Friday, February 4, 2011

Section 14. Losing Tea's True Nature By Contamination


"Tea of itself has true fragrance, colour, and taste."

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

10 comments:

Rebekah said...

Kind of of off topic, but I'm dying to know and haven't been able to find out -- Has anyone else had the experience of finding an "unnatural," sweetish, isopropyl-alcohol scent and taste in aged (90's and younger) tie guanyin, baochong, shuixian? Tea is famously absorbant, but this scent/taste is something I've never met before.

Matt said...

Rebekah,

Sorry can't find that one in any tasting notes.

Hummm... "unnatural" tastes... could that be a case of contamination? In aged teas, often storage is the culprit.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

I wonder whether blended teas (for instance a mix of sheng and shu, or a mix in a "recipe") are also considered to be inferior in quality than same-garden or, even better, same-bush teas.

Smoke often contaminates teas (sometimes by purpose, for instance with Lapsang Souchong) and it might be unpleasant for pu er. It loses its purity.

Regarding true colour (also see Section 12), I understand that the colour is pure, so the powder of tea they used to brew had to be fine. And with leaves, wouldn't have the liquor been better if filtered?

The less contaminated a tea is, the better for our health too. Pure tea, and not impurities.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Thought provoking comments.

Don't think that this applies to deliberate blends of tea because adding other tea isn't really a "foreign substance". It could however be interpreted otherwise.

Your comment speaking to the purity of tea had one thinking about organic and wild teas. These teas could still be contaminated anywhere from picking to brewing.

Interesting thoughts.

Peace

Anonymous said...

Rebekah,

I've noticed that same alcohol scent (and taste!) in one alleged aged Dong Ding. It was quite unappetizing.

Adam Yusko said...

I wonder if this would apply (and I hope it does) to those blends with added oils, and pieces of fruit. Although I figure if someone were to do a modern version of this book, might wish to add a section on how tea can be adulterated.

Matt said...

All,

Notes on Section 14. Losing Tea's True Nature By Contamination:

This chapter states pretty clearly that only tea, tea with nothing added, contains the purest, " true fragrance, color, and taste"- the true essence of tea. If something is added, it is not really tea because it changes tea's true essence. If tea's fragrance, colour, and/or taste change, the qi of the tea will also change. The qi is derived from tea's fragrance, color, and taste so changing these qualities essentially changes the qi of the tea.

The section goes on to provide an outline for the last sections of the work connecting it with the previous sections on fragrance (sect. 11), color (sect. 12), and taste (sect. 13).

This section states that tea looses its essence (is contaminated) in three ways, even if extreme care was taken with the previous steps from picking tea (section 1.) through to drinking tea (sect. 10).

1- "If tea is once contaminated with something else, it looses its true quality"- Tea that is not stored properly (sect. 15 & 22) it can acquire some other substance thereby losing its true essence.

2- "If the water is brackish or if there is some foreign substance in the tea... it loses its true quality"- Water that is inappropriate for tea (sect 16, 17, 18) can cause the tea to lose its true essence.

3- " a trace of fruit in the cups, it looses its true quality"- If the wrong tea implements are used (sect 19), if the right cups are not selected (sect. 20) or are not not pure and clean (sect. 21) the true essence of tea will be lost.

Peace

Matt said...

All,

It is also interesting to note that this whole section was not included in The Leaf translation. This is likely because it seems a bit redundant as the points are covered in the later sections of the work. Its inclusion in the text translated by Cho Ui speaks to the importance that Koreans place in keeping their tea true to its essence. This is seen even in Korea today where herbal teas are very popular but they are almost never mixed with tea.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

Hi Matt,

The qi is derived from tea's fragrance, color, and taste

Doesn't it exist qi unrelated to external considerations like these? Fragrances, colours and tastes are personal and I think one can perceive the qi even if blind, tasteless and smell-less (I am unsure about the right term to use in English).
Qi from the leaves. Inner and profound qi. A balanced one, without any colour, smell or taste.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Fragrance, Colour, and Taste are not thought as external factors but intrinsic factors in traditional Asian philosophy. It is thought that someone without the sense of smell could know what something smells like, without the sense of taste could know what something tastes like, without the sense of sight could know what colour something is that they are consuming. This is because Fragrance, Colour, and Taste follow natures law. Certain fragrance has certain qi, certain colour has certain qi, and certain taste has certain qi. Your body still reacts to it even if you can't sense it- this is qi.

As such, a profound tea master who looses his sense of smell, taste, and sight could still guess rather correctly the fragrance, colour, and taste of tea he was given.

If something has neither yin or yang what is it? It is nothing. It is Wu Ji. It is everything, it is certainly not tea. Tea without fragrance, without colour, without taste isn't tea.

Peace