Margit and Victor don’t just understand wabi sabi, they live it. Visiting their farm you are surrounded by a beauty that radiates warmth, authenticity, and charm. The setting is extremely pastoral, even the road that takes you there winds among old trees, cultivated fields, and weathered fences.
The driveway down to the tea house passes the tea plants and the day we visited there was a warm breeze carrying the scents of summer herbs and grasses from the fen below the farm. They have grown a number of crops, flowers, and herbs at the farm over the years, but now it is mostly about the tea.
The tour is well worth the $10 as Victor engages participants with his knowledge of tea culture and cultivation, the history of the Westholme region, and yes, wabi sabi. The ceramics on display at the farm are hand built by Margit. Some are whimsical, all nicely utilitarian, and the overall sense is of dedication to an art, a way of life, and a philosophy.
The drinking of tea has long been associated with wabi sabi, and in Wabi Sabi Simple, in the chapter on Wabi Sabi Friends, I go into some detail about the tea ceremony and the long history of the close association between tea, gardens, and calming human conflict.
Truly experiencing wabi sabi can be fostered by a number of ceremonial or deliberate portals. Visiting the Westholme Tea Farm can be this for you. Victor and Margit are engaged socially and the impact of the place can not be underestimated. They have created a space for the philosophy of wabi sabi to come alive and influence people as they relax, celebrate, or savour a cup of fine tea.
Some of the highlights from my visit:
- Victor’s assertion that the chemical changes in tea bind the caffeine in a unique way that gives it a calming effect. This has been my experience. Unlike coffee, I find tea to centre me and sharpen my thinking without a sense of buzz or anxiety.
- The quality of the tea on sale from China, India, and other contries.
- The quality of the farm’s own Swallow Tail Oolong and Victor’s observation that a harsh winter can improve the quality of the tea the following year.
- The reminder to me that there are others in the world who value the qualities I do.
We are very fortunate to have a tea farm in Canada, and their success will not only be good for them, and for tea drinkers, but also for the wider community as they form connections and promote the values and qualities associated with wabi sabi.
They have purchased more land and plan to add more tea plants, but the plant maturation process takes time – probably a half a dozen more years till those new plants are in production.
We will wait.
I also look forward to the time in the future when BLACK tea production begins. I like Oolongs, and the Swallow Tail is a major achievement in itself, but I have to say for me, the well oxidized black (or red) teas are what I appreciate the most. How long will that be? Victor will be a tea master by then, and the silver will not just be in the white tea leaves I suspect. But we can hope!
In the meantime check out their superb selection of black teas. They rival the selection at my beloved Tea Centre in Courtenay.
Visit the Westholm Tea website here: https://www.westholmetea.com/
All photos taken with an Olympus OMD EM1 Mark 5 and a vintage Pentacon 50mm 1.8 Lens.