Cubs have been working towards their “Our Skills” Challenge badge over the past few weeks. It’s one of seven broad themed badges and part of the Chief Scout Award that we work through over the two and a half years our Cubs are with us. Part of this challenge involves learning a number of new skills, doing some creative activities, and taking part in activities to promote good health.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about tea ceremonies. Quite a few Cubs already know how to make tea, but can they make tea for a tea ceremony? Can they build some of the theatre of tea? Well, using some of the info from the Time for tea Scouts activity, we looked at some of the skills, world cultures and creative activities on the journey towards a tea ceremony.

We started with a description of a tea ceremony and thought about what we would need for that. Then, thinking about tea and cups being made of pottery we found out about 茶宠 (Chá chǒng1), literally “Tea Pets”. Tea Pets are made from the left over clay used when making a tea pot. They can be anything and help the drinker to share and enjoy their tea drinking experience. And so we set out to make some of these characters.

In our local area we have a community Clay Studio that advised us to use terracotta clay and that they would be able to fire the clay afterwards in their kiln.

Looking at some examples, we tried our hand at making our own cha chong: In the pictures you can see cats, a snake, a horse, an apple, a gingerbread-man, a pirate ship, a mouse, a hedgehog. Akela even tried to make a three-legged frog but it turned out more like a mud-skipper instead!

After making our tea pets they needed to be fired, our cubs working out that the clay would just get wet and slimy again if we didn’t do anything. The clay air dried for about 2 weeks to let most of the moisture out, giving them the best chance of surviving the firing process.

Fast forward two weeks and here (above) are our ceramic tea pets.

We watched the scout youtube film about the Wu Wo (empty-self/mind) tea ceremony and the role of tea pets and found out that our tea pets were perhaps the ancestors of today’s Pokémon!

Then we made tea.

Using paper trays from B and Q to define the stage on which our tea ceremony was to take place. Cubs each chose a tea cup and pot from a selection and assembled their pot, cup and pet on their tea trays. We selected and tried various teas: Oolong, and a number of green teas from our local Chinese supermarket, as well as the perhaps more familiar PG Tips. We also tried strawberry and mango, and licorice and mint herbal teas (don’t tell Professor Elemental)! We had a look at mate tea from South America and the weird spoon-like sieve used to drink it.

Carefully and under supervision of our leaders, one by one each cub selected a tea, put that in their pot and filled it with hot water from the dewar in the kitchen. Returning to their place where the tea infused. Each group shared and tried tea with each other.

On the whole I think the favourite was the licorice and mint variety. And it was a very relaxing evening compared to most!

While all this was going on the Beavers were busy in the kitchen making Christmas biscuits which they then later shared with our section. Yum!

  1. Our notes in the Scouts link refer to the word zisha as a tea pet, however the words literally means purple clay; the clay typically found in the Yixing region of China and used to make ornamental tea pots.