Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Natasha Palance
At the 8th annual San Francisco (SF) International Tea Festival this past October 19 through October 20, Tzu Chi’s Jing Si tea was one of many local and global producers invited to the Palace of Fine Arts to exhibit among hundreds of unique teas in the international tea market. On the day of the event, the backdrop of the Tzu Chi Jing Si tea booth attracted many curious visitors, each eager for a day of fun and conversation with other tea enthusiasts.
Each visitor was greeted by Tzu Chi volunteers with a sample of the delicious Jing Si tea, as well as the story behind the backdrop picture of the booth — the Tea Mountains in Sanyi, Taiwan, where Jing Si tea leaves are grown alongside an expansive population of egrets that reside in the tea trees. Through eco-friendly ecological farming, Tzu Chi volunteers care for the tea trees in accordance with spiritual principles of respect for all living beings. The organic tea leaves are cultivated according to the season, and with great love for the planet and its resources. The peace of mind in creating a healthy tea mountain generates a perpetual ecology in symbiosis with the natural world that resides there. Naturally, the egrets come and go and everything coexists peacefully.
Peace of Mind at the Tea Ceremony
During the two-day exhibition, the SF Tea Festival organized a number of seminars about the world of tea. Our Jing Si Tea promotion team was invited to be the first speaker on day one. Wei Jieyi, a Tzu Chi volunteer, introduced the “Oriental Tea Ceremony” to the audience with vivid examples. Through the application of the oriental tea ceremony in life and culture, in combination with Buddhist demonstration of tea utensils and tea etiquette, it was illustrated how the tea ceremony enhances all aspects of mind, body and spirit.
Multiple Compliments for Jing Si Tea
Attendees of the festival arrived with hopes of savoring the best international flavors from around the world, and found just that at the Jing Si booth. The SF Tea Festival attracted visitors from San Francisco and throughout the state of California, with many inquisitive newcomers eager to experience Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Tea from Asia.
On the first day of the exhibit, one vegetarian visitor bought her only bag of tea from Tzu Chi’s booth after walking around the festival for the day. After a Tzu Chi volunteer introduced how Sanyi Tea Mountain uses organic fertilizers such as fruits for the tea tree, she found the concept of the vegan tea mountain to coincide with her ecological values, and her taste buds. A woman from Shandong, China similarly praised our Jing Si tea for its uniqueness. In her 20 years as a tea connoisseur, she praised Jing Si Tea as being in her top three choices of all the teas at the festival and one of the best tea she’s had overall.
Lured by the savory scent of Jing Si tea, a group of three young attendees made a stop at our booth, only to fall in love with Jing Si tea after experiencing a sample. One of the young men who had never drank oolong tea before said that the taste of Jing Si oolong tea is amazing; He never had such a good tasting tea. After being introduced to our initiatives by a volunteer, the other young man was deeply touched with Tzu Chi Foundation’s International Disaster Relief, and immediately volunteered to join the team of English speaking volunteers in Norcal.
Similarly, three San Francisco Medical School students also signed up as volunteers for medical outreach events on the spot after hearing of Tzu Chi’s free medical service initiatives throughout the Norcal community.
Tea Conveys Love for Wildfire Survivors
Among the Tzu Chi volunteers are affected 2017 Santa Rosa wildfire survivors, Yvonne Rawhouser and Fred Raab. Two years ago after the devastating California wildfires set the state ablaze, Tzu Chi’s relief mission continued caring for survivors into the current year. Yvonne and Fred kept in touch with local Tzu Chi volunteers and together were inspired to participate in various Tzu Chi volunteer initiatives. After learning of Tzu Chi’s involvement in upcoming SF International Tea Festival, they both decided to volunteer for two consecutive days. “This is the best way to give back,” Yvonne and Fred shared.
At one of the booths, Hsieh Minjhing, CEO of the Tzu Chi Northwest Region, noticed the tea vendor “Chico Chai” from Chico. After a visit to the booth, they discovered that the booth owner was one of the affected survivors from the 2018 Camp Fire. At that time, I received instant help from the Tzu Chi Foundation. At the end of the day, this visitor who once received urgent aid from Tzu Chi a year prior came to our Jing Si Tea booth. With tears in her eyes and gratitude in her heart, she said to Tzu Chi volunteers, “I’m so happy to see you, as if I found my long lost family.”
When Tzu Chi volunteer Huang Meixiang purchased a can of tea from the vendor “Chico Tea”, the owner said that she wanted to give it free of charge to express her gratitude for Tzu Chi’s help after the Camp Fire. Despite the kind gesture, the Tzu Chi volunteer insisted on paying. Huang Meixiang said to her, “I must pay for this because this is my way of expressing encouragement to you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Giving and receiving transcends the limitations of monetary support in a cyclical transmission of heartfelt generosity. Throughout the SF International Tea Festival, the world of tea brought warmth and comfort to all.
Sincere Greetings from Volunteers
Despite being Tzu Chi’s first encounter with the annual SF International Tea Festival, our Northwest Regional team made a splash in conveying the symbolic importance of the Oriental Tea Ceremony for respect and gratitude in daily life, and in sharing knowledge of Jing Si tea origins.
The success of our Jing Si Tea booth during the two-day festival was thanks to the diligent preparation and cooperation efforts of Tzu Chi volunteers for the past three months. Special thanks to Huang Meixiang and her team for their preparative efforts for the SF International Tea Festival. A team of five, including Wei Jiechi and three volunteers flew to tea festivals held in Los Angeles and Kansas City in August and September 2019 respectively to obtain first-hand experience for the SF International Tea Festival.
In order to prepare a successful exhibition of Jing Si Tea for tea lovers and connoisseurs, Tzu Chi volunteer Lee Jingyie held two training courses for the NorCal team in early October. After learning of the cultivation concept at Sanyi Tea Mountain, and the quality and taste of the four Jing Si tea varieties, including red oolong tea, oolong tea, black tea, and black tea with rose petals, volunteers became experts on the products. Special brewing techniques were also taught — Jing Si tea is slowly infused into a cup with a “two leaves and one heart” pattern, one leaf for compassion and another for wisdom, the heart (bud) representing Tzu Chi’s compassionate global intentions. A cup of tea full of scent, compassion, and wisdom, this is the sincere greeting from Tzu Chi volunteers at the SF International Tea Festival.