Those of you who know my husband, jon_decles — will probably at some time have heard the saga of the once and future teahouse that he has been building at his place on Cobb Mountain in Lake County. Jon has been studying tea at the Urasenke School off and on for about forty years. Along the way he has collected a number of certificates and an amazing variety of tea equipment (and tea ceremony surpasses any avocation I have ever encountered in the number and variety of tchotchkes one must collect to properly play). He started building the teahouse when he and Kelson moved to Lake County, and work has proceded in stops and starts for many years.
But as of April 17th of this year, the teahouse is officially open. My grandson Evan and I drove up for the full-dress kaiseke (food) and tea (thick and thin) ceremony that formally inaugurated it. It was quite an experience.
The building is tucked away among the manzanita and pines, and though the color scheme is evocative of Frank Lloyd Wright, the details are a graceful amalgam of native Californian and Japanese. Despite the red plaster work, the building is remarkably serene. Evan wants to build one in the back yard.
Jon did a heroic job of putting the event together, especially since his helpers were unable to be present, and he had to cook, set up and serve the entire 14 item kaiseke feast alone. Working our way through this took all afternoon. We had an intermission to allow him to reset for the actual tea ceremony. By the time this was ready it was dark, but we got in some portable lights that gave a very chiaroscuro quality to the room, which added to the solemnity of the occasion. The tea was in two phases. In thick tea, the powdered tea is mixed into a frothy substance about the thickness of a smoothy, which tastes sort of like green tea ice cream without the sugar and cream. It’s an acquired taste. This was followed by thin tea, which is a little more familiar. Each, of course, requires a different set of implements and bowls. All were beautiful.
By the time we were finished, it was a quarter to ten. But the tea kept me wide awake for the two and a half hour drive back to Berkeley. Thank you, love, for a beautiful experience.
For a full set of pictures, go to my gallery of teahouse photos.
With luck, Jon will find the time to write up his own account of the day, or at least give me the proper names for all the utensils.