MAGIC IN EACH SIP: HOW TO HOST A SACRED TEA CEREMONY

When can drinking a cup of tea make you feel like you’re “melting into kaleidoscopic clouds”? When it’s part of a Living Tea ceremony, says Madeline Giles. Images: Lisandra Vazquez Photography

Setting the scene…

This time last year I enjoyed my tea bagged, bought from Whole Foods. I took jasmine green for breakfast, cacao yerba mate in the afternoon, and chamomile after dinner. If you asked me what I thought about tea then, I probably would’ve said: “It’s a cozy alternative to coffee. It tastes good. I like it. Yum!” And that would’ve been the end of that. Like most Westerners, I related to tea as just a beverage. A constant companion I told my life’s story to, but never considered listening to for a response. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know there was more!

Then I moved to California, and by the grace of the tea gods, shortly thereafter I experienced my first taste of Living Tea during a love potion consultation. In one simple sip, the Tea pulled me out of my overly contemplative mind and into my body, where I felt transported into that magically meditative place where everything and nothing is known at once. It was heaven and earth alchemized in one simple swallow, and, as dramatic as this might sound, I felt I would never be the same.

“Really good Teas – that I call Living Teas – are from Old Growth forests in the high mountains and valleys of Yunnan, China and Taiwan, where the trees are hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old,” explains Living Tea founder Colin Hudon. We’re seated in his quaint Santa Monica cottage enjoying bowls of Purple Tea, which smells like wildflowers and makes me feel like I’m melting into kaleidoscopic clouds.

The author enjoys a bowl of Purple Tea at a Living Tea ceremony

“If you think about a tree that’s 100 or 500 or 1,000 years old, it’s been gathering and concentrating a profound accumulation of chi – or energy –from the sun, the moon, the stars, the birdsong, the plants, and all the animals it’s encountered over that time. The roots of a Living Tea tree can grow up to 100 meters deep, so they’re pulling up trace minerals and phytonutrients that we don’t get in our regular diet – that most plants we consume don’t have. Then we process it in a certain way and bring it back to life with fire and water. It’s alchemy.”

Hudon began relating to Tea as a Tao when he synchronistically connected with a Taiwan-based Tea teacher during his travels through Asia in 2010. “I stayed for a whole month at [my teacher’s] home, which is also a center called The Tea Sage Hut. I was profoundly moved by my experience there – it really kicked off my whole deep immersion into Tea. Prior to that it was just a curiosity of mine, a hobby.” When Hudon returned to California, he began selling Tea, serving Tea ceremonies, and ultimately inspired a local tea community that’s been growing ever since. Here, he shares the wisdom of Living Tea…

WHAT MAKES LIVING TEA DIFFERENT FROM CONVENTIONAL TEA?
The vast majority of Teas I carry are Old Growth, so they’re from hundreds to thousand-year-old trees in wild forests. Unfortunately, 99 percent of tea in the world today is industrialized plantation tea. These tea farmers deprive the soil of certain nutrients so the trees are forced to grow more leaves for sustenance. Then, they pick those trees eight to 12 times a year, sometimes more.

Really good Teas – what I call Living Teas – are only pruned once or twice a year, and sometimes even left for a couple years, to grow as wild trees in the forest. Also, drinking Living Teas and relating to them as medicinal botanical herbs is very different than sipping a cup of plantation tea from Starbucks, or even a bagged tea from Whole Foods.

With Living Tea founder Colin Hudon

CAN YOU SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT USING LIVING TEA AS A TOOL FOR MEDITATION?
Oftentimes meditation is about shunning the sixth sense – the mind. In an attempt to turn inwards [various Eastern] traditions often refer to the five senses as distractions to that path. Yet ultimately, we exist in the world – and you still have to get up and pay bills and call your dad and you’ve got to walk the dog and do the dishes, you know? So the question is: How can we bring that degree of mindfulness, of presence, of awareness, of connection, of open-heartedness to the more humdrum, prosaic aspects of our lives?

Tea is one bridge from the inside to the outside, because if I can brew Tea and talk to you and have a daily practice of coming back to this awareness of my body, my being, and of my life through Tea, then I’m building up this energy of mindfulness. And the more you build it up, the more of it you have. Tea is just one of many tools, but it’s a very profound and powerful tool for this – especially if you come back to it every day. It’s also very accessible, whereas for many people, sitting in meditation and observing their breath – doing some form of meditation or yoga or whatever they do – can be very challenging.

WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH LIVING TEA?
I tell people you can relate to Tea like a person. Every person we meet, we have an impression of them. Some are aggressive, some are loud, some are abrasive, some are gentle and soft and quiet and introspective and creative, and on and on and on. We meet people from so many backgrounds, and you can’t meet a person without also meeting their education, their enculturation, their upbringing, their family – and the place they came from, which is true of Tea, too.

A lot of times when we do these Tea meditations or Tea ceremonies, it’s about the senses initially, but as you drink tea, if you really pay attention, oftentimes images will start to arise and people can see the place from which the Tea came. We say when She or It or the Tea starts to communicate with you, then She or It becomes the teacher. Soon, how long you steep a Tea, how many leaves you use, what type of Tea ware is the most appropriate – all of that is something that the Tea communicates to you, It’s not something you can read in a book.

“Start with just a bowl and a couple leaves…”

HOW CAN PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO A TEA COMMUNITY GET INVOLVED WITH TEA CEREMONY?
When a person starts to open the door to Tea beyond it just being an everyday beverage, it can be overwhelming. People will go, “Do I need to buy all this Tea stuff and do I need to learn all these traditions?” But the essence of Tea as a Tao, as a way, is simplicity. When my teacher, Wu De, introduces people to Tea, he says start with just a bowl and a couple leaves. Four to eight leaves of a large leaf Tea – because if it’s too small, the pieces get stuck in your mouth.

All you need then is just a way to heat your water, a big leaf bowl, and the leaves. Step two is more about the methodology and aesthetics of Tea, whereas step one – bowl, leaves – is about letting all of that go. You can do that alone or invite friends over and explore. It’s not about conversation, it’s about experience.

WHEN I FIRST MET YOU AND TOLD YOU ABOUT MY INITIAL EXPERIENCES WITH THE TEA, YOU SAID, “YOU MUST HAVE GOOD TEA KARMA.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
There’s a saying in our tradition that as the man seeks the man, so the leaf seeks the man. If a person has a profound respect and reverence for Tea as a path, if they create space in their life for it, then certain types of Tea will find their way into their lives. If a person relates to Tea the same way they relate to any beverage, then a different type of Tea will find their way into their lives – but that’s true of anything. In a sense, we get what we give.

To learn more about Tea as a Tao and tea ceremony, check out LivingTea.Net and Global Tea Hut. Numinous readers can also get a 10% discount on any purchases from Living Tea – just add the code “NUMINOUS TEA” at check out.

Madeline Giles with Living Tea founder Colin Hudon

Taylor EyeWalker is a scent alchemist who crafts moon and crystal-charged botanical perfumes from her magical lair in Topanga Canyon, California. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, Madeline Giles shares her experience of receiving a custom-made Love Potion.

Driving up the desolate dirt road to Taylor EyeWalker’s mountain home on a warm California day, I have no idea what to expect. There’s no manual on how you’re supposed to feel prior to meeting a scent alchemist for a consultation for a personalized Love Potion – but weaving through the enchanted forests of Topanga Canyon, perhaps I am Cinderella (pre-Prince Charming) about to meet her fairy godmother for the first time.

Having come across her page on Facebook, I had contacted Taylor first and foremost because I wanted to create a loving experience for myself. The magical vibe of her site totally resonated with me, and, having just moved from Brooklyn to Venice Beach, I felt receiving a custom scent might help ground me. For the record yes, I am single – and while I’m comfortable with this right now, I’m definitely open to receiving all the help I can get. Especially when it involves Earth magic.

After parking on an uphill driveway, Taylor, who is tall, blonde and beautiful (this is LA after all, where even the witches look like movie stars), greets me warmly with her adorable French bulldog, Monkey. She then leads me upstairs onto a dreamlike outdoor terrace, where a Navajo-themed straw mat lies adorned with meditation cushions, a Buddha statue, incense, earthen bowls, and a teakettle. As we sit in comfortable silence, Taylor begins preparing a pre-consultation tea ritual.

