Saturday, February 12, 2011

Section 15. Tea That Has Deteriorated Must Not Be Used

"If one drinks deteriorated tea, the stomach becomes cold, so much so that one's energy is depleted and bad effects accumulate."

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...

I like the picture beneath the translation of this Section on The Leaf.
Enjoy the tea.

My only question is why the "black" colour between yellow and white. It does not seem to be a gradation. I would have thought about a lightly brownish colour. Black seems strong here — unless it had a different meaning at the time the Section was written?

Adam Yusko said...

Again I feel we need to re-emphasize that this book focuses on green tea. And this section means little when considering Puerh, or Oolong. Although I would be hesitant to drink any tea that has turned white (and I am not talking about the white hairs on teas).

Although the closest I would get is drinking a aged puerh with a bit of white frost.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

The colour of change that a tea leaf undergoes is a bit symbolic but is also true to sight as well.

The deterioration suggests tea that is full of vitality, is full of yang, and rises up in a progression to a tea that is lifeless, even toxic, that is consumed by yin, and causes energy that flows downward, counter to its true essence.

The progression is as follows:

"jade color" indicates the ultimate colour for tea where it contains a vibrant essence, full of qi. See the comments in Sect. 12 Color on the symbolism of jade green-

"green" indicates that the tea still has its natural state but has lost some of its vitality, its yang, its qi.

"yellow" indicates neutrality, traditionally this includes the colour brown. Yellow suggests a centering movement that is neither rising up nor descending down. Essentially the qi of the tea has lost its energy, but hasn't really become problematic.

"black" indicates that the tea has acquired the most yin as black is the colour that is most yin in nature. It suggests a downward or sinking energy or movement. This movement is counter to the nature energy intended for tea. This tea therefore can be problematic.

"white" may indicate the presence of mould. Mould accumulates only when yin (water, moisture) is abundant. Mould on green tea is not healthy.

So the colours suggest a gradual worsening of the qi of tea.

Adam Yusko,

You bring up a good point about possibly drinking puerh with white on it. This is because this cycling through the colours also occurs with puerh but because it involves probiotics, heat is generated, qi is generated, and the more tea progress through these colour stages the more potent it becomes.


Anonymous said...

So the colours suggest a gradual worsening of the qi of tea.

Thanks, Matt, for this very interesting explanation of the Section. It totally makes sense!

The colour here is the one of the qi. Not of the leaves or the liquor.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

The colour here is of the qi but is also the actual colour that we can see when green tea leaves degrade.

Fresh, vibrant, high quality green tea leaves actually look jade green.

Tea that is not as fresh, or one that was jade green and has lost its freshness, or tea that is a lower quality is still green but not as vibrant as "jade green".

If left out the tea oxidizes and looses its green colour and turns a brown colour (brown and yellow are thought as similar).

As tea oxidizes for a long long time it becomes a darker brownish black colour, especially it is exposed to lots of moisture.

If tea is really moist it can acquire a white mould.

So the colours here are of the qi and of the actual colour of the dry leaf as it degrades.


Matt said...


Notes on Section 15:

Besides what was written in the above comments one also wanted to add one more thought.

The quote selected also comes from this progression of tea degradation. As the tea degrades it looses its yang, its energy, its warmth, and becomes more yin, more cold in nature.

The Stomach and digestive organs need warmth to function properly. In fact your stomach must warm whatever you swallow to a certain temperature before you can digest it properly. So tea that has been degraded and is now a very cold thermal nature can potentially cause your stomach to become cold. If your stomach is cold, it will take more energy to warm it up thereby depleting the body of its qi. If the body's qi continues to be depleted, ill effects are more likely to occur especially in those that are old, sick, or have weak constitutions.