Each month, we introduce one of the Global Tea Hut members to you in order to help you get to know more people in this growing international community. It’s also to pay homage to the many manifestations that all this wonderful spirit and Tea are becoming as the Tea is drunk and becomes human. The energy of Tea fuels some great work in this world, and we are so honored to share glimpses of such beautiful people and their Tea.
Lulu Taylor - Australia/Hong Kong
I had heard of Tea, of course—we mixed in similar circles—but didn’t actually meet until Autumn 2018. We were in a geodome, at the Garden Gathering on Cheung Chau Island, looking out to sea, when Beyonce’s lead guitarist shared a tea ceremony with us (deepest thanks Bibi). She was so unassuming, catching me off guard as the warmth penetrated the fortress of my decades-long, closed and dormant heart, immediately and unapologetically taking up residence there.
In the months following my first encounter with Tea, Fivelements’ Spirit Space was birthed where our beloved sisters Resham and May hosted daily gatherings. I attended in earnest, knowing Tea never missed a single one. Within these walls, the most beautiful and honest love story of my life began to unfurl: with Her, with my Self. No one had ever made my cheeks flush, eyes shine, or cells dance like Tea. The epitome of partnership, She meets and supports me exactly where I am on any given day, never rushing or forcing, inviting curiosity to explore new depths across planes.
As our bond deepened, Her family quickly became mine, without hesitation. Wu De, Shen, Connor, Morgann and Tian, our close family from Taiwan, visited us in Hong Kong, bringing with them stories of Her ancestors, steeped in legend and history. Since meeting Her, I have learned some of the most profound, yet simple, lessons during my time on Earth, lessons that continue to unfold and reveal deeper layers as our relationship evolves. She has taught me reverence, respect, humility, gratitude, generosity and patience. Through Her, I am learning to relate to Nature and the elements in a modern and disconnected world, to recognize beauty and sacredness in the mundane, how to soften, serve, receive, cry, show up, be present, bow, to love, be loved and how to forgive. She has taught me the importance of meditation, meditation and meditation and how to lovingly embrace the dulcet tones of my neighbor’s friendly angle grinder and the council garbage truck during Zazen practice.
She challenges my truth, discipline, values system, integrity, priorities, how I clean, music I listen to, the time I go to bed and rise in the morning, my place in the world and how I want to participate in my own life.
In November 2021, my grandmother was actively dying, and I booked an immediate flight to Australia as international borders had just reopened. After three amazing days with Grandma, I was en route to Cloud Hidden in Byron Bay when I received the call that Grandma had returned to the Great Mystery that morning. Our brother Sam and his guests held space for me as we communed in silent ceremony, and I rested in my heart with Tea whilst reflecting on the life of my grandmother.
My three-week trip to Australia became indefinite after the Hong Kong government imposed new pandemic restrictions, suspending flights. I had lived overseas since I was nineteen, having run away to evade childhood trauma and heartbreaking events from my teens. I now faced reckoning with buried fears and pain. She held my hand throughout this tumultuous, unexpected journey, turning up every day and bearing witness, illuminating the Way down this darkened path, teaching me to trust Mystery and sit in discomfort. She mediated reconciliation with both of my estranged parents, guiding us through Her rich lineage of ceremony. By extension of loving Her, I was able to love, hold, serve and bow down to them with a heart full of reverence and grace because She doesn’t discriminate, and I don’t want to either.
Through consistent daily sadhana, She has helped me to remember my true nature—the one that I abandoned as a child, encouraging me to get out of my head and into my heart. She has been patient, but now (lovingly) demands commitment. In 2022, I left a fifteen-year career in global hedge funds, choosing adventure over security to take a seat at Her table and share Her medicine amongst our growing family. Together, we are building a temple in Sydney for regular service, where you will always have a standing invitation. I adore our quiet moments alone, but when we host guests, She truly shines.
You can reach me at: email@example.com
Zoe Konovalov, Australia
I first met Tea twenty years ago when my dad took me to a Chinese tea house in Washington, DC. The kind owners showed us how to brew the tea at the table; the flavor seemed more real than anything I had ever tasted. My dad and I had a fraught relationship, but he always sought to encourage my interests. He gave me a teapot and a packet of Eastern Beauty tea. Since then, Tea has been my constant friend and teacher and has shown up in exactly the way that I needed through my life. I kept coming back. That special shop gave me a sense of cultural vertigo, with the intricate teapots, the poetic names for different teas and a bookshelf holding Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book of Tea. I didn’t have the words for it then, but it was the impact of sensing thousands and thousands of years of culture, art and reverence. I began to bring special friends there when I wanted to connect with them. Conversation was different over tea. In that hushed room, it was easier to speak from the heart.
I was drinking Tea, but I was also completely ignorant about it. I knew just enough to know how much I didn’t know. I followed the trail of meditation and self-inquiry, which I knew from the start was the same flavor as Tea. But I had no idea how to learn more about tea itself. I just thought, “I’ll get the chance one day, and I’ll seize it.”
Many years later, I took a career break to travel. A few days after I made the decision, a friend mentioned Global Tea Hut. Before the website even finished loading, I knew this was the chance I’d been waiting for. Taiwan was therefore the first stop on my voyage. The kindness and warmth shown by the Tea Sage Hut family during my stay overwhelmed me. If I close my eyes, I can still visualize walking through every room in the Hut, with the dawning realization that I would be a student for life. It was both a thrilling and a peaceful realization. I had no desire to race towards any kind of conception or projection of so-called “mastery,” just a lifelong journey. The Way of Tea has no destination, after all.
