Sam Taylor Spotlight
Sam Taylor Spotlight
What do you want the world to know about tea?
“I want my answer to be very…”
“It’s kind of like asking someone to slow down a bit”
“I want someone to know how it changes the atmosphere”
“That there is potential for that kind of magic moment”
Sam is in Seattle, where people are self-quarantining. He was with his lover the other night, and they were just admiring his ceramic cups, the turquoise color ones KT made.
“These cups are great, the shiny copper that happens on the bottom….” (3 steeps later) “I’m seeing this nice purple I didn’t notice before.”
The waves of fear and ease come and go as news of the virus washes over the landscape. He was saying, “yes that is happening, but this is happening too.” He was thinking of his tea set. “There are all these moments.” Of course being alone for a couple weeks would have its downsides, and be disruptive in many ways, and yet there are all of these other moments of relaxation that can happen.
“It never fails. [Tea appreciation] has this ability to draw you in and then back out too. It’s got roots. It’s very earthy in a way—and spacious as well.”.
Sam is a fine artist, a painter. He has used tea leaves as a guasch or hot tea as a stain for his watercolor pieces. This was when he was first getting into tea and learning how to mix his tea practice and his art, and so it was very literal the way he was bringing them together.
“Lately I’ve been doing some group pieces. Tea is like that. Set the mood, and then you are just in.” He is always sharing tea with others: a friend, a romantic partner, or a chef at work. Ideally, he likes to have space to sit down and talk about the tea and appreciate its sparks.
Work at the restaurant where Sam waits tables, is a bit too busy to relax. But in the short moments of downtime in the rigors of the kitchen, the chef will say, “That’s good tea!” The chefs, he explains, come at it from the foodie side, with an appreciation for the tastes and complexities.
He likens this kind of tea drinking to doing art with a piece of paper and a ballpoint pen. It’s still good, but you’d rather have all your supplies ready. “Setting up for tea is like setting up for an art project, gathering all your things”—teaware as paint brushes, tea as medium, water of course—the relaxed atmosphere is the blank canvas..
When I asked Sam about his standout tea memory, I found his story very touching:
The Dong Ding had been a big part of his solitary retreat already. He had given some of it to a teacher as a gift, when receiving meditation instruction and guidance amidst his retreat. He was drinking it each day. (Alternating with some other teas too.) It was in the weave of his retreat experience.
“I had an experience during a tea break. I still feel it is one of the most important experiences in my life.” It was on day seven. Sam looked around the room and could see that everything was taken care of. Practice materials were out, floor was swept, there was sufficient food he’d provisioned.
“I poured myself some tea and in that moment had the feeling that I can take care of myself. Look how I set all this up so I could relax. Such a moment of self-love and self-care came together with that Dong Ding. Self-care is self-love was the most important takeaway from that retreat. I could see that I could genuinely take care of myself."
“My first experience with tea was also my first experience talking about Buddhism. I relate the two together: drinking tea and appreciating life, or appreciating learning lessons about life”
“Tea has this way of opening you up. A quick path. High in a way—inspiration and appreciation. I felt opened up to something new. (Gesturing to his teapot brewing tea) The leaves open up and become supple. A feeling of quenching.”
If you’re feeling brittle about something in life, try drinking tea to open up and become supple like the leaves mixing with the hot water.
Sam's favorite tea of the past year: White Daphne