Probably the concept of asking whether something is ‘more’ Zen than something else is not Zen at all. Before going to coffee or tea, are some of these things more Zen than others?
- spending a sunday morning meditating or driving a Hummer SUV 2 blocks to get a newspaper?
- buying organic salad flown on a plane to the Wal-Mart supermarket or buying non-organic lettuce at the local farmer’s market?
- using paper bags at checkout? or bringing your own reusable bag?
I love coffee, expresso in particular, but I rarely drink it. I’ve always been self-conscious that it would stain my teeth if I drank it every day and when I DO drink it I REALLY appreciate it. I’ve since found out that green tea, I’ve been drinking it for years, stains one’s teeth more than coffee. Standing at a bistro counter in Paris or Rome with a shot of expresso and a buttery pastry like pain-au-chocolat, is heaven.
Coming from the coffee heartland of the U.S., Seattle & Portland, home of Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Tully’s, Stumptown, Cherry St., etc. my impression is that people in the Pacific Northwest really NEED the coffee. It’s a bit misty and dark for several months a year and it keeps the internal fire (‘agni’ in yoga language) burning when it’s needed the most.
My impression is that if coffee were no longer available…anywhere… that the world’s inhabitants would perhaps just fall back asleep or they would go to war to insure there’s a stream of coffee beans coming to the roasters. I’ve only worked in corporate America and coffee truly appears to boost productivity in the office and thus a requirement to keep the economy moving at the same clip.
When I think of tea, I imagine: the tranquil Portland Chinese Garden tasting room, hiking the lush tea plantations lined with Buddha statues outside of Taipei or sipping tiny cups of tea from illegible jars in a merchant’s stall in Beijing. I am talking about good tea, not that Lipton isn’t good tea but there are so many varieties of ‘real’ teas: Black, green, white, oolong, pu-erh, and herbal.
When I consider how tea and coffee are consumed: I picture people NEEDING the coffee to wake up at home or first thing at the office, or if walking the streets of Tokyo or Ubud and NEEDING a Starbucks or Tully’s to have something familiar from their home culture.
When I picture people consuming tea I imagine a monk walking into a shop in Japan or China and having samples of leaves from the same species of tea shrub that are different ages and grown in different years trying to pick up the subtle differences in a ‘vertical’ tasting. Or in Seattle, I’m at Remedy Tea on Capital Hill sipping a Liver De-Tox tea leaf mixture out of a Pyrex flask. In Portland, I’d be at the downtown Chinese Garden in the quiet (no cell phone) tea room.
In Paris, coffee is consumed in the morning in little expresso cups or out of a Nescafe machine at home for an after lunch or after dinner ‘digestif’ finale to the meal. Paris’ best known purveyor and tea room is Mariage Trois Freres (30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Paris 4e) with a very sophisticate clientele who can also have salmon tartare dusted with toasted macha green tea powder. La Charlotte de l’Isle (witch of the island) at 24, rue Saint-Louis en l’Isle has changed in the last year from a 60s era hot chocolate haven to a hip & trendy tea room for 20 & 30 somethings.
Yesterday I found a quiet, calm tea room called Le Cafe Chinois (7 rue Béarn 75003) that felt like a twilight zone transport back to tea houses in Portland or Kyoto. Organic fresh vegetable juices and soups were available in addition to the long list of black, green, white and oolong teas. I opted for a mint tea from Iran. At this moment things in my world felt very Zen because for the next 30 minutes I was off of the frozen streets of Paris.