HK Alphabet :: T :: Tea-drinker, tailor, trams go by ...

T :: Tea
Our first year here, I found myself in an enormous, industrial-sized lift, going up to the 12th floor of an old factory building on Shipyard Lane. Next to a noisily functioning printing press, I found an oasis of beauty and quiet, all dedicated to the art of tea. I was at the time--and still am--a tea amateur, knowing very little about what makes for artisan-quality tea.
(photo by Chip Smith, my brother!)
And yet, I have become sufficiently enamored with the process of brewing and enjoying tea, Chinese-style, and I have enough respect for anyone with this much dedication and passion for a gustatory pleasure, that I was instantly in love. Vivian, the owner of said oasis (Ming Cha teahouse), trained as an artist in Chicago and lived there for awhile before coming back and pouring all that training into the harvesting and sharing of good tea. And now, hers is the first tea to be included in a Slow Food Convention in Italy.
I drank tea with her, and we talked. I eventually took a class, learning how to taste and evaluate the aroma, color and flavor of tea. I learned about monkey-pick tea (it's a myth) and discussed the pairing of chocolate and tea. We even discussed my making pastries for the tea shop, paired to match the teas. (Which would have been great, but the logistics just never worked out.) 
And while I'm glad for the knowledge--what little of it I've retained--it is still, for us, all about the simple pleasure of making and sipping tea. We have a favorite tea house, and the gentle, calming rituals of the servers never fails to soothe. It's the attention to small details that is so comforting, I think--the precise temperature of water, of cup, of tea; the washing and rinsing of the tea leaves, of the cups and the pots; the abundant pouring of water ("filled to the brim and even over the brim"). And then, of course, the tiny cups, so that all that work and attention is magnified instead of lost, as it would be in a mug. The whole process focuses and magnifies our attention as well, so that it is impossible to continue in a conversation or send a text or even read. It is, quite simply, a wonderful way of being together with another person--the pouring, steeping and sipping of tea. 

T :: Tailor
Hong Kong is famous for its tailors, particularly for men, and many advertising the famous 24-hour suit. Even though having a suit made is considered a "must-do" for tourists of a certain stripe, it's something the locals do as well. We've sent visitors out to experience it before, but we've only just now gotten around to doing it ourselves, since Matt will be sporting a coat and tie daily in his new job.
He tried both the tourist version (pricy, good English, comfortable storefront and ample discussion of the options) and the local version (minimal English, little discussion, hidden away and cramped storeroom, much less expensive.) We don't know the final results yet for the suit and jackets, but Matt is a convert on the shirts. Even though it's no less expensive than buying shirts off-the-rack, I'm not sure he'll be able to go back. No matter, since a feature of all these tailors is that they retain your measurements indefinitely, allowing you to call and order more to be shipped overseas. Some even take worldwide "tours"--stopping in New York and Paris and Rome--for measurements to be updated. Which means that I think we have future presents for Matt all sewn up.

T :: trams
The tram is yet one more slow form of travel in Hong Kong that we love, particularly for all it's anachronisms: the little bell, the wood, the slow, slow pace, and the low, low price. It's easy and direct, though, and if you can ignore the fumes from all the traffic below, it's a very pleasant way to see the city.

T :: 23
I know, I know, "T" has been epic. Enough already, huh? But I need to give at least a slight nod to the 23, our favorite busline in all of Hong Kong, the one that has shuttled us back and forth to church, to HK Park, to friends' homes in the mid-levels, and to all those baby classes Finn and I took our first year here. He has logged many hours of naps on this line, and looking out the second-floor windows, with a sleeping child on my lap, is how I discovered this city. 

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