The Practice of Tea Ceremony

This is a draft section of my upcoming book “An introduction to the art and Science of Chinese Tea Ceremony”. Please help improve it with your comments, suggestions, and hate mail! 

How to practice tea ceremony is a difficult question, as it depends on what you consider to be the Chinese Tea Ceremony.  There are many different paths down this road, and readers here should note that I specifically promote the path of a scholar verses a spiritual or other path.


Diligence in your practice of tea ceremony is the only path towards developing GongFu. No one is born with an innate skill at brewing tea – it must be learned.

As you start, your tea will be imbalanced, your cup may be dry and bitter, and your guests will be unamused. The teas that tasted great from someone else’s hand will turn astringent from your unskilled pours. You will burn yourself on the gaiwan, come close to dropping your tea pot, and unfairly distribute precious tea from the gongdaobei. This the path everyone must walk as they begin their practice.

Your road forks here. While anyone can become proficient in the utilitarian practice of brewing tea, only with a guide can you build skill in your practice and raise above the mechanical machinations of pouring water on leaves – and only with a teacher can you raise your practice to the structural-functionalist approach.

This book aims to be your guide, but it cannot be your teacher. This book is written as an introduction to the art and science of Chinese Tea Ceremony, and include the information you must know to guide your practice and build your skill.

This book is a reference but it is not the reference. This book is not tea, it is not teaware, and it is not a teacher. There is no replacement for direct experience with references. You will never be able to identify real wild MengKu pu’er without having tasted other wild pu’er and other MengKu pu’er. You will never be able to identify a Qing Dynasty DeHua cup without having held a similar reference in our hand. This book cannot do that for you.


What this book can do is guide your reading, imbue you with knowledge, and inform your practice. Your knowledge is only useful in so much as it helps you understand tea ceremony and the related arts like tea or teaware identification. I promote an empirical and experiential approach to tea ceremony – those who can cite LuYu but can’t brew tea are not the true practitioners.

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The 2017 Chinese Porcelain Exhibition of the Tea Institute at Penn State

Stéphane Erler has two great articles he recently published on the Tea Institute at Penn State. The first details all of the past Chinese tea exhibitions and shows how much they have grown and changed.

The second article is about the first day of this years exhibition on Chinese Porcelain. It was an amazing event, and the Institute is so thankful that Teaparker and Stéphane keep coming back to teach these esoteric topics.

The Jason M Cohen Asian Art Gallery at Penn State University

I am overjoyed to have been honored by the Tea Institute at Penn State as they announce our new new art gallery in the Chinese Tea House.

The one day I don't wear a suit....

The gallery came about because of the work of he leadership after me, particularly the 2nd Executive Director, Ryan Ahn, and the 3rd Executive Director, Zongjun Li. The two of them raised funds for the renovation of the Chinese Tea House, and included the installation of an art gallery in the new design.

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Better Beer Through AI – Podcast

This is old news at this point,
but I got interviewed back in February by the NVIDA AI Podcast on the work we’re doing at Analytical Flavor Systems.

I talk a lot about how our AI platform is now integrated deeply into new product development, and how we’re helping companies make a greater variety of niche products, which are more competitive products, which makes better products for everyone.

Give it a listen here:

Life and Work Status Update

Dear Readers,

It has been quite some time since I’ve written to you personally. As I’ve written about in the past, a small team and I have been diligently working on a startup company, Analytical Flavor Systems. I’d like to update you on how things are going and what we’re working on through the rest of this post.



Analytical Flavor Systems (AFS) has built a narrow-band artificial intelligence (AI) to quantify and predict what individuals, demographics, and populations will taste in food and beverage products. The AI is linked to the production process, allowing end-to-end optimizations in flavor profile consistency and consumer hedonic perception from raw ingredients to finished product along every step in its creation.

We (currently) work with beer, coffee, and spirits producers. We’ve also developed applications for chocolate and tea.



AFS has recently raised a new round of venture capital, and we have moved our headquarters to Manhattan, New York City. John, Emily, and Ryan, all Tea Institute Alumni, are based with me at our new headquarters.

Living in NYC has been a dream come true, with the exception taken for the lake of tea and tea education… I might have to do something about that.



For AFS, please reach out if you have an interest in the intersection of food technology, data science, and artificial intelligence for beverage manufacturing, own a beverage company, or just want to grab coffee with a founder in NYC.

For tea, I’d like to gauge interest in starting a new tea group in the city. It would be amazing to start teaching again, with a new group of tea lovers.



I am very lucky to have been this successful in my endeavors thus far; overjoyed at the continued success of the Tea Institute, and working hard to ensure the success of Analytical Flavor Systems for our clients, investors, and employees.

Luck, as they say, is 99% preparation and 1% opportunity.  I hope to do a better job of writing down what I learn and discover about tea, and to create more opportunity through connections fostered on this blog.


– Jason