Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ddok Cha Discussion at Cha Dao

There is a very informative article by Steven Owyoung on the facts about ddok cha and then an interesting discussion to follow. Please check it out if you haven't already by clicking on this link...


Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Experience With an Erabo Style Tea Drinking Bowl by Sel Young Jin

This bowl is chosen off a wall of about a hundred, all magnificent pieces of art and a testament to the craftsmanship of Korean potters. One doesn't choose it, a friend does the honours. Then that same friend prepares powered green tea in it the same way she does many times daily.

She reaches across the grainy wood table and places it in front of one. Embracing it with cupped hands, this tea bowl's shape just feels right. It reclines in the palms of one's hands like a ball carved from wood, half a ball. The texture is softer than it looks, soft sand. The colour of the bowl bares the badge of large black markings, a result of the ash in the wood fired kiln.

Bringing it toward ones lips, one reverently drinks the tea.

The rings that encircle the outer body of the bowl are a real treat to both the eyes and hands. This bowl imitates the dendrochronology of an old tree. The lines that circumnavigate this bowl trigger deep reflection on life. Just as the rings of a tree allow us to reflect on its life, the rings around this bowl allow one to reflect upon the one who, now, holds it in their hands savoring the moment, savoring life.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tea Time in a Korean Juvenile Prison

One is traveling over the side of a low sloping mountain, there are a few large iced bottles of tea that bulge from the old, tattered bag which is draped around one's shoulders. The summer sun scorches the top of ones head, causing one to sweat through one's thin shirt. Finally after about a thirty minute trek one has reached their final destination. The security allow for ones clearance and smile and wave one into the large, heavily secured facility. Surrounded by thick high barbwire-topped fortified walls one enters this Korea juvenile detention center.

One knows this place well as one makes a weekly trip to volunteer here. Usually we talk, joke, tell stories, hang out, and, today, like the weeks before we will drink tea.

The cool refreshing taste of tea is always met with kind and sincere jubilation, in the hot, unariconditioned, stuffy confines of the facility. Today is like any other, one brings their favorite, an iced then frozen Japanese sencha, a far cry from the preferences of their Russian counterparts. It's refreshingly sweet grassy taste is even preferred over most Korean and Chinese varieties. Half-melted, one pours it into simple paper cups and we discuss the flavour of this unimaginable delicacy. These boys' comments about the tea are simple and sincere. We don't spend too much time on the tea but continue to enjoy it and its gift, as well as discussing what ever comes up.

What great company to share the gift of tea!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Qi Same Tea: A Tasting of Spring 2008 Shan Lin Shi Luanze Oolong & Spring 2008 Shan Lin Shi Luanze Roasted Oolong

One obtained these two wonderful teas from Stephane at Tea Masters. He wrote up a good description of these teas when he first reviewed them. The above pictures are the unroasted version and the bottom, the roasted.

The roasted Shan Lin Shi's dry leaves were, well, roasted with subtle odors of sweet greeness lacking in floral. Its flavour was of roasted green sweet honey barley. Its aftertaste was rich and deep, which accompanied a pleasant chalky dry mouthfeel.

The unroasted Shan Lin Shi's dry leaves were floral covered in a light roast. Its flavour was of sweet light honey, slightly cinnamon, floral pastry. Its aftertaste had bright floral subtleties, which accompanied a pleasantly smooth, soft coating of the mouth and tongue.

The chaqi of these two tea was of note. Although they are the same tea, they exhibited such different energy. The qi of the unroasted oolong is strong and centering, pooling in the stomach, causing a feeling of lightness in the extremities. The qi of the roasted roasted oolong is soft, warm, freer in nature, causing energy to flow through the limbs of the body.

One finds it quite interesting what just a little roasting can do to the vital energies of tea!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lessons in Puerh Production

A friend gave one this sample. It is a 2001 puerh from Winan Mountain,Yunnan.

Its large full leaves are redder then most for its age. Its smell is so faint, ambiguously earthy.
My friend had made this tea. He said that there was a major problem in the production. The forty days that the tea was to undergo drying was abnormally wet. Apparently, it had rained for forty days straight. The inability of the tea to dry caused the qi of the tea to escape.

As a result this tea carries a sweet woody watery taste and lacks balance and depth. It sometimes displays a soury watery damp forest taste, like tasting firewood that has been left out in the rain, giving off a very light pungency that is likened to the taste of a baked puerh, but not quite. This tea really has almost no edge to its mouthfeel nor any pronounced depth of flavour.

