Sunday, March 6, 2011

Harmonizing Water and Tea: Choosing The Right Water For Tea- Part 3- The Source of Water



The source of water (feng shui) is an important consideration when selecting water for tea. The source of water dictates its content because content reflects its source. Remember that water isn't man made, all water comes from nature, carrying with it natures signal. Therefore the source of water can tell us a lot about the content, properties, and qi of that water.

Water can either come from a natural or artificial source. Depending on where the water comes from certain things have to be considered. If the water comes from an artificial source you will want to consider how it is treated, how it is delivered to your house, and if it is filtered. Once water is treated its essence changes. If treated with chlorine it is imparted with an odour and taste. This water is not suitable for tea. Conversely, if the water is treated with ozone the essence of the tea isn't degraded. Tap water is water that is active because of its movement through pipes to your kitchen. The movement is good and stirs and activates the qi of the water but most cases this is overshadowed by taste and smell and the removal of important minerals from the water. Many people filter the tap water before they use it for tea. The problem with this is that other important things besides taste and smell are also removed from the water.

Water from natural sources have not been degraded or stripped of its qi and therefore is optimal for tea. What natural source we chose can be a difficult decision. We should first consider the waters proximity to where we live. Ideally the water should either harmonize with the tea or harmonize with the drinker. It will harmonize with the tea if the water is from the same geographical location as the tea. It will harmonize with the drinker if the water is from the same geographical location as the drinker. Unless you are living close to the actual area where your tea is grown, economically it makes no sense to acquire water from this source. It makes much more sense to acquire water from a local source. The closer the source is to where you live the closer it will harmonize with you. This also can be very practical as the closer the source the cheaper and less time consuming it will be to acquire.

The source of the water is an indication of the qi of water. This has been the topic of recent discussion of Section 16. Grades of Spring Water and Section 17. Well Water Is Not Appropriate For Tea of the translated tea notes of Zhang Yuan. One will reprint ones notes below:

"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.

"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.

"Mountain water is superior, river water is less good, and well water is the worst" - Mountain springs have more potential energy, and yang, as they are located high above. Streams have less potential energy, but still flow pretty strongly, and have a current. Well water contains the least qi, vitality, or yang as it contains no potential energy, is still, and lies low. Well water contains the most yin energy.

"if no river water is nearby and no mountain with a spring of water, one should use only water stored from the plum (monsoon) rains of that spring season since its flavor is sweet and harmonious; it is the water that makes everything grow" - if you are going to use rain water, the rainwater that harmonizes the closest to the energetics of tea is spring rainfall that occurs just as the first blossoms of spring are emerging(or the first tea buds). This water is thought to have abundant qi because it nourishes the abundant spring growth. From a astrological perspective, it shares the same energy of the tea that is also fed by these same rains as they sprout from the tree in early spring.

"Water from melted snow is clear but feels heavy and dark." - the qi of water from pure melted snow (collected in the winter) is "heavy and dark". This is due to this water harmonizing with the energy of winter which is the most yin time of year. It has the least daylight hours, so is dark. The water is considered heavy because it comes from the snow which is dense and heavy and cold in nature.

Overall these passages speak to tea in general but are more specific to green tea or other light teas. If you are trying to harmonize the water to a heavier, darker tea. Water from a spring at the foot the mountain or from an artesian well is also appropriate. If you are trying to harmonize the water to a medium, neutralizing, or regulating tea, water from the middle of the mountain is also appropriate.

It is also very important to consider the environmental cost of the water you use for tea. If the source is far away and you must ship the water long distances the environmental impact is enormous. This completely contradicts the reason we chose that water in the first place, harmony.

Peace

24 comments:

toki said...

Great wisdom from people whom were in tuned with the spirit of tea in the past. Just hueled 20 gallons of high mountain spring water yesterday to age, and I found your new post. Funny how my life plays out with tea. Thanks again for sharing ~ T

Matt said...

