Saturday, February 19, 2011

Section 16. Grades of Spring Water


"Tea is the spirit of water and water is the body of tea."

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

12 comments:

Matt said...

All,

Notes on section 16 Grades of Spring Water (Part 1 of 2):

The introductory quote is important because it states that water is the body (container, form, Yin) for tea (spirit, Qi, Yang). This statement strikes at the importance of water in making tea, giving just as much value as the actual tea itself. It follows that inappropriate water makes it impossible to discover the true essence of tea. Conversely it also states that, "If the tea is not carefully made, how will it be possible to discern its body? In this statement "body" is not referring to water but to the form, or taste (another yin aspect of tea). Essentially the quote is stating if inappropriate water is used the taste, fragrance, colour, the essence of tea, will be lost.

The following is what is implicit in the water sources mentioned in this section:

"Water from a mountain-peak spring is pure and light" - The higher up or higher the mountain the spring is found the more yang or energy is contained in this water. It is though to be very active (yang) water because it has come from a source so low to a place so high. It is thought of as pure because it is closer to heaven, also because it has not been contaminated by anything by flowing downstream. It is considered light because it has the ability to climb, or float up to such great heights, also maybe water that comes from the high mountain is less likely to be as hard. This type of water has strong pure yang energy.

"water from a spring at the foot of a hill is pure but heavy"- It is still pure because it came from the mountain, a symbol of purity, and divinity. Also as stated above it has not been contaminated by anything flowing down stream. It is considered heavy because it doesn't have the ability to climb, it is weighed down and flows from the mountain at a low altitude, also maybe water that comes from the foot of the mountain is more likely to contain more mineral deposits and salts (it is heavier). This type of water has strong pure yin energy.

Peace

Matt said...

All,

Notes on section 16 Grades of Spring Water (Part 2 of 2):


"water emerging amidst the rocks is pure and sweet"- It is pure because spring water from rocks is closest to its source, it is sweet because rocks are considered the truest Earth. Earth's taste is sweet. This type of water is more yang in nature, but it most in harmony with Earth.

"water emerging from sand is pure and cold"- It still remains pure because sand acts as a filter, also because sand sinks to the bottom and doesn't contaminate the water which is drawn from the top. The water is considered cold because sand sinks and is small and course it is therefore considered to be yin in nature. This type of water is more yin in nature.

"water emerging from soil is bland and plain"- It is bland and plain because soil leaches out the waters minerals. It also has the potentiality to be impure. This type of water contains no essence.

"water flowing from yellow rocks is good"- Yellow is the colour of Earth. Yellow rocks indicate water that is most in harmony with Earth.

"water draining from dark rocks cannot be used"- Dark (Black, or even deep blue) is the considered the most yin colour. Dark colour rocks indicate that water contains too much yin energy and not enough yang and therefore will not be active enough to bring out the essence of the tea.

"flowing water is better than still water"- Flowing water is active, yang, while still water is inactive, resting, yin. Active yang type water is best to bring out the essence of tea. Still water has not the energy to do so as effectively.

"water emerging from a shady place is better than a sunny place" - Shady places are more yin, sunny places are more yang. Sun causes the water to accumulate algae, therefore water should never be exposed to light.

"true spring water has no taste and true water no smell." - Water should taste and smell empty. Water is the container to hold the essence of tea. If the container is already full of things (tastes, smells, even colours), it will surly effect the essence of tea. An empty vessel allows for the most potential. How can the full essence of tea be realized when its full potential (its container, its water) is already consumed?

Peace

Rebekah said...

"If the tea is not carefully made, how will it be possible to discern its body? Water from an office lounge sink is bland yet edgy, water from residential faucets must be filtered, water to all water fountains on south campus will be chemically treated on Thursday at noon, so please be aware of the possible effect on your drinking water. Water from a clear plastic bottle in the grocery store will be empty or deleterious, depending on whether the label depicts a blue mountain or a green landscape. Water in the grocery store is passable if the label depicts a pink flower. Orange County well water has bad taste, but only this month, and will not leave residue in the filter of your washing machine even if it looks red."

