In the spirit of not posting without something interesting to say, I've dutifully neglected posting anything since my last spate of shu pu reviews. I have been drinking those and other teas, the other teas not offering enough of interest to merit scribing.
We in Los Angeles met again recently for tea, and the excellent tea space of the host made me return to thoughts of the importance of environment when drinking tea.
The space where we drank tea is very well laid out: a recessed, wall-less space near the back of the host's home, separate from the nearby living spaces but not cut off from them. As you can see above and below, he has one long tea table, functional in its length and shallow depth insomuch as it makes it easy to serve tea to many people without reaching over anyone and beautiful in its carving, slightly curved shape, distressed red and brown paint and elegant slate inlays.
More photos of the space are below. I am missing a shot of the left corner, which housed a short table holding some additional wares and canisters.
Visiting the space made me long to finish my own tea space, which is currently half ugly office furniture and half nice tea furniture, with two walls that are begging for adornment with their blank faces.
Tea can be had and enjoyed anywhere, but a space's charm--whether a dedicated indoor tea space, a well decorated dining room, or outside at a park--can bring an added element to the experience. On this particular occasion, the added elements were calm and intimacy, and very enjoyable.
I also remember visiting a shop in Taiwan, a standalone building set into the corner of what was essentially a shopping plaza parking lot. The tea tasting space was simply decorated with heavy wooden furniture, but the real beauty of the space came in through the windows: the tea table was surrounded on three sides by windows that let in the diffuse light, dancing shadows, and rustling whish-whish of tall bamboo planted just on the other side of the glass.
Of course, many other pursuits benefit from a good environment, and conversely, good tea will stand out wherever it's brewed. But a little charm certainly makes it more comfortable and memorable.