Toki,

High mountain water in NYC?!? Hahaha...

Seems like we are all too often "on the same wave" old dog. You'll have to let us know how that water turns out.

Take care and Happy Year of the Tokki! Hahaha

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

toki -- aging water? Why would one want to age water? I'd love to know. Never heard of this before :)

Matt -- Of course there are mountain streams aplenty in these parts, but drinking from these can do unspeakable things to the lower intestines, unless you're able to hike far above the treeline to fetch it. What about treating mountain water with iodine (the old fashioned REI option), or boiling it to kill off the things that cause all the trouble? Wouldn't that change the character of the water?

toki said...

The magic word for NY State great water source is: Tuxedo!

Been aging and testing this spring for over 3 years. Closest I could get besides Tiger Spring in Dragon Well : )

You can found old links from the Mandarins LTPR : )

Always ~ Year of the Golden Toki

Matt said...

Bev,

Have never tried iodine treated water used to make tea. That's kind of a back woods kind of thing to do. Have a friend who just boils it, as long as its from a source that isn't contaminated by chemicals boiling will kill most any bacteria. Because you have to boil it anyways to make tea it shouldn't change too much of the character. As long as you don't boil it for too long, that will deplete the essence of the water. If you find the source of the spring no need to worry about this though.

Think that Toki means collecting it every spring then using it throughout the year? Teamasters in Korea never "age" water, they do however collect a bunch then store it for convenience. For very good quality water, consuming it fresh is always best!... Hey this will be covered in next weeks section!

Toki,

When you first said "Tuxedo" got this ridiculous image of you hiking to the summit of a mountain wearing a tuxedo holding a 20 gallon jug! Hahaha... this is what you mean right...

http://www.mountainzone.com/mountains/list-mountains.asp?dest=Tuxedo+Park+NY

Peace

Matt said...

Bev & Toki,

Found the link: http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2008/07/beautiful-water.html

Maybe "aging" isn't exactly the right word to use but the water definitely changes.

also see here: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/containing-qi-living-mool-hang-ree.html

Peace

toki said...

I love technology.... You just found out my gold mine in NY State Matt : )

Guess aging is not the right term, or is it? In Hangzhou back in the Dynasties, Mandarins will have their water girl collect dew from willow trees or lotus leaves in spring (pre-ming) around the West lake and store them (age) before making tea. The water its like air, no weight, no odor.... the tea brew with this is like inhaling tea air. Its all about the tea character in the purest form.

Here is a little more study in the past:
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2008/08/weight-on-water.html

Enjoy and looking forward to your next post : ) ~ T

Matt said...

Toki,

Great link! Thanks for pointing us there.

The coming section on Water Storage Vessels will touch on why people generally get similar results as you did, if tap water is so bad for tea then why did it get such good results???...

The answer, two words (none of which include the word "tuxedo")- storage and movement.

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

toki, you've put stars in my eyes now.. "water like air.. tea character in the purest form". Looks like I'll be doing some hiking this summer (sans tuxedo!). Matt, excellent discussion :)

- bev

Brett said...

Hi Mattcha,

Love this post as usual but I've got an off topic comment for you. (sorry I couldn't figure out any other way to contact you). What are your thoughts on the paper.li phenomena? I'm not really a fan. I don't like the way they look and the advertising (sometime for products or services I don't support). Your posts, my posts, and others are being used. It's usually no problem for me to ask the particular paper.li user to remove me but these things just keep popping up. I noticed a new one featuring this post of yours today. Did you green light that? What are your thoughts?

Yours in Tea,
Brett

ps please feel free to delete this comment and email me at blackdragontea@gmail.com if you'd like to continue this conversation more privately. (public or private is fine by me).

Matt said...

Brett,

Never heard of Paper.li until now. What is it? How are they using the posts?

Let's talk publicly so if other readers/ Bloggers want to jump in they can.

Peace

FuzzyDunlop said...

