Sanding down a Tea Pick
It was a dear friend’s birthday in February. He’s a charismatic fellow with an incredible knowledge of puerh. Whenever he gets a chance, he comes into T Shop hands overflowing with puerh samples. If you want to know more about puerh, I suggest popping your head into his blog, Small Little Adventures. It’s worth looking into. And while you’re there, check out his instagram as well. He’s much more active there.
It came as quite a surprise to learn that among his trove of yixing teapots and bundles of tongs of puerh, he did not have a single tea pick. Come to think of it, he mentioned he’s missing most of the peripheral teaware I’ve grown accustomed to. I imagine his teapots’ spouts are purely decorative if they are overflowing with leaves. Then again, they probably don’t get clogged all too often. Still, a tea pick is as indispensable to tea making as spoons or chopsticks are to eating. I couldn’t let him continue scouring his room for toothpicks whenever his teapots congest. Making the pick took much longer than I anticipated.
I dried bamboo from my grandmother’s house in Bangladesh for a total of seven months now. Usually, artisans will wait an entire three years before carving bamboo. It’s usually humid in those regions where bamboo grows warranting the long wait. Here in New York though, the dry seasons cut that time to less than a year. The only thing I’m worried about is the green of the bamboo fading over time. I have not gotten around to meeting bamboo artisans to see how they preserve the color. From what I’m told, artisans are tight lipped about non-chemical methods.
One of my favorite bamboo artists, Weng Ming Chuan, carves tea utensils as polished as jade and as warmly organic as wood. His work is mostly displayed as national treasures in Taiwanese museums but he began crafting with the same initial frustrations with teaware. Tea picks can be picked up everywhere, but mass produced ones are a little off. They don’t sit right on the hand and they feel cold. The best teaware are made by tea drinkers, those with an understanding of how a piece fits into tea making. Teaware that enters our space during tea sessions convey emotions and beauty as much as the tea itself. Each small piece of teaware is quietly powerful. It’s important for these pieces be as functional as they are aesthetic. Everything serves a purpose. When the pieces come together, you should feel that they belong there. They should be a natural extension of yourself.
Besides, it’s warmer when something is custom built and handmade. Place the same devotion and tenderness into your own teaware, even if you use a twig as a spout clearer.
I hope the tea pick is working well for you, my friend. I’m afraid I can’t work metals, so it’s up to you to find a puerh pick suited to you. I’ll always be here if you ever need to adjust your pick.