Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pu'er in Paducah, KY

“tea is the new wine…”

Day 5: November 14th
PADUCAH, KY: Paducah School for the Arts

All ready to go and a bit weary after our early plane ride, we drove 2 hours from the Nashville Airport to Paducah, KY, a town that is self-described as being in the “middle of nowhere”. Paducah, a city that is at least 2 hours from the nearest city in all directions, is nonetheless a thriving art community, as a result of their Artist Relocation Program. Beginning in August 2000, the city invited artists from all over the world to come to Paducah in exchange for housing and other incentives.

After dinner with Harvey Sadow and his wife Susan, two free spirits who were also excellent hosts, we headed over to the movie theater. Harvey gave a wonderful introduction to The Meaning of Tea, declaring, “it’s easy to see why the film got such high grades at the judging in Atlanta” (the meeting where everyone decides which films will be shown on the Southern Circuit tour). He ended his intro by saying that The Meaning of Tea is “not a typical PBS-style documentary, thank you Scott.”

There were several kids at the film, and one fellow asked, “Is it true that different types of tea are from the same plant, but it is just harvested in a different way?” Scott responded that yes, that’s true. It’s an evergreen bush called Camellia sinensis, and if you let it grow wild, it turns into a tree. In addition, the soil conditions and the environment the leaf is exposed to, as well as the way it is harvested and artfully produced, determines the type and flavor of the tea.

As it turned out, there were many people in the audience that appreciated the waterfall sequences in the film. One woman volunteered, “I like the way in the film we’re always reminded of the purity of water through waterfalls, rivers, and the pouring of the water for tea.” Another filmgoer asked, “Did you ever find the meaning of tea?”, to which Scott replied, “I don’t think I’ll ever find it, but I’ll keep trying. The meaning of tea might simply be the path we travel on through life. Every time I sip it consciously, I find that I learn a little bit more.”

The screening was followed by an event at Serenitea, the local teashop. The building itself was a strikingly large house marked, like many of the buildings in Paducah, by its Victorian architecture. They offered a number of unconventional teas, including a very earthy-tasting green tea, a delightful white tea, and a Pu’er. The shop was decorated for Christmas, and so the gathering felt festive, as everyone milled about tasting the various flavors and chatting with friends, old and new. As Harvey mentioned earlier in the evening, “The New York Times says tea is the new wine.” He just might be right.