Out In East Portland, a Zen Master of Tea Brings You Into the Moment

For a moment, we have arrived in the moment.

(Paul Rosenberg)

Out in East Portland, in a bright-purple house, there is a temple of tea.

The priest of this temple is Master Po, né Paul Rosenberg, who's been holding tea service here, behind the Leach Botanical Garden, for three years, and in Portland since 2008.

When we visit, he's wearing dark, billowy linen pants and a dark Chinese-knot button-down shirt. He sits on a sheepskin rug surrounded by five students, who are seated cross-legged on pillows around a maplewood table.

We are here to be brought into the moment.

Obviously, this is not English high tea. There's no milk or honey in sight, let alone cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Despite the female Buddha on the wall, it's also not a formal Japanese or Chinese tea ceremony.

Master Po believes formalities can create distractions.

Instead, before each of us, is a small clay cup lined with white porcelain on the inside—the better to see the color of the tea. The cup rests on a tiny copper tray, which, in turn, rests on a small bamboo mat.

Po places the dark, dry leaves of an aged, fermented Pu'er tea called Heart of Sky into a small earthen-colored teapot with a spout slightly larger than a pin prick that serves as a filter for the leaves.

Po pours the tea into a glass pitcher, which he holds up to the light of a candle at the center of the table to reveal a surprise: The brewed tea is the color of a ruby, a stunning deep red.

The tea leaves were aged 10 years, but Po says the brew contains an "older tree energy" from tea plants that are upward of 100 years old.

It's "so stilling and opening," says Po.

It tastes earthy, like "forest floor," Po says.

For a moment, we have arrived in the moment.

Reservations required. Find more info on the monk's website, heavenstea.com.

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