I mailed home half my clothes to make room for a kettle, stove and tea in my bags. I spent three years traveling, drinking tea every morning and serving it whenever I could. I tied the kettle to my carry-on backpack, and security officers would giggle at my jingly-jangling airport jogs. I served Tea on beaches and by rice paddies. Searching for cans of butane for the stove became a fun ritual in every new country I visited. I had space for inspiring sessions of healing insight, melting many hours and meeting new friends. On some level, during my travels, I was searching for the courage to become a mother. I met my husband Sam in Laos and a year later we conceived our daughter, Jaya. That meant it was time to go home to Australia. Our son Leon followed eighteen months later.
The profound exhaustion of mothering two babies invited a new chapter with Tea. Where Tea had once been a mischievous friend with sparkling eyes who beckoned me toward adventure, now She lovingly leads me by the hand (and sometimes picks me up and carries me) to the meditation cushion. After a sleepless night rocking and changing a baby, cradling a hot fragrant bowl was my small and much-needed interlude of peace and ecstasy.
Now Jaya is almost four. She is an imperious little spirit, but around the chaxi she is calm, lifting her cup with both hands. When she serves tea to her stuffed animals, she holds her finger on the button of the toy pot just the way I do. More and more, I am connecting with the aspect of Tea that has to do with family, tradition and gifts passed down from one generation to the next. I feel so lucky to be part of this incredible global community. I have been sitting at the keyboard, drinking several draws of GABA oolong, trying to sum up what the Global Tea Hut tradition means to me. Maybe the best I can do is a quote from Wu De from a recent edition: “Why are we surprised when the teacher turns out to be an ordinary person? This is the same as saying the aurora borealis is ‘just a meteorological event.’”
If you are ever in Canberra, I would be overjoyed to share tea with you. There is a hill near my house where kangaroos graze, carpeted in yellow mustard flowers and shaded by eucalyptus trees. I often serve tea there. The kettle is on and there is a bowl waiting for you.
John Zapanta, United States
I’d love to tell you my story... a tea journey of belonging, longing to be, the realization that I was never apart and returning to what was there the entire time; a great reconnection to Source, Nature, myself, others, community, love and back to the Great Spirit. Mine is a journey of returning to the Dao that everything is perfectly imperfect just how it is, returning to the mystery and harmony of it all, and returning to the potential magic that is the now. And all of this from a simple leaf.
The Leaf teaches me to remember my heart. Every time I listen to birds, I remember the essence of my Heart and of Tea. I am brought back to the first issue and tin of tea I received from Global Tea Hut in August of 2016. The theme of the issue was Music & Tea, the Tea of the Month: Forest Song. I laid in bed entranced by every word I read about the “Song of Tea” and how sound, most notably, bird song had the most profound effect on the growth of plants. During that time, I was in deep work in heart energies and meditation and learned that birds were associated with the heart. Through Gordon Hempton’s work, an acoustic ecologist, I learned that our ears are most attuned and sensitive to the frequency to bird. Suffice it to say, a deep heart connection was birthed with Tea and Nature.
The Leaf teaches me to reorient the mind. I have a confession to make: I am a recovering work-a-holic. I’m a first generation Filipino-American from two Filipino doctors chasing the “American Dream.” I am aware of the double-edge-sword of the “Pursuit of Happiness.” On the one hand, determination, perseverance and service, and on the other, misaligned actions, me/mine and “don’t tread on my ground” mentality with a neglect for others, Nature and oneself. Tea has allowed me to steady and clear the mind to transmute misaligned grasping, taking, staking and defending to align my intention with receiving, flowing and returning. From more, more, and more to doing less, better, loving more and just being.
The Leaf teaches me to return to the body. In 2013, after five years of graduate school, my body was talking back at me in new ways I have never experienced before, in a language of pains. I recognized something deep inside me was thirsty for growth, a longing that led me toward attending yearly silent meditation retreats—a longing to listen. In 2015, after practicing various meditation forms from sitting, standing, walking and movement, I questioned why I was even at a retreat at all as it appeared to me at that moment, that I had “mastered” meditation (I cringe as I write that). In response, I was humbled to receive a spontaneous teaching on mindful eating. Since that teaching and practice, I started to love food, Nature and myself on a deeper level. The gut became my “second brain,” and it ultimately led me to Tea via a podcast where Wu De shared the wisdom of living tea and tea as plant medicine.
Living tea encompasses all of it for me: a visceral return back to the body and remembering the interconnectedness of this body to the Great Body of Life. Tea is an honoring of all the parts of the whole and a returning to the great listening that encompasses all of it. Tea as medicine became a moving meditation integrating all my senses with Nature and everyday life.
The Leaf teaches me to reconnect to my spirit, allowing me to rise to the highest natural expression in alignment with my environment. This has brought tremendous love in my life in the forms of community, satisfaction in my craft, and meaningful relationships with friends, family and loved ones. Does a leaf ever long to be? Maybe? Maybe it just is—part of the all, part of the Dao, part of the mystery, part of the magic of the unfolding greatness that has been moving through millennia the entire time, moving through stillness and finding stillness through movement... That is my Teawayfaring journey. That is me, John. I’m satisfied to know, after a few sips of tea, that I am part of it all. Smiling, I sip again...