Friday, December 17, 2010

Section 7. About Using Old Leaves Or Young Buds When Brewing Tea

"However, when making tea nowadays, people do not use the stone mortar and the sieve but simply use entire tea leaves left intact, so the tea making must be extremely well done to produce the essence of the 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.



Matt said...


Gingko brought up how different the two translations of Section 7 are in the Section 6 comments. One wanted to discuss it here.

"This chapter leads to very different interpretations between this book and Aaron Fisher's translation! I am with Aaron Fisher on the interpretation of this chapter. I think this part of the book can also be taken as very good explanation why there should be a difference between most Japanese green tea and most Chinese green tea in brewing temperature.
Except for this discrepancy, I've been enjoying reading both this book and Aaron Fisher's translation. Both have very beautiful language!"

The Leaf's translation focuses on water temperature/boil whereas the Korean Tea Classics version focuses on leaf size/ maturity. The Leaf's version seems to make more sense in the surrounding context.

Don't we still use young buds to make loose leaf tea?- yes Didn't they use older leaves to make cake tea?- yes

So maybe the Korean Tea Classics version is simply speaking to the general optimal leaf characteristics for each type of tea.


Anonymous said...


Part one of two.

Zhang Yüan (active 16th century), the original author of the Ming Chalu 茶錄 (the Korean ChaSinJeon 茶神傳), named his book after an older work of the same title, Chalu 茶錄, a treatise written by the Northern Song dynasty calligrapher and poet Cai Xiang (1012-1067). Zhang referred to Cai Xiang when he wrote the section “Using ‘Old’ or ‘Tender’ Boiled Water,” noting that tea was made in the Song period with ‘tender’ or ‘young’ water, that is to say, water that was heated to beyond the boiling point but not excessively boiled.

The following is Cai Xiang’s section on heating water which explained the effects of immature and excessively boiled water on powdered tea.



Record of Tea
by Cai Xiang

Tending the Boiling of Water

“Tending the boiling of water is the most difficult skill. If the water is immature, then the tea powder floats. If the water is excessively boiled, then the tea powder sinks. In former times, bubbles the size of crabs’ eyes indicated excessively boiled water. It is not possible to distinguish the different stages of boiling water in a bottle-kettle. Therefore, tending the boiling of water is said to be the most difficult.”

Commentary: Tea in the Northern Sung dynasty (960-1125) was prepared differently from tea in the Tang dynasty (618-906). In the Tang of the eighth century, water was heated in an open cauldron, the surface of which was broad and easy to observe the different stages of the boil. At a determined point of the boil, a measure of powdered tea was poured into the water, erupting into a roiling surge of foam floating atop brewed tea. In the Song, water was heated in a lidded bottle-kettle, the closed lid of which did not allow observation of the different stages of the boil. Boiled water was poured from the bottle-kettle into a bowl and over a measure of powdered tea. When skillfully executed, the water and tea mixed into a frothy, milky brew. However, the use of immature water was not hot enough to mix with the tea, and excessively boiled water made the powdered tea form as a sediment at the bottom of the bowl.


Anonymous said...


Part two of two.

The following is my translation of the section on using heated water in the Ming Chalu.



Zhang Yüan

Using “Old” or “Tender” Boiled Water

“Cai Junmo used ‘tender’ not ‘old’ boiled water. Because the ancients processed tea with a pestle and mortar, ground and sifted it until the tea was ‘floating dust’ and ‘flying powder.’ Then the tea was mixed and molded into dragon and phoenix rounds. When brewed, the essence of the tea was seen to float. This method used ‘tender’ water, never ‘old’ water. Nowadays, there is not the leisure time to sift and grind; tea is left wholly in its original form. The water for this tea must be truly mature. Only then will the tea’s essence develop. Thus, it is said that tea requires the ‘five boilings’ for the leaf to reveal the ‘three mysteries.’”

Commentary: “Tender” water meant lightly boiled water. “Old” water meant excessively boiled water. Dragon and phoenix rounds were cake teas impressed with imperial figures. The essence of tea or tea “spirit” meant the foam or froth that floated on the brewed tea. “Five boilings” meant the heating of water from a simmer to a churning boil. The “three mysteries” or “wonders” are color, fragrance, and flavor.


