Today is what we call the First Day of Winter on Chinese calendar. Although it does not always match the actual weather – in most places in my homeland, leaves do not usually finish turning colours by this day, so we often feel we are still in autumn – we are reminded that we are near the end. The end to the mild autumnal climate, the end to yet another year, and maybe even the end to our lives or lives of those living around us.
But to those who practice the traditional art of tea, today is known as the “Opener.” On or around this day, the seal on the jar which contains tea leaves harvested on or around the eighty-eighth day from the First Day of Spring is cut open. These aged leaves are said to have deeper flavour and stronger scent, and it is a great honour to be invited to a full tea party beginning with this opening act, having a course meal while listening to the sounds of leaves being ground and sieved, and having two bowls of tea of differing tea powder concentration.
I have not yet had the honour of being invited to one, but I imagine it to be a specially eye-opening occasion, knowing the exact origin of what you are about to consume, having them presented and processed just for you, and enjoying them change in taste with different servings.
Maybe the “Opener” is so prestigious because it cannot be held unless the host is absolutely confident of the quality of the services and products he/she has to offer.
Maybe it is so esteemed because everything is put out in the open and nothing can be faked right before your eyes.
And maybe it is so appreciated because it is all done for you, the guests.
How warm would that make you feel on a day the arrival of winter is declared!
Today was also the scheduled day for one of our oldest and largest fresh foods market to open at a relocated site. But there were no “opener” because questions have arisen about its quality, about how some parts were hidden and faked, and about the possibility that it was not all done for us, the consumers.
There are many complaints from all corners on the delay in the opening of the new market. But I support the decision of the host, in this case the governor of our capital city – if she does not feel absolutely confident of the quality of the services and products her market has to offer, there is no way she could have held an “opener” today!
I understand that it will take much more time and money before its “opener” can finally be held, but I am hopeful that this highly acclaimed market will not end here – I look forward to the extra period of aging further bettering the market so that it will be even more specially eye-opening for us to be at its “opener.”