Sunday, January 2, 2011

Section 9.- Putting Tea into the Teapot

"Putting tea into the teapot has an order, do not neglect this principle"

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.



Anonymous said...

Is there a reason why Section 9 about putting tea into the teapot comes after Section 8 about infusing tea? It would have been more coherent IMHO the other way. Or maybe because Section 8 uses Putting Below and Section 9 is afterwards a refinement in the method.

It seems that Putting Above would give a more lightly tea (perhaps better in summer) on the first infusion if tea leaves are not stirred up in the water during the infusion. Incidentally, I see no mention of stirring in the previous Sections…
I bet, Matt, that you have a nice explanation about the meaning of the different Putting methods, and why they are best for a given season :-)

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

"Is there a reason why Section 9 about putting tea into the teapot comes after Section 8 about infusing tea?"

Section 8, Infusing Tea has a lot of information about preparing the pot and the mind for making tea. This should always occur before the tea is placed in the pot. If your mind is not ready, wait until you feel it is before putting the tea into the pot. Once the tea caddy is opened and the tea is revealed the mind will be completely absorbed with the tea. So in this respect it makes sense that the information in section 8, Infusing Tea, be presented before section 9, Putting Tea into the Teapot.

As you mentioned, this section on when to put tea into the pot has at least two levels. One level has to do with the optimal water temperatures for brewing tea in certain seasons. In Summer you will likely be brewing lighter, more subtle tea that requires cooler temperatures. Therefore adding tea leaves to a full teapot of water will make for more optimal brewing conditions. In Winter you will likely be brewing darker, stronger tea that requires warmer temperatures. Therefore adding tea leaves to the teapot first then adding water will make for more optimal brewing conditions.

The deeper meaning of the order you put tea leaves into the pot has to do with energetically matching the qi of the tea with the qi of our body.

When tea is placed on top hot water it is in harmony with the qi of our bodies that also floats to the surface during the hot Summer climate. When tea is placed below hot water it is in harmony with qi of our bodies that also sinks deep within during the cold winter climate. When Putting in the Middle (adding tea to a half pot of hot water then adding the rest of the water) is used, it stabilizes us and reminds us of the Middle Way giving us stability during fluctuating warm and cool periods. In the Spring the qi in our body bounds, sometimes erratically, so we must maintain the Middle Way, and stabilize the easily excitable qi of our awakening body. Putting In the Middle supports the smooth rising of qi in the Spring. In the Fall the qi in our body gradually retreats, sometimes it retreats too quickly, so we must maintain the Middle Way, and stabilize the qi so that we do not get sick with our defences pulling back and our body adjusting to the change. Putting Tea In the Middle supports a gradual and supported retreat of qi in Autumn.


Anonymous said...

Very well explained. Thanks, Matt.

Anonymous said...

I think you mentioned before that the body's qi floats to the surface in summer and retreats to the core in winter. Can that be sensed experientially (and how)?

I noticed with pu erh that the energetic experience is different for me in winter in that pulsing/ tingling sensations on the lips/ tongue/ palate are much subdued, or not present at all. Would you relate that to the seasonal change in the body's qi?

Best wishes,

Rebekah said...

Bro. Anthony mentions this technique in The Korean Way of Tea -- nice. The explanation of qi, the shape of the characters indicating "above," "middle," and "below,' and the water/tea placement methods here go wonderfully together.

Matt said...


You can sense the seasonal change in the body's qi.

In the summer people feel more vibrant and full of energy, the qi of the body is floating, they sweat very easily, their blood flows effortlessly throughout their body, and their body, especially their extremities, are warm.

In the winter people feel more reclusive and lack or wish to conserve energy, the qi of the body sinks deep within, they have a difficult time breaking a sweat, their blood flows more tightly throughout their body, and their body, especially their extremities, are often cold.

The seasonal changes you noted with puerh make sense considering the changing qi of your body throughout winter.


As you know the visual ascetic of the characters and their placement is always considered with works of classical Chinese.


Adam Yusko said...

I am sorry it was a hectic end of the semester and then a much needed break, which involved my accidentally leaving my book at my apartment.

But as I am getting caught up, one thing struck me about this section, which has been mentioned a few times, namely the putting above, below and in the middle. While I think the entire western culture is rather used to the Putting below method (except for perhaps when using Teabags). But I'm wondering if anyone has actually tried brewing the same tea each of the three different ways and what they noticed.

I'm curious if it alters anything rather substantially besides Qi which I feel depends a great deal on the mood and is not always instantaneous so it would be rather hard even testing side by side to measure the effects it has on Qi.

Matt said...

Adam Yusko,

As you mentioned how people put the tea in the teapot nowadays depends more on the style you use to steep tea rather than energetics. For instance, steeping tea with a tea bag you often use the "Putting Above" method, if you make Chinese style gong fu tea then you use the "Putting Below" method, if you are preparing tea in ceremony you also use the "Putting Below" method. Very informal styles of making tea are easier to follow the methodology laid out here. For instance, brewing tea Grandpa Style allows you follow this methodology no problem. One usually employs this theory of putting tea into the teapot when making tea Grandpa Style and occasionally when brewing green teas (used more for Japanese greens than Korean).

It is also important to note that you probably wouldn't want to steep certain teas that require high temperatures, such as puerh, using the "Putting Above" or "Putting in the Middle" method. Then again, puerh tea doesn't really energetically match the season of spring/ summer anyways. So consideration of the type of tea you are steeping is also important.

"I'm curious if it alters anything rather substantially besides Qi"

As commented above it most definitely impacts the water temperature which in turn effects the final result. As soon as water is poured from the kettle its temperature decreases. Also the time it takes before the whole leaf is exposed to water in "Putting Above" will also effect the final result.

It would be interesting to compare these very subtle differences with one type of tea.


Gabe Fife said...

i have been introducing tea life to some office mates and ran across the same question the other day while preparing our first cups in the morning. my first thought was the principles of yin and yang.

winter is typically cold in most regions and cold/coldness is a quality of yin, meaning winter could be characterized as yin. Yang has a tendency to rise therefor yin has a tendency to settle or be below yang. So this idea of "putting" (tea leaves) below (or before putting water in the pot) would line up quite nicely with the concept of yin as a quality of winter. these concepts can and should be applied to understanding the topics in traditional chinese/korean texts that are very much influenced by taoist principles/ideas.

am i far off?

Matt said...

Gabe Fife,

No, you are right on. Taoism is the root of all traditional thought in Asia.

Good luck with that office Dao. :)