#GongfuLiving: No Way as Way

Posted by Arthur Tong on 14th Jun 2016

The grin on my face grew as I poured, as if an invisible pulley was rigged from the teapot spout to the corners of my mouth.

Moments prior, I watched Jose* from afar as he made this tea. The pot was first warmed. Leaf then dosed into the strainer. Then, water was retrieved from a purposely set temperature source and poured over the leaf. Timer set. He did not walk away or busy himself with other matters. He was intently poised in front of the pot as staff and patrons buzzed about. When the tea reached its peak brew time, he removed the strainer and walked the pot over to my table. Placing it down gently, he looked me in the eye, politely gesturing with an open palm for me to accept this serve of tea.

And so I poured, a flow of candescent jade liquor fell into my cup, the ideal extraction in my eyes for this type of green. I knew it was gold before I had my first sip, and when I did, I thought, without any hint of hyperbole, “this is one of the best genmaicha I have ever been served”.

Now broadly, genmaicha was never meant as some feat of fancy. It is a comfort drink, an easy crowd pleaser. This choice of green was consistent with the rest of their tea selection too, a fairly safe cafe standard, the good ol’ EBT & EG, peppermint etc. I cast my eyes further, scanning the room, noticing the decor. Nothing outrageous, very clean, clutterless yet warm. Then I looked once again at the teapot – though a well-worn tetsubin, it was absolutely free from rust and residue. I lifted the lid to inspect further – again clean, no lingering smells from previous teas, just an inviting waft of toasty nori, synonymous with the classic genmaicha.

However, this is not only a tale of simple things done well. It is also about the recipient’s perspective – that greatness should be recognised no matter how humble or refined the vehicle. You see, while the tea and setting were simple, because they were well executed, the sum total of my experience was no less than say, being served a premium “old-tree” red tea elsewhere.

One does not have to purvey a certain product to be good nor do they have to adorn themselves with superfluous labels of “specialty” this or that. The truth is revealed through effort and application irrespective of the chosen “form” of manifestation. In the vein of Bruce Lee, using “no way as way” is the path to honesty. In other words, let us drop preconceptions. Let’s assess without prejudice and simply ask ourselves “is this good/does this work?”. Not being bound or coerced by popular systems or dogma, one frees themselves to discover the truth and ultimately, themselves.

*Fictional name. Real name is Jimmy. Oops.