Tag Archives: Tea Brewing

The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea -Rong-tsang Tsai

茶道里的无何有之乡 The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea

蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

(2003.12《茶艺》月刊社论The Editorial of “Tea Culture Monthly”)

Over the long course of history, the Way of Tea has incorporated ideas and teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, among others. Once incorporated, it is hard to distinguish where these ideas have particular influence upon. At the most, we can talk about some kind of reference or do a simple comparison, under a certain situation. At this juncture, I would like to illustrate how the idea of ‘Land of Nothingness’1., brought up by the sage Chuang Tzu when he soared to beyond the cloud for a glimpse of the Universe, exists in the microcosm of a teapot and a tea cup.

I came across the phrase ‘Land of Nothingness’ while I was copying the text of ‘Chuang Tzu’. I pondered upon this: where would this fit in the domain of the Way of Tea?

The ‘water shack’2. came to my mind, as it is where water for tea brewing is prepared. Having undergone special treatment to minimize minerals, impurities and odour, the water is ‘free’ from ‘interference’ to ‘express’ its unique characteristics. Such an environment for tea brewing may be described as the ‘Land of Nothingness’.

How about displaying the phrase ‘Land of Nothingness’ at the cupboard where teapots are displayed? Indeed, good teapots can be likened to the land of nothingness when the Way of Tea is concerned. By ‘good’ teapots, I mean pots that have no off-putting odour, and are free from both toxic and non-toxic impurities. For clay and ceramic teapots, they must have a high degree of sintering 3. for fast heat dissipation 4. and low water absorption 5.. This way, tea brewing is given the space to ‘freely express’ itself without ‘interference’. Isn’t this another ‘Land of Nothingness’ for a good brew?

As I passed by the Practice Area for Tea Brewing, I saw several fellow tea drinkers concentrating in their preparation for the tea brewing masters Accreditation Examination 6. and the practical examination of the Tea Art Seminar. Without disturbing them, I pasted the writing: ‘Land of Nothingness’ on the wall. One of them took a glance of the paper, pondered upon it, and then continued to sample 7. the tea he has brewed. True, practicing brewing is all about appreciating a good cup of tea, and to experience the Way of Tea. Whether it is to get ready for the Tea brewing masters accreditation, or to sit for the practical examination of Tea Art Seminar, the process sharpens one’s ability in navigating the amazing world of tea, and in enjoying the tranquility and enrichment embodied by the Way of Tea. Any interference from an intention to outdo others or excel in the business world will turn tea brewing practice into painstaking chore. I wish this reminder of ‘Land of Nothingness’ will dispel any unnecessary ‘interference’ in the practice area.

The great eagle traverses the boundless sky which is its ‘Land of Nothingness’. The ocean provides it with food, the mountain its habitat, and the rain and storm cleanse and maintain the ecological balance of its environment. To stay free and easy in the ‘Land of Nothingness’, the giant bird must not indulge in the ocean, become lost in the dense mountainous forest and be threatened by the gale and downpour.

以下为文内之编码Coding in the text:
1.‘Land of Nothingness’「无何有之乡」
2.‘water shack’「水屋」
3. degree of sintering 烧结程度
4. heat dissipation 散热
5. water absorption 吸水率
6. Tea brewing masters Accreditation Examination 泡茶师检定考试
7. sample试饮

Introduction:
The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express. Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce. We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking. This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea).

 

  (1536)

要喝“好茶”-20120220周一喝茶慢-许玉莲

要喝“好茶”

