Monday, September 13, 2010

Drinking Tea To Harmonize With The Seasons: Colour (Type of Tea) As An Indication of Qi Part 2 of 2

Spring- Green- green teas -

The rising energies of spring harmonize with the rising energy of the first green shoots of tea. These first green leaves are some of the first growth of spring and have come to symbolically represent springtime. The cool nature of green tea and its sweet flavour prevents the rising energy from overflowing and keeps us in check. It also cools us to hot weather of which our bodies have not adapted.

Summer- Red- shu puerh-

Although most red teas (hong cha) don't really harmonize our energy with summer, shu (ripe) puerh is often used for this purpose. It's reddish soup and warm nature remind us of summer. With summer comes extreme heat. On these extraordinarily hot days it is sometimes wise to consume warming qi. This is especially so during the peak of summer, the hottest time of the year. In the 24 divisions of the Chinese solar calendar (solar terms), food with warming qi is consumed ritually on the solar term of dashu (Kor: daeseo, Eng: major heat) which takes place around July 23. They consume warm qi to balance the bodies warming energies and store heat on the hottest day of the year so they have enough fire to last through the winter. It is commonly thought in asian cultures that warm qi is best at balancing your body when it becomes overheated. This idea applies here to the consumption of shu (ripe) puerh, especially old shu, on summer days of extremely hot temperatures. Only very keen teamasters are aware of such uses of shu puerh (such as Teaparker in this Tea Masters post).

Late Summer & two weeks before and after the June and December Solstice and March and September Equinox- Yellow- yellow teas-

Late Summer, which usually starts around the third week of August, and the transitional times of the seasons marked by 2 weeks before and after the Equinoxes and Solstices are best harmonized by the qi of teas with a yellow coloured soup such as Korean yellow tea (Balhyocha), Hunnan aged teas, and old ddok cha or oolong. These teas have strong harmonizing and stabilizing effects which prepare us for the sometimes turbulent nature of seasonal change. Often we resist change, these teas reassure our bodies and minds that change is only a normal part of life. These teas are light, sweet, moistening, not too astringent, bitter, or dry, have a mild calming effect, and often have many medicinal properties.

Autumn- White- white tea

Autumn doesn't really apply to white tea as much. Certainly a bit of white tea is okay in autumn. It might help cool and bring down energies in the body preparing it for the coming winter especially for those people who's energy is still forcefully rising. Too much white tea in autumn will store to much cool energy for the winter which is not good. In autumn herbal tea like chrysanthemum tea is much better though. Traditionally many tea drinkers in China and Korea would switch to chrysanthemum tea during this time. Often one drinks "Late summer" teas or other teas of a warmer nature in addition to many cups of chrysanthemum tea, in preparation for the oncoming winter.

Winter- Black- aged puerh

English "Black Tea" (hongcha) does harmonize pretty good with winter but other theories other than colour-qi can explain this one much better, partly is the close relationship between Summer and Winter, fire and water and heat and cool, and other theories of chaqi. Old sheng puerh is the best tea to drink during the cold winter. It's thick, black liquor warms us deeply infusing us with the radiating heat of years of fermented, warm qi. There is no better tea to combat the winters cold than the deep warming nature of a very old puerh.

Consider Local Geography & Climate First

This system is based on the seasonal change in East Asia and China in particular. Here in Victoria one doesn't follow these guidelines so strictly at all because the climate and seasons present themselves so differently here that harmony is achieved through the use of modifications to this season-colour qi theory. So, geographical location and local climate should be considered before the season-colour pairing if harmony with the season is to be achieved in your climate.



Ho Go said...

Man's search for harmony or a way to live(or drink tea) is a dusty path through the centuries of thought and conditioning that we inherit. It is essentially dead knowledge that we repeat and try to make our own. When one stops trying to understand and make sense of it all, one realizes that the body itself has an intelligence far exceeding what the mind is capable of. I wonder how many people drink tea like this? And, what happened to the drinker? :)

Matt said...


It's hard to tell if you are mocking MattCha's Blog or if you are having some sort of revelation. ;)

Either way, it sounds wonderful. :)


Ho Go said...

I can see both possibilities arising depending on the listener, but, not intended to mock, just to remind. I am more concerned with who the drinker is than what he/she is drinking. :) It's hard to swallow some things.:)

Bret said...

I think I,m one of those people. I don't always know "why" I don't want certain teas during specific seasons, I just don't. I let my stomach tell me what's, what. The idea alone of drinking sheng on a hot summer day is actually nauseating. I think it's just human nature to want something light, clean and refreshing in hot weather. Something rich, pungent and bold in the winter months.

Matt said...


Think most people listen to themselves when drinking tea and the choice of tea is very unconscious and intuitive. This is especially true for the teas with cool thermal nature in spring/summer and warm thermal nature in the fall/ winter. Thermal nature is quite easy to follow intuitively but the colour pairings have more to do with seasonal changes. These days people seem to be less in touch with the change of seasons especially those living in cities.


louveaudlg said...

Sorry for my english

I use different tea for my every days pottery works,
When i firing my wood kilns, or cutting woods, or preparing the clays, or throwing pots, i think first what the sort of tea i need to drink before starting the work.
Tea masters with his generosity have help me a lot to develop this way of using teas
Matt, i have try to send you an e-mail for some professional questions and for some pictures but it came back...

caleaceaiului said...

Same as Brett,
I drink what I feel I have too and in the summer , I drink mostly teas cold in nature. It never occurred to me that heat can be stored for winter. Usually I go based on what I feel. But it's an interesting perspective, too bad I can't feel it at my current awareness. Perhaps some day.


Matt said...


Drinking different types of tea for different steps in making pottery, sounds pretty interesting.

Wonder if those old Korean pottery masters would tell to 1- drink intuitively 2- drink a complimenting tea (example drink a cool natured tea when doing the high heat firing) 3- drink a harmonizing tea (drink a warm natured tea during the high heat firing) or 4- drink a tea that matches the mood of the specific style of the piece that you are making... probably a combination of at least a few of these.

Something to think about :)

Just sent you an email you should be able to reply to it.


Think its pretty hard for anyone to feel that you have stored energy in the summer. It's more something you do now, and feel later. There is no doubt though that when its 40 Degrees and you are drinking warm shu that you can definitely feel the heat! Strangely, it feels almost cool.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insighful postings regarding Tea & Qi!

A quuestion that might have to do with equinoxes:
Around early September I found I had trouble with at least two young sheng pu erh (2008, 2006; both wild arbor): They felt unusual aggressive to the stomach and acidity seemed much more pronounced than before. A few weeks later these teas were ok for me again.
Any sense you can make out of this in the light of these or other TCM theories?


Matt said...


Yes, think you answered the question yourself. We are especially sensitive to the harsher effects of bitter and acidic tastes during equinoxes and solstices. We are likely the most sensitive to these flavours often present in young sheng in the March and September Equinoxes. During these times these tastes might be too much of a shock when our body is craving comfort and stability.

Young Sheng is definitely the harshest tea we tea drinkers encounter. One feels the best time to drink these teas is during the last few weeks of August/ first few weeks of September when the peak heat of summer is trailing off a bit but the energies of fall have not really shown themselves.

Your sensitivity to these powerful sheng puerh might be due to your internal state, or to the climate/weather. Perhaps the weeks you resisted these puerh cakes were during a heat wave of extraordinarily hot weather? When it is extraordinarily hot our energy is weak, especially our digestive energy which sheng puerh most adversely effects. So we should not drink young sheng on hot summer days. It will for surely deplete our energy.