The consultation “room”
Making magic

“I like to serve tea first so we can authentically connect to the now,” she muses. I take a sip, and immediately feel pulled into a deeper part of myself. “Whoa,” I share. “What’s in this?” Taylor tells me we are drinking Living Tea, which comes from the high mountains and valleys of China and Taiwan from trees that are hundreds of years old. “The veins of a tealeaf resemble the veins of our bodies,” she says. “Connecting with the plant spirit allows us to more deeply connect with the energies of the earth.”

It only takes three cups of magic tea for me to feel completely at ease. When I arrived I was slightly anxious and unsure what would be expected of me, as I knew I was going to have to reveal deep aspects of myself. But thankfully, post-tea, my nervous monkey-mind is silenced. I feel entirely safe – and even eager – to share it ALL. Taylor asks if I’m ready to commence, so I take a deep breath and, pen and paper in hand, she begins.

Do you smoke? Have you ever smoked?

Is there a place in your life where you desire deeper love and connection?

Is there anything in your life you’d like to change?

What is your intention for this creation, this alchemy?

Are you ready for a relationship?

The list goes on, and I find myself sharing things I wasn’t consciously aware were even there. Like the fact that my deepest desire is to be in a soul-centered, romantic relationship, yet at this point in time I don’t feel ready for it. Question after question, I dive deeper into my heart. Before I know it, almost an hour has passed, and the consultation is over.

I ask Taylor to take me through what happens from here. “When you leave, I go into my realm and really create for you,” she explains. “Every alchemy is different, and generally I go up into the ninth plane of existence to be sure I’m not bringing any of my own projections in.”

Though Taylor has sustained an intuitive relationship with plants all her life (even as a child she crafted plant potions in a cauldron on her parents’ land in South Carolina), in recent years she further developed her abilities by studying plant medicine with indigenous tribes in South America.

“I still hold very true to the shamans of the Amazon,” she says. “I really appreciate what they can create – especially Pusangas, which are Amazonian Love Potions made specifically for individuals by connecting with plant spirits. The potion becomes a divination tool that you use in ceremony or ritual. It’s something that you keep sacred.”

A few days later, I receive my custom potion in a tiny glass bottle with a hand-written card that shares channeled messages Taylor received during the creation. I read the card first, and my eyes immediately well with tears. Several of the messages she shares are things I’ve intuitively been feeling for months. This is such a powerful, whimsical, feminine potion…it reminds me of Quan Yin, she writes.  I went very, very deep in a cosmic wave, and I did many Theta downloads on this creation, ones you have requested in your life.

The downloads included things like dancing to eating more beets (who knew?), to wearing pearls on my body (as an incarnated mermaid, I deeply connect with them). I haven’t even smelled my Love Potion yet, and I already feel so seen, loved and understood. “This is really a self love potion,” Taylor had said during our consultation. “If we don’t have love within our hearts, if we don’t have love for ourselves, if we don’t feel whole, if our cup is not full, we will not attract the love we deserve.”

The author
Madeline’s Love Potion

Something I feel I’ve literally heard said a million times, yet coming from Taylor, I receive the message differently. I feel, for the first time ever, like I could literally hold the love of my own heart in the palm of my hand, thanks to this magical little bottle. Keeping this in mind, I carefully open my Love Potion and gently inhale. All I can say is…oh my God! Lavender, cedar, oak moss, rose, white lotus, jasmine, tiger’s eye, and many more familiar and unfamiliar scents rush to embrace every cell of my body. I feel like I am literally smelling my essence in liquid form, and this makes me smile. A lot.

I immediately decide I need to go for a walk and so I head out and hop in my building’s elevator. A man is waiting there. I’ve never seen him before, and yes he’s pretty cute. I’m smiling. He’s smiling. Then the elevator door opens, and as I walk outside I hear his pace quicken behind me. “Hey!” he says. “Are you wearing perfume?” I nod awkwardly – but then I remember I’m not, exactly. He looks into my eyes, brows raised, and grins; “It smells so good.

Taylor Eyewalker also teaches kundalini yoga, offers theta healing, leads retreats, reads tarot and conducts rituals. Discover more at Eyewalkerelements.com

Connect with Madeline Giles at Mermadeline.com
@Mer_Madeline