The variety of tastes, styles and methods make tea such a vast subject of study. It's important to learn the connections and evolution of these various styles. Song dynasty (960-1279) style, for instance, uses green powdered tea that is whisked in a bowl. It's clearly an evolution from the Tang dynasty (618-907), when green tea powder was added to water boiling lightly, mixed but not whisked, and some salt was added. There are some similarities, but also very big differences between Song and Tang tea styles. Some of the confusion between Tang and Song styles may come from the Japanese chanoyu. Rikyu (1522-1591) didn't invent Chado, but formalized this tea ceremony from what he had learned from the chajins Dochin and Takeno Jo-o, and during his training at Daitoku-ji with Zen priests and other men of tea (Reference: The Way of Tea by Rand Castile, chapter 3). Their knowledge can be traced back to China's Tang and Song dynasties and to the ceremonies that were still being performed during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), which were similar to the Song dynasty.
For the Japanese, the Tang dynasty was China and tea's golden age. That's why until today, the name for tea accessories in Japanese is Tang Wu, or Tang objects. So, while the whisking of tea is similar to the Song dynasty style, the boiling of water used a Fu (Furo in Japanese), a caldron or boiler similar to the Tang dynasty. For Sung style tea, however, the boiling water is poured into the boil using an ever, not a water ladle (hishaku).
It's not easy to get all the facts straight about Song dynasty style. It's important to clarify what comes from which dynasty. (For instance, you shouldn't show a tea grinder from the Tang dynasty in an article about Song dynasty without a special mention about its exact origin.)
With last week's visitor, we identified a key difference in the Sung style and chanoyu preparation methods. The Sung style involves more whisking and more water than the Japanese method. Matcha tastes more concentrated, like an espresso, while Sung dynasty whisked tea tastes lighter like a cappuccino!
Note: If you wish to use pictures from my blog, please contact me and I usually will grant you the permission in return for a mention of my name and my blog. This clarification shouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, while researching the Net for this post, it has come to my attention that a picture I took of a Tang accessory has been used in an article about Song dynasty tea without any mention of its provenance! I wouldn't have granted my permission for this mistake! It's fun how karma works sometimes...
My name is Stéphane Erler. I live in Taiwan since 1996 and have been studying tea with Teaparker. He's a worldwide tea expert and author of over 30 tea books. The study of tea isn't just theoretical, but it's also rooted in daily practice. It's a path of continuous improvement. As my brewing technique improves I get access to better teas and better accessories. These things go hand in hand. My blog documents my learning since 2004. And I have set up an online tea boutique with my selection of top quality teas, accessories and tea culture.