Matt said...


Thanks a bunch for clarifying and for the translations of Record of Tea and the original section in Chalu. Never heard the historical distinctions between Tang and Northern Sung tea making styles laid out so clearly before. Much appreciated.

Wonder why then does the translation in Korean Tea Classics focus so much on the leaf instead of the water when clearly it is the water that is the main focus of the section?


Anonymous said...


In Korea, Section 7 has long been interpreted as being about tea leaves as opposed to being about water. Korean Tea Classics adhered to that interpretation as did Yoo Yang-Seok, author of The Book of Korean Tea (Seoul: The Myung Won Cultural Foundation, 2007), p. 121.

In China, Section 7 was interpreted as dealing with water rather than tea. During the Ming dynasty, the painter and connoisseur Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521-1593) wrote the Jiancha qilei 煎茶七類 (Seven Aspects of Brewing Tea) identifying the brewing methods for powdered tea and leaf tea as well as the differences in the heated water used. The tea critic and connoisseur Xu Cishu 許次紓 (1549-1604) echoed the Song proscription of excessively boiled water in his Chashu 茶疏 (Commentary on Tea).

In Asian scholarship, interpretation is at times more dependent on schools, lineages, and affiliations. Once an interpretation is given, it is often very difficult to break ranks with the establishment and propose an alternative.


Matt said...


One assumed that was the reason, but looking at the work as a whole it sticks out a bit. The pace is somewhat broken by a discussion on tea leaves here.

In general Chinese tea culture places more emphasis on water than in Korea. This is partly because you can go anywhere in Korea and you will enviably be near a mountain with a clean, pure water source- this is not always the case in China. So perhaps this is a cultural reason.

"Once an interpretation is given, it is often very difficult to break ranks with the establishment and propose an alternative."

Not here at MattCha's Blog! hahaha...


Anonymous said...


Your comments about the difference between the Chinese and Korean interpretations of Section 7 being cultural ring true. In China sweet water was highly prized, and the Chinese devoted themselves to identifying places with the best water. In a land with very fine water that was readily available, I wonder if there was a similar tradition in Korea.

As for the occupation of Korea with tea, I imagine that, like the Japanese, they were just so thankful that the plant would grow beyond China. Looking at a map, the tea regions of Korea and Japan are well south of Laoshan 嶗山 (Mount Lao), Qingtao, Shantong, the northern most limit of Chinese tea production.

To go a step further on the question of culture, cultural patterns - art, literature, language, philosophy, etc. - are so different, so foreign that they obscure or obstruct and sometimes lead to misinterpretations.


Gingko said...

Steve, thanks for the nice translation!

Just realized that in the book Korean Tea Classics, in the Chinese version, the sentence about tea made into "dragon and phoenix rounds" is missing. But this sentence is indeed included in the English version of the book. So I guess it was a printing error.

Yeah, in Asian traditions, people of higher academic/social status held stronger "right of the words". Sometimes it could be hard for newer/younger/inferior ones to talk, let alone challenge :-p On the other hand, such hierarchic tradition also adds some charm to traditional education. I used to feel totally fed up with traditional Asian way of education. But after reading the book Zen in the Art of Archery, I feel the book gives perfect interpretation of traditional education/academia, and I've realized that I do appreciate certain aspects of it.

As for water temperature, I often feel half of the questions like "why this green/white/yellow tea seems tasteless to me?" can be answered with "hotter water" :-p

Will be out for a few weeks on a road trip... no elegant tea for me... but I think I will try to pack up some puerh as a beverage for tough guys :-D Have a nice holiday everyone!

Anonymous said...


Yes, you are right. The Chinese text of Section 7 of the Korean Tea Classics is missing the line about dragon and phoenix rounds.

It is usually well worth looking up several versions of the original Chinese to make emendations to the text to be translated.

