Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Types of Tea and Their Chaqi: White Tea

Recently a family member asked one to source some white tea for them. The timing was impeccable being that white is the colour of autumn- and according to the theories presented in the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor's Inner Cannon), white tea may have some benefit in harmonizing the body to the season of autumn. One pondered these things in recent posts on Drinking Tea To Harmonize With The Seasons but due to ones rather inconsistent experience with white tea throughout the years, could not seem to grasp the deep meaning of why a white tea could be of any benefit in the Fall. Recent readings, tastings, reflections, and mediations on white tea have lead to a deeper understanding of its essence...

White tea is the coolest of all tea. Its colour reminds us of the icy cold- of the snow capped mountains. Its thermal nature is the most cooling of any tea. White teas that contain many buds are even cooler. Yin Zhen (silver needles) is the coolest of all. Composed of only buds the leaf configuration contains an abundance of cool yin energy. The many white hairs located on each bud directs the energy to the lower jiao and to the surface of the body. Generally, the more hair the better quality of tea.

White tea's flavour is tasteless and its colour relatively transparent which promotes the unimpeded purifying flow through our body and mind. Its tastelessness and cool thermal nature drains heat through urination, thereby cooling our body. It is therefore useful for those who have constitutionally hot body types. It has more smell than taste. Its light, floral, fruity aroma invigorates stagnant energy moving it lightly throughout our bodies. It is therefore useful for those who have a feeling of constriction, of stuck energy in their body (especially a feeling of oppression in the chest or constriction in the lower throat). The combination of its cool thermal nature and its light dispersing superficial movement make it ideal to rid the body of a fever. In the fall, when temperatures change and people catch the common cold and become hot and feverish, this tea is the most appropriate.

White is the colour of purity, the colour of the Lungs, the colour of qi. These qualities as well as the above mentioned characteristics help explain its healthful effects. Its pure, simple production results in such qualities. The purity and strength of white tea's qi is more effective than even other hairy bud teas such as high quality Long Jing in anticarcinogenicity studies. The pure nature of white tea also has a very strong antimicrobial effect.

Peace

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not quite clear to me why one should drink a very cooling tea in fall? Personally, I see myself more
as a cold constitution, so warming teas seem fitting.
On the other hand I can resonate with the description of stagnant energy - "oppression in the chest or constriction in the lower throat", which seem fairly familiar.
Contradictory ... The little of white tea I have drunk (in summer, when its cooling properties seemed appropriate)did not feel intuitively congenial.
What would you make of that?

Best wishes,
Martin

Ho Go said...

I have the same question about drinking a cooling tea in the fall? I have no objection to it and as you say for those with particularly 'hot' bodies, it may be good.

I just returned from Darjeeling where I happened to have drunk several white teas. It was quite cool up at 2100m but I could discern no obvious effect of the tea on me. I think the view of Kanchenzonga (8600m) had more of a cooling effect on me. :)

Julien ÉLIE said...

Hi Matt,

I'm glad to read your article. Over the last weeks, I noticed that I really enjoyed drinking a Yu Ya white tea. I found the taste "autumnal"!

I have the Huangdi Neijing classics at home (French translation), and will try to have a glance at it. In case I find out interesting information, I will drop a message.


It's not quite clear to me why one should drink a very cooling tea in fall? Personally, I see myself more
as a cold constitution, so warming teas seem fitting.


Martin, I believe the meaning is that white teas will prepare the body for winter.
Yet, too much white tea is no good (like everything else), because it brings too much yin.
I do not find my white teas cooling. They are of good quality and, on the contrary, I find them a bit warming and relaxing!

That's why I would also tend to disagree with Matt when he says white teas are tasteless. I did not notice that :-/

Ho Go said...

Julien,

Many white teas are quite tasteless. In fact, some look almost like hot water. Then, there are the ones that do have taste and they can be very nice. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can comment on why some white teas are relatively tasteless and others have flavor. I would think there must be some difference in the processing even though white teas are minimally processed.

Matt said...

Martin,

"It's not quite clear to me why one should drink a very cooling tea in fall? Personally, I see myself more
as a cold constitution, so warming teas seem fitting."

If you feel like you are a cold constitution then drinking warmer teas during the fall seems more appropriate for you. You know what's best for you. It makes a lot of sense to drink warmer teas in the fall, when your body's warm (yang) energy starts to go deeper within your body. Drinking warm teas help facilitate this energetic storage- for most people this is the most appropriate tea for autumn.

