Friday, December 3, 2010

Section 5. Tending the Fire


"When it comes to brewing tea, care with the fire is the most important factor."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korea Tea Classics

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.

Peace

21 comments:

Adam Yusko said...

While someday I would like to actually boil water using fire (non stove) or charcoal, I currently have to make due with what is allowed by my landlord.

But I wonder if we could come up with a corresponding equivalent for an electric burner. It almost says until the water starts to make noise, would be to provide higher temperatures and then back off slightly.

Rebekah said...

A meditation on balance, in life or for tea....Attentiveness, practice, energetic fanning, not the fast, one-time result that produces hard metal or cheap plastic.

Matt said...

Adam,

Charcoal heating has its pros and cons. But hands down, charcoal heating always leads to better tea.

"I wonder if we could come up with a corresponding equivalent for an electric burner"

Sigh... wishful thinking. This section is about the harmony of elements, of nature, and the connectedness of man to the external, harmonizing with the internal.

Unfortunately, electric burners sever these connections... turn on the switch, electric waves permeate the waters qi, the water boils, turn off the switch, or maybe, it automatically turns off...

but damn, they're so convenient... and widespread. Pros and cons...

Rebekah,

Beautifully put. The end result is always a better cup of tea.

Peace

Gingko said...

Actually I think electric may be as good as charcoal fire. But I have to say first that I don't have experience with charcoal fire. If trying to explain the advantages of charcoal fire from view of physics and chemistry, I would guess that charcoal fire boils water fast (compared with regular wood fire or other means available in ancient time). This helps retain more CO2 (and probably other versatile stuff) from being lost from water, hence maintains a good water taste. I think modern gas stove and good electric stove can boil water as fast.

And the truth is, I am lazy and don't want to handle charcoal :-p

Matt said...

Gingko,

"And the truth is, I am lazy and don't want to handle charcoal"

That's probably one of the main reasons we don't always use charcoal heat! ;)

Peace

Matt said...

All,

Notes on Section 5:

"care with the fire" is referring to:

1- The care, consideration, and mindfulness the teamaker imparts on the making of tea- the boiling of the water. It is speaking to the intent of the teamaker and their internal state when making the tea. This is important.

2- The technique the teamaker uses to make the water boil. During this time the tea pot rested above hot embers and the embers were fanned. The picture on the front of Korean Tea Classics depicts how water was boiled during this time. Proper technique is also important.

3- The energetic relationship between the elements. There must be harmony between the elements least the final product not be in harmony with nature. Tea comes from nature and should therefore reflect its harmony. Harmonizing the tea with that of the nature world is also important.

In reference to the internal mind of the teamaker...

If the teamaker fans the fire with a mind that is gentle, fearful, and weak (too much yin) the fire will be weak and the water will take on such qualities. "(if the fire is too yielding) the water becomes gentle and gentle water yields to the tea's spirit."

If the teamaker fans the fire with a mind that is forceful, overindulgent, and too strong (too much yang) the fire will be strong and the water will take on such qualities. "(if the fire is ardent) the fire will be too strong, and if too strong, the tea will be repressed by the water."

In reference to the technique the teamaker uses to make the water boil...

If the fire is fanned too lightly the water temperature will not be hot enough to extract the tea's essence and its subtitles will not be coxed out. Or it may take too long to come to a boil. This will exhaust the qi of the water making it unable to extract the essence of the tea.

If the fire is fanned too forcefully the water temperature will be too hot and overpower the tea, making it bitter and repressing the subtle nature of the tea, its essence lost. Or it may come to a boil too quickly. This will leave the water flat and incomplete and it will drowned out the essence of the tea.

In reference to the energetic relationship between the elements...

Water, Wind, and Fire all are related to fire. Water controls it and has a special relationship with it. Water is said to produce Wind. Metrological scince shows that wind often blows in patterns from oceans. Wind is said to produce Fire. Wind stokes forest fires, increasing their strength and power. Water (yin) and Fire (yang) must always be in balance if harmony it to be achieved. Fanning the fire represents the Wind rising up against Fire. Man is harnessing the power of wind there by connecting the Heavens with Earth.

The middle way is always to be strived for when making tea, stoking the fire is only one such example.

Peace

Anonymous said...

All,

In ancient times, charcoal was a fuel, the properties of which were well appreciated by tea masters. The finest charcoal was made from hardwoods like oak and chestnut. When properly tended a charcoal fire produced a heat that was odorless, fumeless, and smokeless; the heat was also even and long lasting. The heat produced was by far infrared radiation, which unlike the hot gases of a wood fire, penetrated the cooking vessel evenly and even changed the structure of the water, improving its taste and suitability for brewing tea. A charcoal heat, like that of natural gas or electric, was either ardent, moderate, or yielding. A moderate or medium heat, regardless of source, may be considered efficient and sufficient for the proper boiling of water, retaining all of the desirable qualities of the liquid for the brewing of tea. But the masters were all in agreement: charcoal heat produced the best water for tea.

Steve.

Matt said...

Steve,

The properties of infrared heat are coveted not only for heating water but are said to deeply infiltrate the qi of the human body. It is about the depth of warmth. If you heat water over hot embers (using infrared waves emitted as the heating source) vs. in a microwave (using micro waves emitted as the heat source) they will both boil the water but the water heated by embers has noticeably more depth to it. The depth that infrared imparts is thought to impact the deeper flows of energy in the human body. This is the line of reasoning as to why charcoal heat is better.

Thanks for bringing up this important point.

Peace

Ho Go said...

Gee, Matt, do I have to remember all that each time I sit down to brew some tea? :)
Ah, those good ol' days when things were perfect and men were wise. I bet the tea didn't taste half as good as it does now.

