Story: Wellness style

The art of drinking tea

On Monte Verità in Ascona, there's a special energy: you can breathe Utopia, observe dreams, touch art and take part in ancient rituals. These 7 hectares offer so many curiosities and cultural ac...

Monte Verità, a place of healing for the body and the mind, back in 1900 became a pole of attraction for people seeking an alternative lifestyle. Artists such as Hermann Hesse, Rudolf von Laban, the psychologist Otto Gross, aristocrats, anarchists and many others who believed in a new society lived on this hill with its special energy. Another noteworthy fact is the presence of the European continent's only tea plantation. But how did the Asian plant reach Ascona?

THE CHARACTER

Katrin Lange, manager of Casa del Tè

Katrin Lange, manager of Casa del Tè
When the Chinese pour tea, they let some drops fall for the little lucky-charms on the tray shaped like a toad or a Buddha.

Katrin Lange, since 2017, has been managing the Casa del Tè here on Monte Verità. What is it?

The casa del Tè is a cultural centre where we explain the history of this drink, organise events and exhibitions, but it is also a shop where you can find many varieties of special and classic teas or even chocolate, digestives and tea-flavoured ice cream produced in the region. Lastly, you can come here simply to enjoy a cup of tea and read a book.

But how many different types of tea are there?

Hundreds. It's a bit like wine: there are younger teas and others that are more seasoned, more aromatic or tastier. But there are just 6 big tea families ... and only one tea plant.
 

What do you mean?

The tea plant is called Camellia sinensis (a relative of the camellias that are so admired in the Ascona-Locarno region). From that same plant come green, black, white, yellow, oolong and Pu Er (a fermented variety) teas. To produce different types of tea you have to vary the process, but the basic ingredient remains unchanged. It's like potatoes: using the same tuber you can make gnocchi, rösti, salad, French fries and much more.

Here there is a particular microclimate in which these plants can grow. In 2006, Peter Oppliger, a great plant expert, created this casa del Tè focusing mainly on green tea.

Katrin and other helpers have expanded the range. We were able to do that in part because of the experience we had accumulated over the last 40 years in Bern. They founded Länggass-Tee (from the name of a well-known street in Bern), an initiative that revolves around the world of tea, ranging from cultural and meditative activities to catering and the sale of tea from every part of the world, including seminars and courses for tea tasters. 

Since January 2017, we have been here in Ascona managing the Casa del Tè: a new challenge.

Here on Monte Verità there is also the only tea plantation on the European continent. Here there are about 1,400 plants and they produce about 3 kg of tea in a year's work! This is a demonstration plantation to show how tea is produced.

Every year, on the Ascension weekend, we organise an event dedicated to the harvesting and production of tea. Specialists come here from Asia and it's a party.

Tea is like potatoes: using the same tuber, you can make gnocchi, rösti, salad and much more.

The Japanese tea ceremony is another special event. It's an art form. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the ideal moment of being is created, according to Buddhist rules. At first, it seems impenetrable and very rigid. It has many rules, but it is considered to be one of the most elaborate ways to welcome a guest.

The tea ceremony is part of the Tea Path and you have to study for years to do it right.

Pro tip
In Zen gardens even stones play an important role: they come from the Brissago Islands and mark the link that there is with Monte Verità, two places of strength.
Twice a month you can attend the tea ceremony held by experts in this ancient welcome ritual.
On the weekend of the Ascension (30 May 2019) there is the party of the tea harvest in the plantation at Monte Verità.

The sand in the Zen garden is raked every morning to mark the concept of “Here and Now”: what was there yesterday and what will be there tomorrow doesn't matter, you have to live for the moment.

What is the main difference between tea as it is drunk in China and in Japan?

“If you go to Japan for two weeks, you may never see a tea ceremony, because it's a private event, difficult to access. In China, instead, you will be offered tea by the first taxi driver you meet at the airport.”

But tea always represents hospitality and welcome, in China, Japan or Ticino.

“100 g of tea can cost up to 5,000 francs.”

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