The Tao of Tea

I arrive on time at the designated location, the corner of Yale and Washington. It's 9:30 on a Thursday night, and a line of hiply dressed twentysomethings has already formed outside The Social. They're ready to start their night of drinking. But I'm headed toward the quiet little gallery behind the bar, where tea will be the beverage of choice.

The Chinese artist Weihong requested that I wear black and white, and she is dressed in the same. The gallery is divided down the center into white and black areas. There are black and white seats on a black and white rug, with black and white teacups on a black and white table. There are even black and white sesame snacks.

"It's about yin and yang, but it's also about communication," Weihong says. People who saw her work always seemed more interested in the Taoism behind it, so she decided to do an interactive art project where people could sit down with her and talk Chinese philosophy.

She had hoped The Social might let people know about her show, but the owner told her his clientele was interested only in alcohol. "Too bad," she says as she pours another cup of tea. The two spaces could have fed off each other, with people stopping by the bar for a post-tea drink or staggering into the gallery to sober up before driving home. Yin and yang, you see.

The strong King's Tea she serves is mellowing. At the end of our visit, she plans to snap my picture to add to a computer slide show that's broadcast on two monitors (black and white, of course). As the images change, the background slowly fades from white to black, or 255 to 0, in digital terms. She also plans to dry the tea leaves from each visit and add them to a glass display case.

This is very good tea, I tell her. Weihong smiles. "Somehow, the tea tastes better because of the company," she says.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dylan Otto Krider