Thursday, December 30, 2010
The warmth of Sung dynasty tea
When the weather turns cold in Taiwan, I turn to powdered green tea (mo cha in Chinese). This is the tea that warms me up the most effectively.
First, the dark colors of the Cha Xi create a warm atmosphere. I particularly like this Chinese scarf which I'm using as my Cha Bu.
Second, Sung dynasty tea is whisked with a bamboo tea whisk. To successfully mix the powder with the hot water, it takes several minutes of controlled, but quick movements with the whole arm. This small exercise always warms me up.
Third, I have now obtained a big bowl of hot tea (and not just a tiny cup). This tea is particularly strong and energetic, because it's not a brew of leaves, but the full leaves. With a brew, we get a partial extraction of the nutrients contained in the tea leaves. But with matcha (in Japanese), we get everything. And matcha is particularly concentrated, because it's made with fine tea buds instead of fully developed leaves. The result feels almost like a soup! Even my hands warm up as they hold the bowl.
This Cha Xi gave me the opportunity to use David Louveau's lotus bowl. Inspired by Sung dynasty celadon wares, this qingbai bowl looks at home in this setting. It brings an air of elegance and purity. It almost feels as if I had borrowed it from the National Palace Museum! Made by hand, the bowl even has these little imperfections and unevenness that add soul and harmony.
Today, I use this lotus bowl as a container for the hot water that warmed up my thick black glazed Jianyang bowl. Other Cha Xi sometimes prefer to hide the spent water, since it will contain tea residues. But with this Sung dynasty Cha Xi, the clear water in the lotus bowl adds light and shine to the scene. It's a good (fengshui) balance if I decide to light some fire in my Nilu, under my iron kettle! (Another possible use for this bowl would be to brew green tea directly in it.)
The light cracks on the bowl are similar to those on my antique (Yuan dynasty or older) small jar!