许玉莲

20120220周一喝茶慢

看到题目,一些人直接的反应就马上质疑:“为什么只叫人喝贵茶?”,人们以为要喝“好茶”就是要花费更多钱买“贵茶”才能解决问题,我们要说,“好茶”并不等于“贵茶”,陆羽《茶经》说茶“不按照适当的季节采摘,制造的时候不用心,掺杂其他的杂草,喝了会生病”,这就是好茶要避免的情况。什么叫好茶,什么叫劣茶,不是绝对与价格有关,以同一类茶来说,假设采摘的都是比较老的叶子,一般做出来的产品等级与价格都会相对低,但若果它是一个属于用心做而且做工好的茶,便是茶汤泡起来不够浓稠而已,喝起来是不会难受的,这时这个茶就是“便宜茶”里面的“好茶”。另一种,比如原料采得非常嫩来做的龙井,以及原料成熟度采得非常标准来做的铁观音,都可以成为品质很高的茶,但是假如不好好做,或生长地点和环境欠缺理想,这个茶可能卖相还是很好,卖得很贵,不过喝起来很难受,那么它就是“贵茶”中的“坏茶”。再一种,用同样高价格买到的两个“贵茶”,不一定就是同等级的“好茶”,比如以1000元可买到顶级好的红碎茶,以1000元买金骏眉可能就不如红碎茶的等级。

也有人根据个别喜爱说“武夷岩茶最好”,“普洱茶最好”,但好茶并不是指茶的种类,而是指每一种茶的好,比如两个同样的武夷山正岩茶,外观都很好,但其中一个没有好好地实施日光萎凋与室内萎凋,比如萎凋时水分消失得太慢,造成积水,成茶苦涩,这样的茶即使在市场上与另一个制工好的同价,也被视为劣茶。不管什么种类茶,要做到技术到位才叫好,要做完精制的稳质过程才叫做好。武夷岩茶也好,普洱茶也一样,无论采摘原料、做茶工艺或制茶环境等的品质问题,都会造成茶叶良莠不齐的后果。假使普洱茶后发酵的渥堆技术不到位,效果差,出来的茶汤滋味不够纯正,便不可以视之为好茶。

为什么我们要喝“好茶”,因为“坏茶”喝进身体会叫人感觉不舒服诸如头晕、头疼、反胃、寒凉、晚上睡不着,陆羽《茶经》说:“茶的品质不好,对人体的害处,就如人参一样。知道品质不好的人参耽误病情的坏处,那么一样的道理,劣茶的坏处也就清楚了”。故此,喝“好茶”是爱茶人的责任,那是对自己身体负责,喝茶爱茶并不是好坏不拘,是种类不拘,就比如食物,不养成偏食习惯,什么都要吃一点,但是坏食物不要吃。制茶人的责任就是要做“好茶”,不可以做“坏茶”,要把茶做到位,而不是把茶做得漂漂亮亮就可以。

 

 

 

  (1555)

On the Style of Tea Presentation Setting-Rong-tsang Tsai

茶席1风格的表现 On the Style of Tea Presentation Setting 1

蔡荣章-Rong-tsang Tsai

(2001.01《茶艺》月刊社论Published in “Tea Art”monthly magazine)

Is Chinese costume and Chinese music indispensable in a tea brewing demonstration? Is Chinese interior décor the norm for dressing up tea houses? These are some of the most frequently asked questions during our lectures on the Way of Tea. If modern tea culture is what we are promoting, then there is no standardization pertaining to the modern Chinese style. It is, instead, our wish to introduce the Way of Tea to the world. For this matter, geographic and ethnic flavours are not prerequisites. As such, we accept a modern approach to promoting the Way of Tea.

A fellow tea drinker 2 once raised the issue about tea presentation setting when we were planning a tea art exhibition: Are we to follow traditional Chinese style? Or do we have the freedom to use a modern way of presenting? What he meant by ‘traditional Chinese style’ would probably include typical Chinese interior décor and furniture, together with flower arrangement 3, burning of incense 4 and hanging scrolls 5, among others. Our answer to this is, it is not necessary. There is nothing to stop us from using a modern, even surreal, approach. The combination of the four arts of living7– namely flower arrangement, painting hanging, incense burning and tea brewing6 – are not something down in the rule book. Chinese costume, be it for the tea servers or team members of the organizer, is not compulsory. The most important point is, the tea presentation setting must have a self-fulfilled style, and attain a high level of artistic accomplishment. Of course, one has to fully understand the characteristics of the tea leaves to be presented. Tea is the protagonist in this and it will not be right if we just show off our skill in dressing up the space without paying attention to the tea. For that matter, costume and demeanor will have to be in harmony with the presentation.

