Outside, the weather is blisteringly cold. The sun sets before five o’clock, and at night, the city lights reflected off the clouds rob us even of the darkness that would hide the ugly grey outside our windows. Inside, however, the sweet coils of aloeswood incense mingle with steam rising from the roasty, sweet cup of tea and, somehow, we are transported. One remembers, in moments like this, all the pleasant memories associated with this grey type of day - one of the many holidays, perhaps, or a simple walk through the woods on a brisk fall day. In that moment, the rhythm of the seasons seems more like a blessing than a curse, and maybe, hopefully, so too does the rhythm of our feelings. This is the magic of tea. There is something to appreciate in each type of tea, from the lightest of greens to the darkest of shu pu’ers. What one appreciates in the former is not remotely the same as what one appreciates in the latter; each exemplifies the lesson that a difference between two objects does not mean one is better than the other. Pu’er no better than green; summer no better than winter; joy no better than sadness. Of course, one will always have a preference, but each item in our rankings has a place, and a latent beauty to be discovered. Tea has a wisdom that always gets deeper. Many who read this will despair at the loquacity and pedantry and indulgent use of the nether reaches of the dictionary. “It’s just a beverage,” they’ll cry. Well, I humbly, if adamantly, disagree. Tea is an experience - a deeply calming, often healing experience - and it’s about time we start treating it like one. This is the motivating force behind Northeast Tea House. A smart kettle is set at each table to hold the perfect water temperature for hours on end. All teaware one could need for the enjoyment of a traditional gongfu tea ceremony will be laid out, and even customers unfamiliar with the deep and nuanced world of tea will be guided through the process such that they might fully experience tea. More than that, everything in the design of the space will conduce towards the enjoyment of the tea experience. From the soft, natural materials to the flowing corals in our lovingly tended reef aquarium, if there were ever a place in the modern world to truly get the most from your tea, it would be a toss up between Northeast Tea House and a hidden mountain monastery. That said, there are significantly fewer vows required of followers of the Northeast Tea House path!
If this sounds like the kind of relaxing environment where you ought to whisper, meanwhile, you’re only partially right. The other side to the magical tea experience is the social one! Something wonderful happens when you and some friends sit down to brew tea in the traditional way. You are already paying attention to the flavors in the cup and the sensory experience around you. That is, you are already present. A friend talks, and you are truly there, listening. And then, before you speak, you take a sip of tea, or, better yet, you finish brewing your next cup, and by the time you open your mouth, you’ve got a really thoughtful response! Meanwhile, the environment, the process, and the compounds in the tea are making all of you more and more relaxed, more comfortable with those around you. As a result of all this, tea facilitates genuine connection. Having visited many tea houses and having worked in one before, I have seen this process play out countless times already, and it is always lovely to behold. A few people sit down for a short tea break, and before they know it, hours of talking and laughing have passed. I could get poetic again and begin writing about this other thing tea has to teach us, called love and affection. But these, too, are experiences, and poorly expressed in words. Therefore, I hope, more than anything, that Northeast Tea House will be a means to express the inexpressible.