Matt said...

HoGo,

"Gee, Matt, do I have to remember all that each time I sit down to brew some tea? :)"

Nope, just forget all of that each time you sit down to brew some tea... that's a lot harder than remembering! Hahaha...

"I bet the tea didn't taste half as good as it does now."

Yeah, that's probably true for some types of tea... maybe that's why they were so concerned about all that wise men stuff back then... trying to get the best out of what they had.

Hahhaha...

Peace

Anonymous said...

Matt,

Thanks for those insights. As I am only slightly familiar with the philosophical, health, and martial concepts of qi 氣, please allow me to continue a bit more on charcoal and its emission of far infrared radiation.

According to in-depth research at Kyoto University in Japan and elsewhere, scientists have shown that far infrared radiation, when used to heat water, shortens the water "cluster." Here, I must admit that the molecular chemistry of such water eludes me, but for those of a more scientific bent, the phenomenon is significant.

Furthermore, far infrared radiation also changes the ph of water, making it less acidic and more akaline, thereby improving quality and taste.

Charcoal is quite a wonder.

Steve.

Ho Go said...

Charcoal, indeed, is a wonder. Using bamboo charcoal inside a boiling kettle has a tangible effect on the taste of water.

I have had almost 'miraculous' results using far infrared heat lamps on muscle and back pains. The Chinese have come up with some extraordinary 'finds' in the course of history.

Anonymous said...

Ho Go,

I was interested to learn of your practice of placing bamboo charcoal in the kettle to improve water quality. Stéphane Erler of Taipei introduced me to the method through his blog. Ever since then, I have prepared water at every stage - filtering, storing, boiling, and warming - with bamboo charcoal.

Glad also to know that far infrared radiation is an effective medical therapy.

Steve.

Ho Go said...

Steve,

The Chinese make a special heat lamp using a ceramic from a certain place that when heated, emits far infrared radiation. They discovered this because the people in the area have a very low arthritis rate. Maybe a google search can come up with the place. The lamps are for sale.

How often do you change the charcoal in your gear?

Anonymous said...

"care with the fire" - the intent of the tea maker's mind:
I was caught by this remark in connection with the discussion on ancient and modern ways of heating the water.
Observing the bubbles in my electric glas water boiler I reflected on how different an experience it is when actively tending to fire. In the little experience of heating water over embers that I have been able to gain I found that it is a very different inner dynamic. It comes back to the balance Rebekah mentioned - here between the more active vs. more receptive elements of the mind involved in tea making. Have we lost something with our modern equipment? Something to explore ...

Martin

Matt said...

Hogo & Steve,

One had experimented with bamboo charcoal after reading Stephan's posts years ago but after much testing and consideration preferred water without the influence of bamboo charcoal. The reasons are many. It is interesting that a good friend and teamaster in Korea instead puts chunks of silver or silver beads in his kettle. The results are quite good.

Martin,

"Have we lost something with our modern equipment?"

Definitely something worthy of deep reflection. Thanks for bringing this up again and keeping it in the forefront of your minds.

Peace

Anonymous said...

Ho Go,

Thanks for the info on the ceramic far infrared radiation lamps.

Matt,

Regarding the use of bamboo charcoal in water, I experience a great improvement in the tap water here with the addition of charcoal. It may be that the benefits depend on the quality of the charcoal and the character of the water.

In any case, I am fascinated by the practice of putting silver in the kettle to change the taste of water. It must be akin to using a silver kettle for boiling but without the expense.

Thanks for the tip.

Steve.

Matt said...

Steve,

You're right, bamboo charcoal always improves the quality of tap water. The water one uses for tea though is very nice quality local mountain water (the benefit of living near mountains in Korea and here in B.C.), ones experience was that the bamboo charcoal altered the qi of the water which was already very good, the change was not so bad though.

Bamboo charcoal harmonizes the elements Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. It's product is of bamboo- the element wood. It is fired (Fire's influence), and buried (Earth's influence). It is the colour deep black which harmonizes with Water. It is auspicious, a symbol of longevity and wealth. It astringes the impurities of Water purifying it and harmonizing it to its dark black colour- the colour of pure water.

Silver is of the Metal element. Metal strengthens Water, purifying it. Silver is especially pure as it refracts the purist white colour. White is the colour that harmonizes most with metal, thereby asserting its pure influence upon Water.

Both charcoal and silver are purifying substances but they act in very different ways energetically. This should be considered when deciding which should be added to the kettle.

Peace

Ho Go said...

All over Asia, minority groups have purified and filtered their water with bamboo charcoal as one of the stages of water treatment. I am familiar with the use of silver but this seems restricted to the 'rich' man and may not be a good practice for those seeking simple water treatment for chlorine and other elements that are adsorbed by the charcoal. I don't think silver has this kind of property.
I tasted some wine served in silver Tibetan cups one evening at a friend's place. The difference was quite noticeable in silver vs glass.

Julien ÉLIE said...

Could we deduce, with the example of civil/military, that the author Cho-ui aims at a society in harmony with a balance of power?

“If the military side dominates, the tea will be repressed.” And conversely for the civil side.

I assume having chosen this comparison must have a meaning.

Matt said...

Julien ÉLIE,

In reference to civil/military,

First we must remember that Cho Ui is copying the Cha Ching Ts'ai Yao which was based on Zhang Yuan's Zhang Poyuan Chalu another Chinese text.

The reference to civil/ military is a reference to the I-Ching. The Confucian government of Cho Ui's time was divided into half civil and half military. To achieve balance the civil government always maintained a bit more of the power than the miliary. As you stated, this is all about balance, the Middle Way.

Peace