Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thermal Energy of Tea: Astrology, Seasons, and Timing

Darkness and the moon are yin. Light and the sun are yang. Earth's tilt and orbit and the moons cycles encompass both yin and yang. Yang is activity and growth. So the yang seasons are spring and summer. Yin is inactivity and stagnation. So the yin seasons are fall and winter.

The theory of thermal energy is not the best theory to apply when attempting to explain the harmony of tea and astrology, but at its simplest retains some value. If you merely look at the thermal energy of teas and the yin and yang of seasonal change, it makes sense that you should drink tea with cool thermal nature in the yang seasons of Spring and Summer and tea with warm thermal nature in the yin seasons of Fall and Winter.

But Astrology encompasses much more than just seasonal change. In the broadest sense, astrology is the science of timing. How you use the art of timing when choosing to drink teas of different thermal energy can either positively and negatively impact your health.

For instance, choosing a tea with warm properties on a cold day and a tea with cool properties on a warm day is an example of how we, usually unconsciously, use timing and thermal nature to promote a healthy state. Another example is when you prepare a tea with warm thermal properties after coming in from the cold weather because you feel cold (or even better before you go out into the cold) and a tea with cool thermal properties after coming in from the hot weather because you feel hot (again drinking a tea with cool thermal properties before or during the exposure to heat is better). Or if you live in a region where the night is very cold and the daytime temperature is quite warm, you are best off choosing a tea with warm thermal properties in the morning and cool properties in the afternoon.

Timing also applies to choosing a tea that helps the process of digestion. It is not good for your health to drink tea with cool properties on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Conversely, it is helpful for our middle jiao (the system responsible for digestion) to receive tea with warmer properties just after a meal. So consideration of timing and thermal energy is especially important for the health of those energy systems that directly receive the tea after consumption.

But again, astrology is much deeper than this and when you start examining deeper levels of astrology things become tremendously complicated because of the interplay of many complex factors. Planets are more yin or yang and when their orbit is closer to earth their energy affects earth. The same can be said of the constellations. These factors are much less important when compared to the effect of earth's orbit and tilt (season) and moon phase but are still factors that must be considered. And when we account for the added dimension of a person's birth chart, things become even more perplexing. To further complicate matters, there are many different astrological models such as the Western model, the Hindu model, and the Chinese model that can be used.

Simply put- tea and astrology is not so simple.


Monday, May 24, 2010

A Mystery Puerh Sample From Aaron Fisher

The connection that we can achieve and maintain through tea, is an understanding that there really is no difference between the various aspects of the Universe, in the sense that they are all facets of the same totality, the "Tao"... Qi is the movement of this totality. For us, we use our bodies and minds as objects of focus, becoming aware of the present moment as it is experienced, lived. The feeling of Qi connects us to the energy as it flows through us, moving in and out like the breath that connects us to each other, to the world.

Aaron Fisher's The Way Of Tea

Aaron Fisher sent a few samples along with his latest book, The Way of Tea. Let's draw some water, put it to boil, and sit down cross-legged with this tea.

These auburn-redbrown leaves smell of age. Deep, light, musty shu puerh scent. They have a certain deep freshness about them, the smell of forest, a very mineral odour.

The first infusion presents mellow mineral earthy tones that ground ones mind. These earthy notes linger on the breath with some sweetness. The mouthfeel is full but not sharp and harsh. Ones body slowly heats like a wood stove that is patiently burning.

The second infusion is more mellow earthiness, this one is dirtier than the first. The mouthfeel is thick, viscous velvet. The chaqi comes on strong and pushes one into a sweat.

The third infusion is lighter and plumby with a woody fruit finish. The mineral fruit stays on the breath with leafy green freshness that lingers somewhere in the mouth. The feel smoothens out and becomes more silky. Excessive salivation is encouraged despite a subtle dry quality that emerges.

The fourth and fifth smooth out even more as the mouthfeel really fills out. Woody, leafy, smooth- it stays in the mouth for a long time, plumb notes mingle with slick wood notes. The qi is deep and warms the lower jiao as it steams upward, traversing the spine.

The sixth and seventh are fruitier as this characteristic starts to slowly dominate the infusion.

This tea is enjoyed through many infusions over a period of a few days. It remains durable throughout- sharing some aspect of the flavour profile described above. In some of these late sessions gritty brown sugar notes come out and play with the plumb flavour.

The wet leaves are examined and show evidence of a blend of at least two different teas. There are dark shrivelled shu leaves that seem to be mixed with lighter aged shang leaves.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Thermal Energy of Tea: Individual Constitution, Sex, and Age

You are a cold type if you always feel cold, your hands and feet are usually cold, generally you like to wear more layers of clothing or warmer clothing to keep warm, and you enjoy hot weather and dislike the cold.

If you are a cold type, tea with warmer properties is better for you.

You are a hot type if you always feel hot, your face is often red, you sweat and often feel hot and bothered, generally you like to wear less layers or light clothing, and you dislike hot weather and don't mind the cold.

If you are a hot type, tea with cooler properties is better for you.

You must also consider age. Younger people have more yang so they can generally drink teas with cold and warm properties. The older you get the more yang you loose (elderly people have slightly lower body temperatures, often dress warmer, and have colder hands and feet). So tea with warmer properties is generally better for older people.

You must also consider sex. Female body temperatures are slightly cooler then that of males. Females are yin- cool. Males are yang- warm. So generally females prefer tea with warmer properties compared to males.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Thermal Energy of Tea

Although all types of tea come from the same plant, they have very different thermal energies. The thermal energy of tea is influenced by either the teas inherent properties, production, and/or how the tea is prepared.

