In the cool mountain air, tea plants grow slowly, producing dense polyphenols and flavanols for the finest teas. The Camellia sinensis plants flush (are ready for harvesting) after the rainy season. The newest growths are carefully plucked by hand, with pickings occurring several times each year. The young leaves are rushed down to the mill to seal their fate only to be reborn through the agony of the steep.
Green Teas are plucked when the buds just begin to open. A short period of withering may occur before natural enzymatic chemical reactions, occurring in the leaves, are stopped by pan firing. Rolling, firing, then rolling, followed by additional firing alternately, gives green teas’ their famous appearance and taste. The leaves turn yellow-green. With no fermentation, little chemical change occurs, leaving a fresh, vibrant vegetal taste and aroma. Brewing with water temperatures off the boil to 180F is recommended. Green teas produce 10-40 mg caffeine.
Black Teas- (Orthodox) Traditional processing methods occur in 4 steps. Step 1: Withering acts to soften the leaves and prevent cracking during the rolling phase. Withering bruises and breaks down the leaves’ membranes and initiates oxidation between the catechins and the polyphenol enzymes. Step 2: Tight rolling acts to secure the developing flavors within the leaf, and allows later release during the agony phase. The process continues for several hours, with the leaves spread out in a cool place to absorb oxygen. The presence of oxygen initiates enzymatic chemical reactions that create essential oils and the development of tannins. Step 3: Firing in large woks with intense heat stops the fermentation oxidation process and sterilizes the leaves. Step 4: The leaves are completely dried over charcoal or wood fires. Sorting the leaves is accomplished by sifting according to size. The characteristic flavor, color and astringency are evenly balanced with the orthodox, traditional process. Brew with water temperatures off the boil to 205F, steeped up to 5 minutes for tightly rolled leaves. The addition of lemon to the tea will help tea polyphenols release. Milk, not cream, will increase the teas tannins beneficial properties. Orthodox teas will contain 25-110 mg of caffeine.
Herbal Tisanes are roots, barks, berries, leaves or flowers steeped in near boiling water. Tisanes do not contain any ingredient from the Camellia sinensis plant, yet are prepared and served as tea.
The “Cha Ching” of 780 AD written by Lu Yu the Chinese scholar, documents the origins and characteristics of tea. He wrote of proper preparation, utensils, plucking of leaves, the habits, mannerisms and healthful benefits of tea. The preparation of tea, including the importance of river water flavors and mineral content, were carefully arranged into a systematic, proprietary event. The formality of tea carried on in the high society until the 16th century when Rikkyu, the Japanese philosopher said, “Tea is nothing other than this, heat the water, prepare the tea, and drink with propriety. This is all you need to know.” Rikkyu aligned tea with everyday activities and everyday beauty. His thoughts of cleansing are preserved moments in the personal ceremonies held each day around the world with little fanfare or celebration, but with the uplifting of the body to the day.
Wa, harmony. Wa means with other people and with nature. The vapor from the boiling pot is like a floating cloud. The sound of water is like wind passing the pines. The focus of the tea ceremony is the way of bringing oneself into harmony with nature. The simple result of drinking tea is to satisfy thirst, but it also satisfies a thirst for knowledge, truth and tranquility.
Kae, reverence or respect. Kae means a harmonious and respectful relationship with others. It includes a kind of selflessness, as water is selfless, by using itself to wash dirt away. Kae can be seen as one passes through a low door to remind oneself how humble one is.
Sae, purity. We wash our hands and rinse our mouths. This is to remind ourselves of inner cleanliness, to purify the inner self. We leave other thoughts outside, so our minds are spotless.
Jubuo, tranquility. When you feel tranquility and peace of mind, you accept who you are. You may not be clever or beautiful, but you are uniquely you. This is the true sense of tranquility. Finding beauty in natures abundances, this too is tranquility.
We cleanse ourselves through the five senses. With the sound of the water, the clink of utensils, the silence outside, our hearing is cleansed. We view the flowers and room so our sight is cleansed. As we touch utensils and clay transformed into objects of beauty, our sense of touch is cleansed. The scent of tea and flowers cleanses our smell. The water and tea cleanses our taste. When all five senses are cleansed, the inner self is cleansed.
These thoughts are gained from numerous books and writings well beyond my own. The teachings of Rikkyu, align with my thoughts for Chado Moto.
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