5. June 2017

Tea Ceremony


Drinking tea is a part of the Chinese culture for thousands of years. According to the legend, the emperor Shen Nong 神农 together with the Yellow Emperor discovered tea, when one day leaves of a bush in the palace garden fell in Shen Nong’s drinking water, the water turned into a golden brown color and the emperor drank this beverage which gave a sweet flavored taste. Since 3000 years ago, Chinese have boiled drinking water and flavored it with tea leaves and herbal additives by the Boiled Tea Method 煮茶法.

Tea leaves were normally cooked thoroughly with ginger, scallion, jujube, mandarin peel and mint etc., then people eat, drink and swallow them all. Lu Yu ignored this method of tea making and thought it was like sewage “斯沟渠间弃水”. From the point of view of food science, this tea making method certainly destroys the aroma of tea, but it is the most thorough use of tea nutrients. At least, adding some ginger can neutralize the cold nature of tea, which is good for people’s spleen and stomach.

Shen Nong Tastes Tea by Daoist Dezhong

History shows that there was already a tax on tea during the Qin Dynasty (221- 207 B.C.), tea was then primarily used as a medicine. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), tea was increasingly drunk as tea beverages using the An Tea Method 庵茶法 at the imperial court and thus introduced into the upper class, which had been shown on the painting “Tang Palace Musicians 唐人宫乐图”. Put some tea powder in a tea jar and brew it with boiling water, Tang people thought that using this kind of tea method tea was not fully cooked and could only be drunk but not eaten, so they called it half-cooked tea. A similar tea making method was gradually popular in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it seems to have something to do with this tea making method.

Tang Palace Musicians Drawing 唐人宫乐图

Another tea brewing way in Tang dynasty is the Fired Tea Method 煎茶法, put tea powder into water when it is first boiling, take tea soup to drink after the second boiling, and add salt to taste properly. Lu Tong’s famous poem <Seven Bowls of Tea 七碗茶> was written after he had tea with this fried tea way. He fried tea at home and enjoyed it alone, he praised both the quality of tea and the skill of frying tea.

Monks in Buddhist monasteries began drinking tea during their often long hours meditations in order to stay awake. It’s also true that the monks every morning drank tea and flushed their mouth as they had no toothbrushes, since the tea had a purifying and refreshing effect. This behavior is said to have been first introduced in the Yang Ling Monastery on Mount. Tai and have spread from there to other monasteries. After some time, the monks began to cultivate tea, the world’s first book on tea was written <the the classic of tea 茶经> by Lu Yu 陆羽 (733—804), who grew up as an orphan in a Buddhist monastery, his nickname “The Saint of Tea”. This Fired Tea Method was advocated by Lu Yu.

500 Arhat Drawing 五百罗汉图 – Song Dynasty

In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), most upper class families enjoyed 龙凤团茶 [lóng fèng tuán chá] tea cakes with dragon and phoenix patterns and Tea-  Competitions 斗茶 “Tea fights 斗茶图” became polular, in order to determine the best teas in the country. At the same time the art of making tea has been developed by the Whisked Tea Method 点茶法.

Grinding Tea Picture 撵茶图 – Song Dynasty

“Grinding Tea Picture 撵茶图” was painted by Liu Songnian 刘松年 1155-1218). Su Shi 苏轼 wrote <Peach Blossom Tea 桃花茶>, described the beauty of tea harvest and this method. The book written by Zhao Ji 赵佶  (1082-1135) – the 8th Emperor of Song reign, <Treatise on Tea 大观茶论> described the mainstream of tea ceremonies at that time. In the Yuan Dynasty, this method spread throughout the population.

During the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Quan, the 17th son of Ming Emperor Hongwu, who wrote the tea book <Guide of Tea 茶谱> and led a reclusive life as a hermit, then founded a new school of tea ceremony, the Infused Tea Method 撮泡法.

Stop Qin and Taste Tea drawing 停琴品茗图 – Chen Hongshou of Ming Dynasty

The “taste tea under banana leaves’ shadow 蕉阴品茗图”  painted by Lü Huancheng 吕焕成 (1630 -1705) showed the tea ceremony. The book written by Xu Cishu 许次纾 (1549-1604), <Tea Commentary 茶疏> focued on tea artistic conceptions, and <Tea Theory 茶说> laid the the foundation of tea organoleptic evaluation in 1615 from Huang Longde 黄龙德 (late Qing reign).

Therefore, the experts of Chinese tea culture distinguish five historical schools of tea ceremony 茶道 [chá dào]: Boiled Tea Method 煮茶法 [zhǔ chá fǎ] and An Tea Method 庵茶法 [ān chá fǎ]. In the Tang period, tea was boiled along with the water until the water took the right color, wherein fired and grinded tea was used. Since this tea liquid was added a pinch of salt, this method is also called “school of salted Pulvertees” Fired Tea Method 煎茶法  [jiān chá fǎ]. During the Song Dynasty, the art of tea has been refined, the tea powder should be infused with hot water and beat up with a bamboo whisk until frothy, a master work was that foams remained as long as possible. This method is called the “School of the foamed Jade” Whisked Tea Method 点茶法 [diǎn chá fǎ].

Seven Categories of Making Tea 煎茶七类

In the Ming period, loose dry tea leaves were used, directly pour hot water on, this method is called the “School of the fragrant leaf” Infused Tea Method 撮泡法 [cuō pào fǎ], which was also recorded in Xu Wei‘s 徐渭 (1521-1593 poem) <Seven Categories of Making Tea 煎茶七类>), this method is very similar to the tea methods nowadays.