1- As the growing time of tea leaves increase, its thermal nature becomes warmer. This factor explains how first flushes or shincha, which grow in an explosion of spring growth, is cooler in nature than a second flush, wherein the tea plant begins a short period of dormancy and grows much slower. This factor also explains how teas grown at higher altitudes have slightly warmer thermal energy because the tea grows much slower at a higher altitude.

2- Chemically fertilized tea plants generally have a cooler nature than wild or organic tea plants. This is true because, generally, fertilizers stimulate the tea plant to grow quickly.

3- The older the tea tree, the more warmth the tea has. This explains how old tree puerh is much warmer than puerh from younger trees.

4- The part of the tea leaf used influences the teas thermal nature. A bud is cooler than a leaf. So more tippy puerh is cooler than puerh with mostly leaves. It also explains how earlier flushes that contain more buds are cooler than later flushes. Twigs and stems are warmer than leaves. So the more stems in a puerh cake, or the inclusion of stems in some Japanese teas, makes them warmer.

5- The higher level of oxidization during production, the more warmth a tea has. This factor explains how teas that aren't oxidized, such as green teas, have cooler thermal nature than higher oxidized, teas such as black tea. This also explains how oolongs, yellow teas, and black teas that are highly oxidizated are warmer than oolongs, yellow teas, and black tea that go through lighter oxidization.

6- Steaming creates a cooler thermal energy than pan frying during green tea production. This explains how Japanese teas, which use a steaming method, are cooler than Chinese and Korean green teas, which use a heated iron caldron during production.

7- The thermal nature is related to the colour of the tea. This is probably the most obvious indicator of a teas' thermal nature. Tea with blue, green, or purple colours and hues are cooler than tea with red, orange, or yellow hues or colours. The following is generally accepted- from coldest to warmest- blue, purple, green, yellow, white, orange, black, red. The use of colour as an indication of thermal energy can be used to assess the dry leaf, the colour of the liquid, and the thermal nature of the types of tea (ex. green tea vs yellow tea vs black tea).

8- The longer a tea is aged, the warmer the tea becomes. The older the puerh, oolong, or ddokcha, the more enzymes and micobacteria act on the tea, and the more heat it generates.

9- Roasting the tea before preparation, increases its warmth.

10- The hotter the water temperature used to prepare tea, the warmer the thermal nature of the tea. This explains how subtle green and white tea, which are optimally prepared with cooler water, have cooler thermal nature.

Understanding the thermal nature of tea is paramount to using tea as a medicine, balancing the energies of the body, and thereby insuring that the tea you are drinking is helping and not hindering your health.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New York Tea Gathering

While in New York this month one met up with the NYC tea group. All the heavy hitters were there- Toki from the Mandarin's Tea, Yumcha from The Tea Gallery, Brandon from Wrong Fu Cha, Evan from Pluck Tea, and Michael and Winnie.

We started with a wonderful three week old shincha, the first of the season for all of us- its freshness set the stage for the tea to come which included an interesting experimental slow roasted Oolong of Michael's, an qi packed High Fired Wuyi Old Bush ShuiXian from Toki and a rare raw puerh purchased in Singapore from that same "seasoned tea drinking pup".

Please follow this link to a wonderful write-up, pictures, and video of the detailed goings on at this gathering by Yumcha. It was great to met up and share tea and conversations with fellow teaists.


Monday, May 10, 2010

2009 Dao Tea Kim Shin Ho Hwagae Valley Saejak Green Tea

The dry leaf is a dusty light green and smells of deep malty nut with subtle lilic hints- or perhaps it is the scent coming from the window.

The first infusion is prepared when the water spends some time in the cooling pot. It displays watery nutty tones and is buttery and creamy. This mellow yellow-green liquid lacks any vegetal quality.

The second infusion is more of that buttery nutty taste but this time a dry finish accompanies the flavour. The taste is simple, nutty, and straight forward and a mouthfeel that satisfies. There is some floral notes in the aftertaste but mainly nut flavours.

In the third infusion the nutty notes turn more rubbery, the mouthfeel is full in mouth and throat, the aftertaste is dry with a very subtle hint of floral which disperses quickly. A bit of a wood taste is mixed with the dry finish.

The wood flavour is more apparent in the fourth and fifth infusion and becomes rubbery and dry.

Later infusions are rubbery and dry as even wood notes peter out. The chaqi is faint.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yang As “Smell“, Yin As “Taste“: Yin Yang Theory As An Indication of Chaqi

Yin is more taste. Yin is descending energy. Yin is more cool. Yin is inactivity.

Yang is more smell. Yang is ascending energy. Yang is more warm. Yang is activity. Because yang is active, it is related with qi.

The longer (and usually slower) tea leaves grow on the bush the more warmth, and therefore yang they acquire. This says much about the warmth generated from certain flushes and seasons. Also, it is common knowledge that the older the tea tree, the more yang it generates.

The process of oxidization also generates heat. Oxidization occurs naturally and at a slow (longer) pace in the aging of tea, this creates heat, yang, qi.

The natural process of aging teas such as puerh generates wonderful smells and odours. These odours are yang, heat, and an indication of chaqi.

Conversely, the chaqi of teas that don’t age well such as white, green, and red tea, is the strongest when they are the freshest. This also happens to be when they smell the most fragrant, contain the most yang and purest chaqi. As these teas age and oxidize they loose their fresh scent and their qi- the energy of these teas can no longer rise as strongly.

Tea that ages well such as puerh also goes through an initial phase of loosing its wonderful smell and qi.

For fresh puerh, the qi and odours are strong for the first few years after production but then seem to wave before becoming stronger again years later. Years later as puerh ages, it generates much heat, yang, qi, though the micro bacterial processes of aging. Because the changes that occur during aging takes place very slowly- it generates lots of qi. As chaqi is generated once again, its odour becomes quite strong.

This is how “smell” can be used as an indication of chaqi.