large leaves brewed directly in a bowl with water around 195°F. Fahrenheit.

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