Thursday, December 31, 2009
When tea is served in a tiny Chinese tea cup, the size of the tea cup and the amount of tea might make you feel it is barely enough for a mouthful, to be drunk in one gulp. Please don't do that.
The processing of tea is an art, the preparation of tea is an art, and drinking tea is as well. If you don't believe me, please just try the method I am going to introduce; you will find tea is much more delicious and beautiful.
When a small cup of tea is served, first admire the color of the liquor. Not only is the color a visual pleasure, but from the appearance of the liquor you can have a general idea of the amount of oxidization and the quality of the tea - all without ever having seen the tea leaves.
Second, enjoy the aroma of the liquor. The lovely fragrance fills the room to create an atmosphere connecting both the inner world of the human heart and the outer world of nature. The fresh scent of tea is filled with natural beauty, with smells of mountaintops, forests, flower gardens or the feeling just after the rain. Moreover, this is another way to recognize the variety and quality of tea.
Finally, taste the tea. Sip a little from your small cup. Take three times to finish the whole cup. Oh, one more moment please - while tasting, hold the liquor in your mouth and turn your tongue while inhaling to appreciate the full flavor of the tea. Finally, slowly swallow the tea. "Three" might be a magic number but coincidentally the Chinese character for "taste" is "品," a combination of three "口" mouths.
When and where should we drink such wonderful tea?
You should drink it when you have the time to fully appreciate it, not when you are busy or in a rush.
You should drink it when you are in a pleasant quiet room, in a little backyard shaded with apple or plum trees, in the shelter of a cool pavilion surrounded by lotus flowers, in a forest or among high and straight bamboos, in a little boat floating on a peaceful lake. It is better to avoid a public place with many children playing and crying, or chaotic and crowded situations in general because loud voices will strip tea drinking of its elegant charm and vitality.
That's why tea culture has long been associated with Qin (called guqin - the oldest instrument in China, and one of the oldest in the world), Qi (a Chinese strategy game called go in English), Shu (calligraphy), and Hua (painting). The peaceful and relaxing atmosphere is suitable for listening to refined music and inspires people to deepen their wisdom, improve their self-cultivation and create a spiritual state. In Chinese tradition, tea has long been the best accompaniment for poetry, especially group composition of linked couplets.
Again, savoring a tea is like savoring wine, or even life. We don't drink wine the way we drink water. We enjoy every sip slowly. We normally prefer to appreciate a fine wine with the right people in the right place with the right mood. We experience the pure taste of wine instead of adding milk or sweeteners.
Well, the same is true for tea.
If you feel you need to add something to your tea because the quality of the tea is not good enough, you are simply adding another flavor to cover the unpleasant taste of the tea.
For the Chinese people, their neighbors (Koreans, Japanese & Vietnamese) and others who developed a taste for tea, it is far more than just a drink. The taste and spirit of tea are deeply engraved in the national character of the Chinese people.
Let's sip a little culture, literature and beauty together!
- Cha Qu (茶趣)
- Seattle, WA, United States
- I grew up with tea, and it continues to fill my life with so much beauty and discovery, pleasure, peace and friends. It is always leading me toward a greater understanding of culture, nature, myself and others. It is my hope to use this space to share the joy of tea and tea culture with you.