Wednesday, February 19, 2014

‘Cha Dao’ (茶道) - Tea Appreciation

Tea appreciation is more than just tasting the tea.
It is an experience of the entire process.
In Cha Dao (茶道), there are 4 commonly described experiences.
They are 

i. 3 Observations 三看
- dry leaves, liquor and wet leaves

a. Dry leaves
- deals with the aesthetic of the leaves - the way it looks
- the idea is not to judge the book by its cover 
- sometimes the best looking leaves do not yield the best tasting tea
- the holistic approach is the ideal when looking at dry leaves - wait until you experience it in its entirety

b. Liquor
- the tea liquid must not be dull and cloudy
- the tea liquor should and has the ability to prepare the drinkers state of mind
- the appearance of the the tea must be clear, shiny and has the ability to let light through
- the Chinese describe the ideal liquor for green tea to be soothing, lightly oxidized oolongs to be elegant, whites tea as pure, heavily oxidized oolongs as aristocratic and dark teas as calming

c. Wet leaves
- will reveal the character of the tea
- are they tender, shoots with 1 bud or 1 bud 2 leaves
- does it have a fresh color
- it will reveal the level of oxidization through the patches of black or red
- the wet leaves will reveal the brew

ii. 3 Fragrances 三闻
- dry fragrance, hot fragrance and cold fragrance

a. Dry fragrance
- this is experienced at the initial stage of the steeping process
- here we examine the actual leave - whole, pieces, curled, twisted
- the scent of the dry leaves will reveal the freshness, musty or stale
- was it over oxidized - burnt
- more often than not this stage will indicate to the drinker as the whether this tea will go through the steeping stage 
- also the dry leave stage will also be the stage for saleability

b. Hot fragrance
- this is the initial fragrance of the tea upon contact with hot water
- the scent of the tea will be most apparent at this stage
- the scent will reveal if the tea is floral, spicy, fruity

c. Cold fragrance
- there will be lingering scents after the tea is cooled
- these scents are usually overwhelmed during the wet stage but are after notes
- the best way to experience this is when the vessel is empty and cool
- many times the more subtle floral notes will reveal themselves at this stage.

iii. 3 Critiques 三品
- first, second and third critique
- this is more of an assessment than an actual critique
- the harmony- ‘pin yun’ (品韵)of the tea will be revealed at this stage as well

a. First critique
 - will reveal the mastery of the roasting process
- it reveals the 'firing' skill applied to the tea - roasted, baking or sin-drying
- was it overly baked or roasted, how much of rawness or greenness is still preserved
- did it go through  second firing

b. Second critique
-  the assessment here is to allow the tea to be aerated in the drinking process
- how was the texture of the liquid when it flowed over the tongue
- here flavors will be revealed

c. Third critique
 - here we are looking at the harmony of the tea with all the other components that have been uncovered
- it is an amalgamation and culmination of tea components along with visual, flavor, scent, texture and the after taste

iv. 3 Aftertastes 三回味
- first, second and third aftertaste

a. First aftertaste
 - we are looking for the feel of the tea upon the tongue
- the lingering sweetness 
- is there a recurring sweetness that the Chinese call ‘hui gan’ (回甘), this is usually tasted after the initial bitterness and tannins, leaving a soothing and comforting sense

b. Second aftertaste
 - this is a little tricky as it requires the drinker to suck the tea between the teeth
- here what we re seeking is how does it feel on the teeth

c. Third aftertaste
 - this stage is seeking the feeling it gives on the throat and beneath it
- good tea will open the heart and not just the palate
it should have an invigorating feeling that affects the entire body

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