I'm a bit disappointed by this. I saw the article mentioned on Twitter by a tea company I trust and when I get here I see it's not the reasoned analysis of different types of water I was hoping for. Instead I see a load of nonsense about qi and wether the water comes from the same place as the tea.

I wish the tea world wasn't so into all this quackery.

Matt said...

FuzzyDunlop,

Thanks for sharing your point of view.

There likely is a reason for a reputable tea company for sending you here. Why would a trustworthy tea company want to be associated with a quack?

That is, that the information on MattCha's Blog is quite relevant to tea. Although it isn't based on the scientific method of testing that most in the West are used to and dependent of for "truth", it is based on traditional philosophy that has held ground for thousands of years and has done so because of experience and observation. There is some "truth" in that.

Anyone who has used Tiger Spring water for their Long Jing can tell you that.

Peace

Matt said...

All,

There is an interesting discussion about this post that readers may enjoy:

http://www.reddit.com/r/tea/comments/fzo0r/harmonizing_why_does_the_world_of_tea_get_sucked/

Peace

Brett said...

paper.li is a Swedish startup that collects blog posts (mainly from twitter lists) and presents them in a "newspaper-like format."

Otherwise cool people, who think they are just being helpful, start them up for free, and don't make any money off of them. (But obviously some people are making money off of them.)

I think that they look tacky and I see them for what they are... which is simply another platform to sell online advertising... and many times the ads are for products or services that I do not support. That is why I am angered to have my content being used without anybody even asking me first!

I recently saw this post of yours on this one- http://paper.li/lucidquark/tea-love It was positioned between an ad for kelloggs brand cereals and some sort of sketchy thyroid medicine

Matt said...

Brett,

Thanks for your opinion on these matters.

Presenting anything on the internet you must expect things like this to happen.

There is a reason that we don't choose to advertise on our blogs, however, completely evading adds seems impossible. Google has a box of related adds on the screen that comes up when confirming that the post has been published. So even if we don't advertise to our readers we get dinged!

The newspaper format is a bit strange because we certainly aren't writing newspaper articles. And like newspapers, revenue is generated by adds.

At least they properly link the source of the blog and only publish a snippet of info. One has come across some spam pages that publish the whole article! That's going a bit too far.

Either way, it also increases traffic.

So not all is bad.

Peace

Brett said...

Thanks for the perspective Matt. Your writing, as it often does, has mellowed me out.

It is true that paper.li isn't so bad when compared to those despicable spam-sites.

I certainly don't mind blogs that post adds, plug or otherwise endorse products or services that the blogger personally believes in.

But... I still think it's rude to use somebody else's intellectual property for your own gain without first obtaining permission from the source... but you're absolutely right... I can't do much about it. It's called the "world wide" web for a reason.

FuzzyDunlop said...

Hi Matt,

I appreciate you replying and I do find it interesting to learn about traditional Chinese tea philosophy.

However, I do think it is a little rich to belittle the scientific method as "truth" and claim that tradition, however longstanding, can be in some way equivalent. In western culture, we had, until barely more than a century ago, a very long and trusted tradition of bloodletting but its age does not in any way negate the fact that it has now been shown to be dangerous and in no way medically beneficial. Just as one should not automatically take an old man's word as truth, nor should traditional teachings be exempt from the rigours of modern testing.

I do not doubt for a second that Tiger Spring water can be used to brew an incredibly tasty cup or that it is particularly well suited to Long Jing. I merely don't see any evidence that the reason for that is in some way beyond the understanding of science.

In answer to your question "Why would a trustworthy tea company want to be associated with a quack?", there is, unfortunately, a very simple response: If they believe that it will increase sales - just as it may increase sales of certain teas if they are thought to be slimming or to reduce your risk of contracting cancer, or if a certain herbal is thought to alleviate insomnia. They are, after all, a business.

Matt said...

FuzzyDunlop,

Thanks also for commenting again to clarify.