There is no fixed rule about pairing –Chinese décor does not necessary call for Chinese paintings and calligraphy, or Chinese-style flower arrangement. The aim is to successfully create the style and reach the artistic level desired. Mixing and matching of styles that transcends temporal boundaries and geographic divides is acceptable, so long as it is done is an appropriate manner. However, from the artistic, cultural and historical points of view, we would like more than a combination of existing (including old and new) objects and style, and encourage brand new design and creation. Although the setting is supposed to be a unique combination, which in itself is a form of creation, it does not ‘add to our historical and cultural values’ the way a new design does.

By the same token, there is no restriction as to the method of brewing. As in a drama production, the perfect match of the stage setting, cast and script is the formula to success. Brewing a good pot 8 is the basic principle – we cannot simply put ambience on top of everything else, or leave everything to whims and fancies. As far as the space is concerned, the design must have a theme to hold everything together. What tea aficionados 9 are after is something beautiful and artistically-appreciated.

以下为文內之编码Coding in the text:

茶席1  Tea Presentation Setting 1

茶友2 tea drinker 2

插花3 flower arrangement 3

焚香4 burning of incense 4

挂画5 hanging scrolls 5

点茶6 tea brewing6

四艺7 four arts of living7

「把茶泡好」8 Brewing a good pot 8

茶者9 tea aficionados 9

Introduction:

The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express.  Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce.   We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking.  This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea).

 

  (1528)

草庵式茶席的意义-20111116周三小方块-蔡荣章

草庵式茶席的意义

蔡荣章

20111116周三小方块 WEDNESDAY TEA CORNER

草庵式茶席是指简朴的茶道运行场所,不一定是茅草屋,而且这个茶席是作广义的解释,包括了简单的泡茶席以及含泡茶席在内的茶屋,这个茶屋可能还包含了茶庭。

为什么在草庵式茶席进行茶事活动会受到那么重视? 可能是茶天生带有的苦涩味与收敛性显现出适宜简朴的环境,可能是爱茶人受茶汤的启发而找出了一个与茶性相搭配的茶事场所,也可能与茶为伍的爱茶人其潜意识里就喜欢简朴的空寂环境。

简朴是好的,它不浪费你太多时间在装扮的部分,也可以藉空寂的环境帮自己潜沉下来。有些人在设计茶席时花太多的精力与财力在美化与出奇制胜上面,结果转移了茶席主人与茶会客人对茶道主题的注意力,这是舍本逐末的做法。即使生活的环境亦如此,住家是让自己休息、增补的地方,如果建设得太复杂,得花许多时间照料,如果装扮得太华丽,长时间待在里面也容易疲劳。对财富、名誉亦是如此,简朴才不致疲于奔命。

简朴与粗陋不同,简朴是精致的,即使看来随意仍然用心到位,即使家財万貫,才高八斗仍然平铺直叙。这样的简朴不太容易直接切入,经常必得从繁复处绕个弯才会到达。谈到哪位大茶人的茶屋是草庵式,哪位大事业家在山里盖了一间草寮居住,很多人会不以为有何了不起,他会说: 我从小就住那样的房子,以此论功力,我不输给他们。

草庵式不应该只是建筑型态的一种称呼,而还要是思想、行为上的一种习惯。只是为了让自己拥有简朴、空寂的形象,而花大把钱建构这样的茶席是没有意义的。从有入无易,从无入无难。 (1471)

The Three Concepts of Tea Brewing-Rong-tsang Tsai

泡茶三观念The Three Concepts of Tea Brewing

蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

(2005.10刊于《说茶》,北京燕山出版社,Published in“About Tea” ISBN 7-5402-1663-8 )

A perpetual argument on tea brewing will be: is there a standard pertaining to the ‘condition’ of an infusion in relation to how it is being brewed?Will each brewing give infusion of different conditions? Could brewing techniques change the original quality of a certain tea? And the list goes on.  Besides, it is essential to define the ‘strength’ 1  of tea infusion 2, the proper attitude towards ‘brewing a good pot’ 3, and the difference between ‘savouring’ 4  and ‘appraising’ 5  tea.