One drank this tea for three days and was content in its earthy simplicity. Perhaps this simplicity is its greatest strength, a strength that only a Zen monk on a long retreat, their mind deep in nothingness could full appreciate.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kim Jeong Hoon's Rustic Pots

These rustic pots epitomize Kim Jeong Hoon's style. Flecks of black ash covering, white and orangey-red. An effect only obtained in traditional wood burning kilns. The insides of his pots are usually a thick deep reddish-orange. Perfect pots to enjoy the autumnal splendor.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's What's Inside That Counts: 2007 Premium Jookro Ujeon Hwagae Valley Green Tea

Like at least 80% of the tea one consumes, this tea was a gift. It is somewhat common for one to receive last years green tea from tea shops and dealers as they are usually not marketable when the new years tea is released. One always reverently and gratefully accepts these gifts and enjoys them to their fullest.

Korea, more than any other tea nation, highly values the box in which tea comes. It often influences the consumer when purchasing green tea as the options sometimes seem endless. One wise tea master once said that most Koreans care more about the box than the tea housed inside it. With that said, generally the more intricate the box, the higher grade the tea inside.

This tea has one of the most elaborate packages that one has come across. After shedding the layers of beautiful packaging, three small bags of tea are revealed. One is chosen and opened. The sweet, grassy, grainy, roasted smell of these leaves fill the air. These leaves are excessively small. And so they should be, only plucked from the bush before April 6th , these leaves come from the first growth from the few bushes that can flourish under the cool cover of early spring.
The tea is prepared in the mindful slow motion of the Korean tea ceremony with water that is allowed to sit and cool until its hardly considered hot. The millisecond this water hits these small leaves the mystery of tea, water, and humanity commences.

The result is a liquor that is sweet, with roasted subtleties, barely spicy, little pine wood, nicely salty almost like seaweed. This tea has a light watery airiness to it. It slides off the tongue pooling in the back of the throat and on the breath, its lightness and lack of astringency differentiates it from other Korean teas.

With more infusions the water temperature slowly increases, as does the steeping time. Such light astringency comes to balance the flavours of sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, sour, and tart. The taste is soft, the taste is good. The colour shinning out of the small ceramic cup is bright, pale, and pure.

This tea is strung along, never even developing the slightest edge, with flavours that maintain harmony and peace, not one element out doing the next for more than one infusion. Its calming gentle liquor is reminiscent of the energy it emits.

The chaqi is light and cool, but mostly subtle. Its path is hardly noticed, moving like the softest of spring breezes that carry neither coolness nor warmth, but its happy effect is undeniable.

This tea is truly a gift.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Three More Spectacular Lee Kang Hyo Pak Ji Style Cha Hang A Ree: Lessons Learned From Tea Storage Containers

The furthest pictured is much like the pak ji style large tea storage container that was posted a few days ago. Its biggest difference is the interesting form it presents itself in. Due to its shape, tea naturally pools in the center of this teetering piece.

The nearest pictured is in the form of a fish. This work is really eye opening, an amazingly original container for tea. Imagery of fish in Korea often allude to diligence, freedom, and enlightenment.

Because a fish's eyes are never closed, they alert us to always work hard and carefully when preparing tea.

Because a fish swims freely and seemingly unrestricted in the waters and ponds, they are a symbol of freedom. We should always prepare tea with this kind of mind, as free as a fish.

The inside of this cha hang a ree resembles the rippling undulations of a pond or once still body of water. It alludes to stillness and peace when preparing tea. This pak ji storage container is truly wondrous.

The work pictured in the center is as beautiful as it is interesting and symbolic. It closely resembles the wooden fish striker that is original to the Buddhist temples of Korea. This striker hangs from the roof by two chains, attached to its wooden body, in the bell pavilion. It hangs right next to an enormous bell the bell is sounded by ramming the fish into the bell thereby sounding it off, sending deep reverberations throughout the temple ground. The striker is said to be in the shape of a fish because of an old Korean legend.

Atop most temple bells in Korea is a mythical character called Poroe. Poroe is a dragon and is insanely terrified of whales. It is said that if he runs into a whale he will cry out in loud terrifying shriek. So the fish shaped striker is used to amplify and deepen the sensations of the bell.

The sound of the bell reminds us to stay ever present, liberating us. This tea container only acts to amplify our experience with tea and reminds us to always be present when preparing tea.