Ada: “Tea is my religion”

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It is difficult to talk about China without mentioning its national drink: tea. This beverage was born in this country and has become some sort of identity hallmark. Chinese people drink tea at any time; taxi drivers carry big thermos bottles with tea, and even in the trains you can find a faucet with hot tap water so people can make their tea.

Ada’s passion for tea goes a bit beyond that, for her tea is her way of living. “Tea is my religion”, with this sentence she defines her passion for this drink. Her favourite is green tea, the most natural and healthy.

When people tell her that they drink coffee she doesn ́t know how to convince them about tea benefits. She says that it helps prevent cancer, keep oneself awake, cure depression and to her tea is indispensable. Lingling Liu is her real name and Ada the occidental one she has chosen. Having two names is part of Chinese culture since most chinese people pick an occidental name to communicate with foreigners, and this decision is based on personal preference and not necessarily on phonetic similitude.

This young shangainese woman has located her studio in Jing’an district, near Nanjing street, the most hectic street in this city. It is hard to believe that such a patient and spiritual person as her can live in a large city with 20 million inhabitants and known to be intense and stressful. Ada is patient and quiet, her tone of voice is so soft that one must be really concentrated to be able to hear her.

Her studio is called Tea Thing and there you can find everything that she considers is related with tea. You can read books, meditate or sit without having to do anything. She says that she monetizes her business by selling tea bags and that after spending an afternoon talking to her with a cup of tea then people give her some kind of contribution. However, she omits to mention that on the internet her two hours tea courses can be found for 250 yuan. Before opening her studio Ada used to work as a graphic designer, but she couldn’t express herself in that kind of job. During this period she met very successful people interested in economy, politics, arts and also tea. Her curiosity was born there and as she kept reading about this drink she felt the urge to express her own way of understanding tea and share it with people.

Ada’s studio is on a bright and cozy ground floor. It is decorated with wooden furniture and of course, tea. You’ll have the impression that there is tea, tea pots and tea cups everywhere. This is her small sanctuary where there are also some bonsai, a small fish aquarium and a bookshelf full with books about Budism. In the center of the room there is a large carpet and several zafus that Ada uses to read and meditate. Except for some escapades to Yunnan plantations where she sporadically goes to buy tea for her studio, Ada’s daily life has no major changes, it’s very structured. Everyday, she practices Tai Chi at Jing’An Park which is very close to her home.

In China it’s very common to practice this traditional martial art first thing in the morning; city squares and gardens are full of people practising it either for health reasons, as a relaxation method or to meditate, like Ada does.Once her Tai Chi is over, she buys some vegetables, eats in her apartment and then goes to her studio, and is in this moment when her life really begins. Her daily life may seem rutinary, but Ada explains that she travels inside herself when she thinks about tea, just in the same way as many people travel to gain experiences.

Acknowledgements: Jose Lourido and Lisa Wang.

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This story is in English thanks to The Tangible Dream

February, 2013 · China · Shanghai
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