Who doesn't love a tea party? Delicious tea, food and great company - sign me up! Lucky me, during my stay in Taiwan this summer, I was fortunate to have been invited to a very special tea party. Unlike any normal tea parties, this tea party was hosted by a group of amazing elementary-school-age children from disadvantaged neighborhoods, as part of their graduation from the "Mindful Young Tea Scholar" program sponsored by Chong Hong Culture & Education Foundation.
As with all great tea parties, there was delicious pastry at this unique tea party. However, special traditional specialty pastries were selected to represent the unique history of the particular region the tea party was held. See below for pictures of some of the delicious pastries served at the party, which explains why "Specialty Regional Pastries" made it onto the #3 spot on my top 10 list of Taiwanese foods that make you want to drink tea. Included below include pastries made with rice, pounded rice (mochi), different kinds of beans, flour, and sugar.
The flower shape of the pastry in the upper left hand corner above represents the national flower of Taiwan, a plum blossom, with fragrant fillings of dried plum inside. Pictured above in the bottom left hand corner is the classic popped rice, a twist on the Western rice crispy, with the addition of sesame seeds. Some of these snacks are unusual in that they are typically seen in temples as offerings to the temple gods, given the famous temple in the region. Highlighting the unique regional traits via food at a tea party makes these memorable snacks as tea accompaniments, highlighting different notes of the tea.
And now onto the amazing tea and wonderful children hosting & serving the tea. The Chong Hong Culture & Education Foundation developed the progressive "Mindful Young Tea Scholar" program for disadvantaged youths as a way to cultivate mindfulness, gratitude, general respect for others and self, and appreciation for aesthetics. Through tea, a way of living is practiced, one that is courteous, graceful, and respectful.
Looking at pictures of these children, one may have a hard time imagining some of these children as suffering from ADHD or have domestic issues at home under the care of the Wan Hua Child Service Center. But through tea, there is a medium to focus and pay attention towards. The rituals of rinsing the tea pot/cups with water (shown above) and the many steps involved in brewing the White Tip Oolong, Iron Goddess, and Wenshan Baozhong shown below (be it the pouring of water, serving of tea, tasting of tea, cleaning of the tea pot, or even the tasting of the brewed tea leaf itself) provide children with a ritual that they practice with, which can have the benefit of calming and focusing their mind.
The instructors at Chong Hong shared with me their emphasis on the development of the 5 senses through tea, not unlike Far Leaves' Mindful Tea. In children, the impact seems to be even more immediate, as the room goes from cheerful shoutings of the children to a peaceful room where cups of teas are made and served to the guests.
"Tea is an attitude", the instructor at Chong Hong explained to me. The cultivation of this attitude of respect & appreciation for others and the self, through the simple acts of brewing tea and serving tea, is a practice that is never too early to start, or too late to begin.
I am a big fan of this Mindful Tea Party with an Attitude.