Friday, November 19, 2010

Section 3.Discerning the Quality of Tea

"The quality of a tea depends on the care taken in making it, on proper storage, and on correctly brewing it."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korean 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.



Rebekah said...

There is probably no humor intended in this chapter, but I can't help laughing, imagining a poor tea maker all alone in the world, reading the classics, working on technique...He (maybe she, when no one is looking) reads this chapter shaking his/her head sadly after every line. "I know, I know, I know. Yes, yes, that too. Yes, I know, I know...."

To excellence, and to ongoing endeavor, R.

Matt said...


Notes on Section 3:

A note on some of the energetic symbolism in this section.

"pure or turbid depends on the firing" This is referring not only to the purity of taste and smell but especially to pure qi vs. turbid qi.

"If the fire is at the right temperature, the fragrance will be pure; if the pan is cold, the essence of tea is exhausted." This line is speaking of the taste and smell of the tea also its qi. Fire is yang and yang is movement. Tea with fragrance has more yang nature and therefore has good qi. Fragrance is an indication of qi. Cold is depleting in nature- it depletes qi, warmth, movement.

"overdone the leaves turn an offensive yellow color; raw the leaves turn black" The colours used hear may or may not describe the objective "colour" of the leaves but may be speaking to the energetics of colour.

Green is the essential colour of tea. Tea rises from the East and is of the element Wood.

If tea is overdone it is yellow. Yellow is the colour of Earth, it is neutral in nature, it neither rises nor descends. If tea is overprocessed it will lack the essence of wood, the energetics of green. It will fail to raise, its yang energy will be depleted. Instead it will be neutral.

If tea is raw it is black. Black is the colour of Water, it is yin in nature, its energy is lowly, deep, and heavy. If tea is underprocesed it will also lack the essence of wood, the energetics of green. It will be too full of moisture (water, yin) and not properly dry.

"If it is made according to the rules, the tea will be sweet, if the rules are broken, the tea will be excessively tart." In the energetics of flavour sweet tastes are uplifting and strengthening while tart tastes are restricting and restraining. If the essence of tea is to be captured then the taste should have a measure of sweetness.


Matt said...


Hahaha... yeah Cha Sin Jeon is a very practical guide to tea, that's for sure. It is easy to picture someone hard at work going through this book like a checklist, step by step... then everything somehow goes wrong! The poor rookie tea maker, sarcastically comments, "easier said than done". Hahhaha...


Anonymous said...

Rebekah, I like your comment. Practicing is indeed the most important part here. As well as understanding, being connected and in harmony with his/her leaves. The tea maker should love his/her leaves.

We, as final users, also sometimes/often fail in correct brewing…

Making quality tea requires extreme concentration and great discipline. Maybe it is a very ungrateful task (we do not often think about they who selected and carefully dried our leaves…).

If the tea maker is not concentrated, it will affect the leaves. His anger will probably add something unpleasant or unbalanced to the leaves.

How to make the best tea? Experience and intuition.