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The Art of Tea

The Art of Tea in Ancient Times

 

 

 Wisdom from the Old Chinese Tea Masters

 

The act of drinking tea is akin to a voyage across oceans and continents. So mystical is the aspects of brewing and enjoying tea that one could say that it was an art form in itself. The Chinese tea masters of old thought the same, which was why the mere act of preparing tea was called 'creating a bowl of tea'.

 

 

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The Tea Room

 

 If tea is a religion of the art of life, then the Tea Room is the temple where it is praised.

 Every day, a ceremony is performed in the temple of Tea. It is an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the flowers and the paintings. There were no colours to disturb the tone of the room, nor were there sounds to mar the rhythm. Not a word spoken to disrupt the unity of the surroundings. Every movement in the tea room was performed simply and naturally.

 Such were the aims of the tea ceremony: peace, tranquillity, silence.

 

 

 The Tea Leaves

 

 Tea is known as a component of the elixir of longevity, and for its myriad of health benefits. Simply breathing in the fragrant steam wafting from a cup of tea can warm the heart and provide joy and relaxation. A gentle sip can calm and purify the mind.

 Nature is an indispensible part of tea; each brewing of tea is never complete without tea leaves. There is tea in nature, and there is nature in tea.

 The Chinese tea masters of old had five names for tea: Cha, Jia, She, Ming and Chuan.

 

 

 Fire and Water

 

 

 One must learn to prepare the fire, before boiling the water and steeping the tea. Hardwood charcoal is the fuel of choice, and is regarded as the best material. However, some hardwoods like mulberry, pagoda and oak are best avoided as they produce too much smoke when burnt. If smoke enters the water, it will be rendered useless and must be replaced.

 

 The kettle must only be put to the boil when the charcoal is red, and the smoke and flame is gone. Once the kettle of water is placed, fan the stove gently but firmly. Once boiling, the water should not be taken off from the heat – water that has cooled must be discarded and replaced by a fresh batch.

 

 Water plays an important role in tea brewing; it affects the flavour, aroma and colour of a tea infusion. There are five flavours of water: bitter, salty, sweet, piquant and sour. Choosing which flavour to use is crucial in forming a perfect cup of tea, as water is the main substance of the tea's essence.

 

 There were many names for boiled water in the Tang and Ming dynasties of China. In the Tang Dynasty, it was called 'Fish Eyes', 'Joined Pearls', and 'Surging and Swelling Waves'. In the Ming Dynasty, they were also named 'Shrimp Eye', 'Crab Eye', 'Joined Pearls'.

 

Each name represents a state of the boiled water. 'Shrimp Eye', 'Crab Eye' and 'Joined Pearls' denote the bubbles that appear when the water is poured into a cup, while 'Surging and Swelling Waves' is the name given to a water in continuous boil.

 

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