1.  Are there standards regarding the ‘strength’ and ‘quality’ of the tea infusion?

The term ‘strength’ is general.   It refers to the ‘impact’ 6  of tea infusion in our mouth, regardless of its taste and quality. It should not be defined as the sum total of water-soluble substances 7 , for the fact that some of the components are more powerful and readily sensed – this is to say, the sum of water-soluble substances of a certain tea may not be as much as another; and yet, their impact could be the same. Meanwhile, strength is not the same as ‘stimulation’ 8 , as some teas impress with their pronounced bitterness and astringency 9 , while others capture our attention with their texture 10  or aromatic intensity 11 . As such, we will only define the ‘strength’ based on the ‘impact’ an infusion has in our mouth.  We will stay with this for the convenience of discussion on issues relating to different rounds of brewing.

Quality refers to the judgement of a tea as being good or bad – a judgement made on a calm, objective and scientific stance. Besides good components, quality also implies the right combination that gives rise to a taste well-received by most people and approved by experts. It is impossible to achieve consistent quality for each brewing – we can, however, achieve more or less the same strength by way of brewing techniques.

Given the same ‘batch’ of tea leaves, is there any standard pertaining to the tea infusion concerned? Will people have very different views as to the taste of the infusion from the same ‘batch’ of tea leaves?  Even if there is difference, it could only be relative.  How do we prove this?If we use the same ‘batch’ of tea leaves to brew tea of different strength with water of varying temperature, and offered these brews to a considerable sample of people, their preference would fall within a certain range.  If this sample of people has substantial knowledge of tea, the one or few cups with the highest preference represent what we call the standard.  There may not be only one single preference, but the preferences are always within a certain range. We do not rule out individual preferences; but we must attain the standard first before we try catering to unique personal taste.

Some people may say, the quality of tea is determined by the tea leaves; tea brewing can do very little to alter its intrinsic quality. This may be true with ‘tea products’ 12 , but not with tea brewing. Take for instance ‘premium tea’ 13  brewed during a competition – it may be utterly undrinkable.  Again, some may point out that given the same method of brewing, we will be able to distinguish between the good and bad among different cups of tea. This is true in the sense that tea appraisers could make still out the good from the bad with ultra strong infusion. And yet, what we are concerned here is not tea appraisal, but tea brewing.

The absence of standard pertaining to the strength and quality of tea infusion will imply that any way of brewing will do!

2.  Should we go for consistent strength for each brewing?

As we mentioned in the last section, standard strength refers to the best condition of the tea infusion for each brewing. The best condition is reflected by the preference of the majority of tea drinkers, and this can be simply expressed by the standard strength; as such, we should try maintaining the same consistency in between rounds of brewing.  Quality will diminish with each brewing, until the time we discard the brewed tea leaves and replace them with fresh ones.

Some may think that consistency is not essential, as infusion of different strength and style highlight various appeal of a certain tea. This may seem reasonable; but then again, is this not advocating ‘freehand’ brewing, that is, the lack of any standard practice? You may raise objection and say, should there not be more than one type of ‘strength’ or ‘style’ people prefer? This is correct, insofar as it falls within what we describe as the ‘standard strength’ – surely, it should not be a case of ‘to each his own liking’ or ‘being different for difference’s sake’.

The ‘pursuit of the best’ (not necessarily only one) is what we have been advocating and working towards. Life is multi-faceted; but it does not mean that we have to experience and realize each and every aspect. The same goes with tea brewing. What we should avoid is brewing a pot that is too strong, too weak or too bitter.  What we aspire to is brewing a good pot/cup in an effortless manner.

3.  What exactly does it mean by brewing a good pot?

It means that each brewing gives infusion that is of the best condition of the tea leaves at the time. In terms of quality, the fourth brewing will be inferior to the first or the second brewing; and yet, we should aim at the best condition at the time.

Often, we say that a skilful brewer could make tea worth more than its monetary value. For instance, using tea leaves of $ 100/catty, he will produce infusion that appears to be made with tea leaves of $ 150/catty.  By the same token, a poor brewer will not do justice to premium tea. Even if he makes tea with tea leaves of $ 200/catty, the infusion may be inferior to that made with tea leaves of $ 50/catty.  This goes to illustrate how important the brewing technique is, not that it can change the quality of tea leaves. Given the same technique, a person can brew a good pot/cup out of tea leaves worth of $ 50/catty or $ 100/catty; and yet, the infusion of the latter should be superior to the former.

