Those seconds are the “silent moments,” Peiju Picard calls it. The moment that counts towards her health regaining, her spirituality awakening and her culture reminding when she brews tea; it usually takes several minutes to half an hour depending upon the kind of tea.
Picard became a master of the Chinese tea ceremony after experiencing poor health and its costs, but that didn’t stop her in helping others’ good health by educating people about tea drinking habits.
Two years ago, Picard was a hard worker who worked 13 to 16 hours a day for a major corporation in downtown Minneapolis as a financial analyst. One day her mind collapsed; she couldn’t remember her ID and password while she was working. She was hospitalized and diagnosed as stressed out.
In a short time, she tried unsuccessfully to recover her health and her memory. Being in that state, she felt she had lost everything she had worked so hard for.
“I had no insurance, no job and I wasn’t in a good condition to go back to work anyway,” Picard said. Her conditions raised a concern that in this country people can’t afford to get sick, she said.
Her mother in Taiwan, her origin country, asked her to come back and get Chinese medication. She agreed and spent four months in Taiwan.
Her Chinese doctor recommended her to perform a traditional tea ceremony besides getting medication. At first, she wondered about the reasons for doing that, she said. However, she followed the instructions.
Her time slowed down when she brewed tea and her attention focused on the tea she was brewing. “‘Hey, I am making tea right now, I cannot think of anything else,’” she said to herself. “So, I slowed down my life gradually.”
She came back to the United States, reunited with her husband and thought of getting back to work as a financial analyst. She then worked for less than a year in a law firm.
“My heart kept calling that is not the thing (my passion), even though I can do very well in numbers,” she said, “but my heart keep coming back to the tea.”
At the end of 2007, she went back again to Taiwan and spent five months to receive a Chinese tea ceremony master certification.
Picard insisted to get into the highest level because she would only stay in Taiwan for a short period, although the instructor didn’t think it was a good idea.
She spent more time to practice on her own and familiarized herself with the requirement for the highest level class before she mixed into the group.
“The training was very strict and a very nervous process,” she said.
To become a master of the tea ceremony, one has to have tea knowledge and also know different types of tea, the brewing process, and the coordination of tea and tea sets, music, painting and scents.
In the class, everyone took turns to perform in front of the group and the instructor; every step had to be in the right moment and right speed otherwise the instructor would correct the person. They also went through regular testing about tea knowledge.
Picard read many books to improve her knowledge on the process. She prefers picking up books to picking up cups while she was in training, she said. Instead of drinking 15 cups of tea every night that would make her unable to go to bed, she read books.
“As a tea master, I see myself playing a role as a good friend. A good friend who can listen to people’s stories, and share my thoughts,” she said.
She wants people to drink tea and enjoy the ceremony, so that she will be able to share the benefit of tea, her culture and philosophy, she said.
“And for them to experience,” Picard said, “that when you are really in touch with yourself inside this moment, a lot of things disappear.”
Tea opens people’s hearts and creates people’s minds.
“It took me inward to my quiet place and it put me in the present moment,” Kathy May said. “It’s beautiful.
May was a client of Picard’s, who is also a friend to Picard’s mother-in-law for 75 years
Tea can be very individual or intimate too, Picard said. When alone, a person brews the tea and uses the time for meditation.
She is fortunate to have grown up in a tea environment. Picard was born and grew up in Chiayi, a city in central Taiwan. She is the third child among three other male siblings. Her family stayed with her maternal parents who had 13 children, in which her mother is the first daughter.
“We had a very strict set of rules to follow to keep the whole house in order,” she said.
In the morning, as young children in the household, they needed to greet the parents and grandparents. The greeting was usually done by serving the tea to the elderly.
One of her father’s close friends has a tea plantation and her brother is involved in the tea business. She learned a lot about tea just by listening to their conversations, and it gradually became a part of her.
“I should have started from the very beginning, but I like to try many things,” Picard said of her life, which has come back to tea in a whole circle.
Picard originally came to the United States to get her master’s degree in early childhood education in 1986, but then she spent 18 years working in accounting and financial fields.
She decided to go into the tea business and focus more on tea ceremony education after everything else had happened.
As the tea ceremony requires a person to be very cultural, it has become part of her lifetime commitment.
“I continue developing, and hopefully someday, if I am doing well, I’d like to have a tea room, a Chinese tea room,” Picard said.
“People can come to the tea room, enjoy the tea and then relax, let their minds clear, because while doing that, people can pay less on their medical bills and their life probably will be more enjoyable.”
Picard performs the tea ceremony upon request, usually at her home. For more information contact Picard at 651-635-0945 or visit the Website www.formosahighmountaintea.com.