One would also like to clarity,

Firstly, one is not belittling the scientific method but rather challenging those who claim that the scientific method is the one and only truth, to open their mind just a little bit. Often these people feel as though they can only believe something if proven by science and that which is not is quickly written off as "nonescence".

Your comment suggests that one believes that science and traditional beliefs are equivalent "truths". This is not what one has stated. Instead it should be noted how traditional beliefs compliment science and vice versa.

Secondly, it seems we actually share the belief that the interactions between tea and water isn't beyond the understanding of science.

But one can state that today, right now, it is beyond science (unless you can point us in the direction of some article we don't know about). This is not to at all belittle science but rather point out that there is still alot of science that must be done. A problem is that of complexity. Trying to understand all the interactions that take place between a certain water and a certain tea may involve thousands of interactions that which the current models of statistical analysis and methodology have a hard time dealing with.

"Why would a trustworthy tea company want to be associated with a quack?"

So you are saying that a very reputable bussiness would risk its reputation on a quack, if it hopes to sell product?

Think it comes down to the people,

If the majority of people believe the quack, then they will benifit and sell more product, and the company's reputation will be bolstered.

If the majority of people don't believe the quack, then they will loose possiable customers, and the company's reputation will suffer.

But if the business risks it all on the quack, and manage to bolster their reputation then either the people are stupid or the quack isn't really a quack.

Peace

A Student Of Tea said...

There is another aspect I would like to point to, which is more subjective, relating to the mind of the tea drinker.
I personally have the good fortune of being able to access a natural spring, just a small detour on my way home from work. I could drive as near as a few 100 m there, but I deliberately park the car at the edge of the forest, sometimes choosing an even longer route and making a half-hour hike of it.
The walking, collecting and carrying of the water (yes, 10-15 liters are heavy ...) make for a sense of connection with nature, and a deeper sense of enjoyment of the tea. This is what I really miss in tap water (which otherwise is quite good in my city).
Not everybody has this option, but I think even to simply put effort in searching out a good water source (or several ones)leads to a deeper inner connection which is part of true enjoyment.

Martin

Matt said...

Martin,

Beautiful. A wonderful addition to this post! It seems one is just far enough away from a mountain spring to have missed this important point.

You are very fortunate that the spring is not out of your way.

Peace

Ho Go said...

True enjoyment. Wow. Now we have gone from a comparison of tradition and science to a subjective conclusion. Or, perhaps, all points of view are subjective conclusions? Haha. I do like Martin's approach, though.

Strange that so much of traditional ways of thinking have not stood up to 'science'. Many studies have been done on things like ginseng, echinacea, etc. None have proven conclusive that they do anything to improve your health.

My mentor died at 89. He was never sick and refused to see a doctor for anything. He railed against both the traditions and science, calling them bogus systems of thought. He was disengaged from all of this. Nothing could dislodge him from this 'point of view'. He was like this for all 40 years that I knew him. His only advice to anyone was to stop trying to understand. Stop trying to 'know'. Not so easy to do! We are all invested in 'belief'.

This so called Way of Tea has a lot in common with spiritual seeking, and trying to change oneself. For myself, true enjoyment is the absence of seeking and any point of view, a sort of 'emptying', 'a letting go of', all accumulated knowledge and authority, an acceptance of the way things are. Belief has little place in this view.
Hope that wasn't too long winded.Sorry.

Ho Go said...

Matt,

I'm lost somewhere in downtown Bangkok carrying my bucket looking for some spring water. I've asked everyone I see but no one can tell me where that pure source is. :)

Matt said...

HoGo,

Thanks for your thoughts especially as they refer to "Not Knowing". In light of the complexity and vastness of knowledge about water and tea presented here, we should always keep this in our mind. Especially as we are actually involved in the act of preparing the tea with the water.

In the end the water you select for your tea is just that, your subjective view that it is the right water for the tea (at least with practicality and economic situation considered).

Some good advice if you find a spring in the middle of Bangkok, don't drink from it!

Hahahah...

Peace