The essence of brewing well is to brew the best possible tea with existing conditions, even if it is the fifth brewing, or with tea leaves that are distinctly bitter and astringent. Brewing well is also the foundation to the Way of Tea. We would not be able to appreciate the more subtle side of things, such as the artistic and spiritual aspects, if we fail to brew a good pot. It is with incessant practice that a tea aficionados could explore on a higher level and achieve more extensive realization in order to open up new fronts in pursuing the Way of Tea.

以下为文內之编码Coding in the text:

浓度1 strength 1

茶汤2 tea infusion 2

「泡好」茶3 brewing a good pot 3

品茗4 savouring tea 4

评茶5 appraising tea 5

打击6 ‘impact’ 6

水可溶物7 water-soluble substances 7

刺激性8 ‘stimulation’ 8

苦涩味9 bitterness and astringency 9

稠度10 texture 10

气味11 aromatic intensity 11

茶制品12 tea products 12

特等茶13 premium tea 13

 

Introduction:

The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express.  Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce.   We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking.  This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea).

 

  (1610)

The Way of Tea and Abstract Art-Rong-tsang Tsai

茶道与抽象艺术The Way of Tea and Abstract Art

蔡荣章-Rong-tsang Tsai

2002.07《茶艺》月刊社论Published in “Tea Art”monthly magazine

We are no strangers to familiar sights and sounds around us; but when it comes to sights and sounds we are not familiar with, or are unsure of, we’ll be at a lost.  With the Way of Tea 1, there are more of the ‘unfamiliar’ than the ‘familiar’ if what we encounter in our daily lives is a guide.  It could be easier for us to appreciate the Way of Tea if we have some knowledge of Abstract Art.

The Way of Tea is a cultural behavior externalized by the act of tea brewing and drinking.  This is not to say that tea brewing and drinking is not figurative enough; through tea brewing and drinking, aficionados express abstract concepts. However, both the ‘senders’ and ‘recipients’ of the conceptual messages must have an understanding of the abstract.

It is not enough to only appreciate what is figurative as in representational art, such as a person, a tiger, a street, a church, a musical piece based upon birds chirping, or a familiar folk song. When a canvas shows nothing but lines and planes of colour, or a sculpture that looks like nothing we know of, or a musical rendition of simply sounds, that is abstract.  And if these images and sounds reflect exactly what their creators want to express in terms of the aesthetics and concepts, they are what we call the ‘Abstract Art’.

Understanding and application of the abstract in art must be taught.  Many a time, during school outings, teachers will direct students’ attention to the ‘Lion Head Hill’ (because it looks like a crouching lion), or the mountain ridge that resembles a Buddha lying down with the face of the ‘Goddess of Mercy’.  Rocky outcrops not readily recognizable in terms of physical likeness are simply ignored.  Musical appreciation is approached in a similar manner – we are encouraged to find out if the music sounds like children crying, or festivities and celebrations. With such training, people will consider a painting or a piece of music incomprehensible because they see or hear nothing familiar in it.  This springs from a lack of understanding towards the ‘abstract’.  If we are aware of the impact of the abstract on art, thoughts and the aesthetics, we will understand how much we have lost by not being able to appreciate the abstract – without us know, we are turning our life of vibrant colours into something monochromatic.

This brings us back to tea, where exposure to abstract concepts, paintings, sculptures and pure music, among others, is a pre-requisite. Only by liberating ourselves from what is recognizable can we fully appreciate the colour, aroma, flavor, appearance and style of tea – and this will also make it possible for us to master the spirit of ‘modesty and self-restraint 2’, ‘purity and harmony 3’ and ‘emptiness and solitude 4’.  When the need arises, we will be able to externalize the ideas by way of tea brewing 5 and tea gatherings 6.

以下为文內之编码Coding in the text:

茶道1 the Way of Tea 1

精俭2 modesty and self-restraint 2

清和3 purity and harmony 3

空寂4 emptiness and solitude 4

泡茶5 tea brewing 5

茶会6 tea gatherings 6.

Introduction:

The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express.  Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce.   We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking.  This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea). (1652)