You also feel that white tea doesn't feel quite right in the summer. This may also be due to your colder body constitution. In the summer the body's warm (yang) energy floats to the surface of the body. Drinking shu puerh during this time brings the floating warm energy deeper into the body, thereby creating a cooling sensation- this tea is probably best for your cold constitution during this season. Drinking cool white tea in the summer pushes the cool energy to the surface. If your body has relatively too much cool energy or not enough warm energy (a cold constitution), you may feel unsatisfied with the sensation of a white tea during the hot summer.

Thanks for your sharing your personal experience with white tea and thoughts on this interesting topic.

Peace

Matt said...

Julien Elie,

"Martin, I believe the meaning is that white teas will prepare the body for winter.
Yet, too much white tea is no good (like everything else), because it brings too much yin."

You are part correct that the cool nature prepares the body for the upcoming cold of winter but white tea is definitely not as good as Herbal chrysanthemum tea at this.

White tea is picked in the early summer, its energy is cold, its colour is white, its nature is to rise up and disperse- this is what nature dictates. Spring energy rises like the sunrise from east to west.

Chrysanthemum is picked in the fall, its energy is also cold, its colour is white, its nature is to descend and disperse- this is what nature dictates. Fall energy descends like the sunset from east to west.

In the fall we should be harmonizing our energy with descending nature not with ascending nature. So chrysanthemum is best.

The other (perhaps more important) reason to drink white tea in the fall is its immune boosting and pathogenic heat dispersing properties that are of much benefit to our weakened immune systems in the fall season.

"I would also tend to disagree with Matt when he says white teas are tasteless. I did not notice that"

As HoGo mentioned of course white tea is not truly tasteless but relatively tasteless compared to other tea and compared to its odour. It's flavour is often much more light, sublime, delicate, and subtle than other types of tea.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about white tea and your experience with it energetically.

Peace

HoGo,

Nice to have you back in your regular slot! ;)

How was Darjeeling in the fall? Which estates did you visit?

Don't have enough experience with white tea processing to comment. It would be interesting to see what growing, picking, and production factors are optimal for the flavour and qi of white tea though...

Likely they would be different depending on region, plant variety, season, and type of white tea.

Peace

Ho Go said...

Matt,
Didn't visit a single estate. Spent a lot of time drinking and talking teas in various shops in Darjeeling. Sampled so many teas from whites to blacks. Looking only for the home runs. Met some interesting people growing tea. Many artisanal growers and many estates converting to bio (3 year process). Learned a lot and still stand in awe of these growers/tea processors. Many are trying hard to produce high level teas. Met a guy from Nepal managing Junchiyabari 65km from Darjeeling on the Nepal side. They've invited Japanese and Chinese Tea masters to come and help them with their teas. I will try and get some of their teas, supposed to be amongst the best. MIM is producing interesting teas along with Arya, Turzum/Sungma, Thurbo and others, too numerous to name. Whole leaf teas of various colors. Tips, buds, systems, rolled, twisted, so many varieties. Way too much for me to digest so I will just enjoy drinking the ones I bought. Kanchenzonga(8600m) was splendid in all its glory. Cold for a Bangkok Boy. Craved roasted Chinese teas! India is insane. Utter chaos, noise, dilapidation, but colorful, good food, and, great Bengali sweets. Bangkok seems quiet compared to Kolkata!

Matt said...

HoGo,

Sounds like a real education!

Thanks for sharing.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

Hi Matt,

In which chapter of the Suwen or the Lingshu did you find the information that "white tea has some benefit in harmonizing the body to the season of autumn"?

I am currently looking at the table of contents of these books but do not manage to find a chapter relative to tea or something like that. (A chapter about "fermented drinks" exists but do not deal with tea.)

Thanks!

Julien

Matt said...

Julien Elie,

The Huangdi Neijing was composed long before the production of the first white teas. In fact, the Huangdi Neijing doesn't mention tea at all. The concept that the type of tea can be paired with the five seasons is an interpretation of the general theory presented throughout the book. No where in this work does it state such things.

See this post:http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/drinking-tea-to-harmonize-with-seasons.html

In this post it is written that "according to the Huangdi Neijing ... white tea has some benefit". This is a bit misleading instead it should state, "according to the theories presented in the Huangdi Neijing ... white tea may have some benefit"

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the peer review. :)

Note changes.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

OK, thanks a lot Matt!
A pleasure to read your articles.
Thanks for the answer you gave to my previous comment too about white teas; it was perfect.

Julien