There are no strict rules to the tea table. It is up to the artist to set up in their own style and preference in various ways: selection of utensils, preference of material, curation of design, matching of colours etc. Every choice made is a reflection of his/her personality. Beyond the superficial, we also consider the placement of utensils and the space between them.
The reason for this is simple; the face of the tea table is the face of the inner-self. It expresses what cannot be adequately put it into words. One can choose to read a table however they wish, and remain silent. There is little benefit in throwing comments on the materiality of things. There is no duality of good or bad, or a hierarchy of one being better than the other. Each table is different, and beautiful in their own way.
The fundamental of the set up follow the principal of dry brewing method (干泡法), where the awareness of function of each utensil brings out the good flavour of this tea and allows me to brew with minimal movement. Each item is laid out in such a way as to allow my hand to move smoothly without obstacles or discomfort.
I am brewing Azahe Yunnan black tea today, using a gaiwan to enhance aroma of this tea. Because a gaiwan already has a plate, it is not necessary to put another plate under it. Instead, I use a wooden platform to elevate its status as the main brewing utensil. White and red. That is the feeling of this tea which I feel is bold, passionate. The essence of its origin county of Yun Nan.
This, I pair with a salt fired pitcher; it's metallic dark red is loud but in a quiet way. The water bowl is made of the same material, both salt fired, but placed in a different part of the kiln during firing. This affects the amount of heat it receives, and results in different colour. A small plant as decoration, to bring some life and impermanence to a table that is otherwise filled with static objects.
I will continue sharing my tea table arrangements as a process in visualising the self.