Saturday, August 20, 2011
Harmonizing Water and Tea: Part 10- Pouring Method
The method and technique of pouring water into the teapot is an important factor in harmonizing water and tea. The instance when water finally embraces dry leaves is one of the junctures in preparing tea where the elements converge- a very important moment in the energetic and chemical reaction of making tea. Most often attention is payed to water temperature and steeping time and occasionally how the steeping vessel (teapot) impacts the final cup of tea. However, very little attention is payed to the pouring method and technique- the focus of today's discussion. Even though pouring method and technique are not given the attention they deserve by most people preparing tea, they are rarely overlooked by keen teamasters. The pour can make the difference between a great cup of tea and an extrordinary cup of tea.
The first thing that should be considered are the mechanics of the pour that are dictated by the boiling vessel. Water is either poured directly from the boiling vessel into the teapot (or other steeping vessel) or scooped from the boiling vessel by a ladle then poured into the teapot. Both of these create subtle differences that should be considered when preparing tea.
Water that is poured directly from the spout of the kettle or tetsubin retains more of the unadulterated essence of the boiling vessel because it doesn't come in contact with anything but air between the kettle and teapot. As a result less heat is lost with this method. Pouring water directly from a kettle or tetsubin is best used for teas requiring high temperatures such as aged puerh, black tea, and red tea.
The purity of a silver pot is also retained by pouring it directly from the spout- which is especially good for lighter, more subtle teas such as early pick green tea, white tea, and green oolong. This method of pouring retains the pure essence of the water to ensure that these pure, soft tastes can be realized.
Using a ladle to scoop water from the boiling vessel and pour it into the teapot is a method that is occasionally found in Japan and Korea. Both of these nations use a different kind of ladle which subtlety impacts the water used for tea.
In Japan a ladle is made of bamboo called a hishaku is used. Water comes in contact with the bamboo and so the taste, feel, and qi of the water is influenced. A bamboo ladle harmonizes best with matcha and green teas. Booth green tea and bamboo have similar energetic properties- they are cold thermal nature, they are of the wood element, they are green in colour, they both help harmonize the body to spring season, they act to calm the mind, ect. So the use of a bamboo ladle to scoop water from a boiling vessel is said to enhance the energetic properties of green tea. It is no coincidence that this pouring technique is done in Japan where they almost exclusively drink green tea.
In Korea a gourd ladle called a pyo choo bak is used. Water comes in contact with the gourd and so the taste, feel, and qi of the water is influenced. A gourd ladle harmonizes best with later picked green teas and especially balhyocha (Korean yellow tea). Both balhyocha and pumpkin (gourds) share similar energetic properties- they are neutral thermal nature, they are of the earth element, they are yellow in colour, they both help harmonize the body to late fall and to changes of the season, they act to center the body and mind and are good for digestion, ect. So the use of a gourd ladle to scoop water from a boiling vessel is said to enhance the energetic properties of balhyocha. It is no wonder that these scoops are used in Korea where balhyocha is produced.