In the case of the original Chalu by Zhang Yuan, there was no variation in Section 6: Boiling Water for 純熟, "perfectly ready." In the Korean versions, i.e., the ChaSinJeon, 純熟, "perfectly ready" is amended by 結熟, "completely ready" and 經熟, "truly ready." So it seems that the Venerable Cho-ui added 結熟 and 經熟 to what was originally only 純熟.

In terms of the transmission of texts, these variations are quite interesting and speak to the personalities of the tea masters who pass them along.


Anonymous said...

Just wondering: has anyone tested here to grind his leaves and to brew them?
It would be like very highly compressed tuo cha that almost leads to dust when trying to pick something. Yet, it is very good.

Maybe it is worth a try to see how good (or bad) it is with white, green, etc. teas.
A more bitter taste I believe.

(Let's make Lipton's tea powder!)

“fragrant additives” -> do we know what they are, and how they added them? Amongst the tea leaves? (At which stage? Removed before the storage?) Directly in the liquor to drink?

How is the stamp with dragon and phoenix patterns done? Is it a mark in relief on the compressed tea, like what we can see nowadays? Or a paper rolling up the tea?

Anonymous said...

Also, with the meaning of “tender”/“old” water, is a water that has been boiled twice considered as “old” and should not be used?

I mean: if I want to brew green teas, I use water at a lower temperature. In order to have the best energetic water, should it be boiled and then allowed to cool down at the desired temperature (and afterwards re-heated for subsequent infusions? -- but not necessarily re-boiled) or should a blend of temperature be done (1/3 of cool water + 2/3 boiled water -- but I assume qi decreases owing to the water that has not been boiled)?

What's the best way to keep the energy of the water during a whole session of tea?

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Check out the links in this post for some fellow bloggers that have tried to make tea "Tang style" with Korean Ddok cha, perhaps the closest thing to the this type of tea nowadays:

One understands the "fragrant additives" to be floral additives and the stamp with dragon and phoenix patterns may include both the relief work we see nowadays and/or stamping of the wrapper.

"What's the best way to keep the energy of the water during a whole session of tea?"

This really depends on what method you use to boil the water. You can boil water more than twice (or even leave it on boil) but to retain the qi of the water you should always be adding fresh water to the kettle.

As far as using cooler water such as that used for green tea... The tea masters of Korea always boil the water first until an optimal state of boiling is reached (the state of boiling described here in section 6), then they pour the water into a cooling bowl and allow it to cool until the appropriate temperature is achieved.


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks a lot for your answer. (And also for all the replies you made. Be sure I carefully read them and am happy with them. I just did not want to pollute a dozen of comments with “thanks”.)

Interesting links to ddok cha.

to retain the qi of the water you should always be adding fresh water to the kettle

Oh, that's a nice point. Thanks for sharing it.

I now understand better the role played by a samashi; I just heated my water to 60-70 °C whereas I should boil it and make it cool within a samashi (or two). I will try that.

Happy new year to you and all your readers.

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

The role of the cooling bowl is just that. If we were to just heat the water to 60-70 degrees C, the qi of the water will remain feeble and weak so we use the cooling bowl.

Glad you enjoy the responses to your questions. Thanks for your enthusiastic participation in this book club and Happy New Year to you.


Rebekah said...

Great reading! Fred Yoo's translation also has "So the saying is, 'It takes five brewings of water....'" Now we see why.

So much together -- differences in texts and translations and why, learning some of the history, relating the text to our own brewing techniques, wondering if Cho-ui added poetic variation in other parts of the work, and if the Chalu's "Nowadays there is not the leisure time" reflects regret about hasty modern life.

"How to Boil Water, Lesson 18" I learned the hard way, at a friend's house with a kettle much like mine not *not quite the same,* and, cautious about boiling the oxygen out of water, I haven't worked with descending temperatures, which I'll try.

Thanks, everyone.

Matt said...


"Nowadays there is not the leisure time".

One also wondered if the people of every age feel as if they are too busy to do what the previous generations could. Is this a feeling that simply replays throughout history or is there some historical circumstance that would lead to this evaluation?

Something to ponder when slowing down to drink tea.