A Toronto native, Roz Weitzman is a respected educator, consultant, writer and artist. On her extensive travels across China, Roz discovered a passion for tea that she has turned into art. Her images of China’s tea culture, tea farms and people all exude a wonderful warmth and authenticity that have instant appeal.
Wanting to know more a bit about her passion for tea, I approached Roz with a few questions.
Roz has generously agreed to share some of her artwork, together with her journey of tea discovery that we can genuinely call…
My Passion for Tea
Having never been a tea drinker in Canada, except for the odd tea bag in a cup with honey and lemon when I was sick, while in Hong Kong for a month I got a huge awakening at the Hong Kong Tea Museum. I observed not only ancient pictures of tea gatherings, but also all the accoutrements of tea – the loose leaves, the pots, cups, tongs, scoops, tea tables and strainers that are still being used today in modern China.
Learning from the digitized version in English of the famous book on tea, written way back at least 1200 years ago, I came to realize that tea drinking was a fine art and way more than the tea bag in the cup.
As I met and socialized with more and more Chinese who were avid tea drinkers I began to understand the power of tea. I started to enjoy a variety of clear teas without sugar, milk or lemon for their taste, smell and appearance once steeped. Also the social gathering of tea drinkers as a hobby unto itself seemed to me as a way to broaden one’s mind while winding down from the stresses of life.
Visiting local tea houses in Beijing was always an uplifting experience with a number of ancient performances of Beijing Opera, puppet shows, or music played on very Chinese instruments such as the erhu or guzheng while enjoying your favourite tea.
In 2007, on a trip to Hangzhou, I had the opportunity to visit a tea plantation in Meijiawu, a centre of Longjing tea cultivation. Walking through the tea fields and helping the tea pickers to collect the leaves was an eye-opener to the care that’s taken to preserve the tea leaves for this tea. Its golden colour and the elongated tea leaf shapes floating in the water when steeped in a tall, clear glass add to the pleasant aroma and delicate flavour of this tea. This captivated my senses, and so began my real love of tea.
Another of my favourites is Tieguanyin. This is an oolong tea that’s processed in such a way the leaves become rolled into little green balls. My day is now incomplete if it doesn’t start with a brew of Tieguanyin. Once again it’s the colour, flavour and aroma that pique my interest in this variety, which is not only tasty. It is also a very good source of nutrients that are great for your health….an added bonus to the wonderful cuppa!
A Passion for Tea from South of the Clouds
The most favoured tea of Yunnan Province in South-West China is Pu’er. Mainly purchased in compressed cakes, the older the tea cake, the more likely it is to be a good quality. I recently did a series of illustrations that depict producing Pu’er tea from main locations of the picking through the step by step processing, to the life of the people in the tea villages.
And recently I found a new type of Pu’er product which is tea leaves cured inside the empty shell of small green oranges, the size of a golf ball. The taste is delicious. As you can tell, the whole process of tea and everything surrounding it have influenced me greatly.
What I’ve really learned is just exactly why tea has been a favourite pastime in China for millennia, how to brew it, why it’s good for the body and the soul and how to gather friends around a tea table and admire and taste the loveliness of tea.
More Artwork by Roz Weitzman