Matt said...

Rebekah,

Hahaha... That's why water for tea is such a complicated topic these days! Going back to basics, to natural sources, really helps to simplify things.

Thanks for this great comment!

Peace

Gingko said...

The last sentence of this section, about true/good water doesn't have taste/smell, is one of my favorite lines in the book. I grew up in Beijing, where the water is ok, but not the best. I had always thought water was tasteless. But when I went to Hangzhou the first time to taste the water of Tiger Spring (which is said to be the best water for Long Jing), I realized for the first time what a tasteless water is like. Then I realized that it's actually a luxury to have a water that's without any taste.

Matt said...

Ginkgo,

Wonderful story. One can relate.

Most people consider all water to be tasteless but actually most water does have taste/ smell. One can definitely state that all tap water has taste and smell therefore all tap water is inappropriate for tea. Least you do something to remedy this problem.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

As Nicolas recently wrote in http://letheetlechemin.blogspot.com/2011/02/mineralite-de-leau-la-preuve-par-le-tri.html about water minerality and sorting the leaves, the right water for a given tea should be carefully seeked. Different leaves perform best with not necessarily the same water.

When the earthy component is taken away from the leaves (through sortage), water flowing from yellow rocks, or emerging amidst the rocks, is better. Minerality should be added.
Depending on the way we brew tea and the inner energy of the leaves, one should also considerer water with more yang energy, or more yin energy.
More knowledgeable people on that subject could speak about it far better than I — Nicolas, Philippe (from Bordeaux or not from Bordeaux), David, to mention only them.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

You are correct when you say that when minerals are robbed from the water it must be returned. And that certain waters are better with certain teas, and methods of making tea, ect. This is the topic of an upcoming post here on MattCha's within the next week or so.

Nicolas has an unique approach to tea and his experimentation is interesting. Sorting of the tea is only one small component to choosing the right water for your tea.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

This is the topic of an upcoming post here on MattCha's within the next week or so.

Many thanks for your series of articles on that subject. I have just read the first one; very interesting. It is the beginning of a very promising series. Thanks, Matt.

Anonymous said...

All,

Ginko wrote of her experience at the Spring of Running Tigers in Hangzhou. I would like to share a similar experience at the spring at Wuxi, Jiangsu province along the Grand Canal at the northern end of Lake Tai.

Wuxi 無錫 was once famous for its fine water. The spring was located on the grounds of Hui-shan si 惠山寺 (Temple on Mount Hui), a suburban temple west of the ancient city. In the traditional hierarchy of exceptional sources of water throughout the empire, the spring at was considered Tianxia dier quan 天下第二泉, the Second Spring under Heaven.

I was at the temple on a sunny afternoon in 1984 while visiting museum collections in the southeast. The spring was a shadow of its former self, the pulsing trickle of water from the sculpted dragon head fount hardly made a splash into the uppermost of three pools. I ordered the local green tea and was shown a seat overlooking the spring and pool. As I sat enjoying the view, a clear glass of boiled spring water was set before me, and I was asked to admire the “color” of the liquid which was absolutely colorless. Next, I was asked to appreciate the “fragrance” of the water which was utterly odorless. Then, I was asked to taste the “flavor” of the water which was totally tasteless. The only sensation of the water was that it was wet and liquid. Finally, the glass was filled again, this time so that the water topped the rim forming a brimming bubble-like crown above the glass, and a small coin was placed atop to float magically on the surface tension of the water. I was then served tea and asked to repeat the pleasure of color, fragrance, and flavor. The experience was extraordinary, the water serving as the perfect vehicle for the tea.

Steve.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Thanks for coming for the ride.

Steve,

Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful experience!

As it were, one was supposed to visit the Spring of Running Tigers when in Hangzhou. Got a 24 hours bug and was too weak too visit it. Perhaps next time when in the area.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

A great lived story, Steve. To sum it up, that water left you… speechless :)