Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The secrets of Song dynasty style tea

The tea of the Song dynasty (960-1279) is the finest tea in Chinese history, both literally and figuratively speaking. Its powder is ground much finer than during the Tang dynasty (618-907), and it stopped being ground at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). And it's fine in the sense that it's the most imperial of all teas! It's the only tea for which the reference book (Da Guan Cha Lun) was written by an emperor (Song Huizong)! Thanks to Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) who adapted this method and codified it, top grade made matcha (green powder) tea continues to be produced and practiced in Japan. For a long time, the 3 tea schools that go back to Sen no Rikyu, Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushanokōjisenke, were only teaching the Japanese nobility! It's only quite recently that they have opened up to the rest of Japanese society and even foreigners. To this day, top grade matcha continues to be more expensive than sencha or gyokuro, and the Chado tea ceremony is still one of the most important tradition in Japan. 

So, while Rikyu was born 500 years ago this year, the Song dynasty style tea brings us back over 900 years ago, as the Song Huizong wrote his book in 1107! And if you want to study any subject, it's always best to go to the original source! 

There's another good reason to learn about what may appear like ancient tea history: you can still practice it today (especially thanks to the fact that matcha continues to be produced in Japan)! Actually, it may appear easier to prepare matcha in the Song dynasty style than in the Japanese way, because it's not ceremonial at all. It's all about the technique and getting the most of the tea. That's why it feels so well linked to modern gongfu cha, even though that technique is quite different. And to help you get a better understanding of this ancient tea method, I've made this class about the secrets of Song dynasty tea:
Of course, this class doesn't teach everything there's to know about Song dynasty tea. There's much more to learn. But the points I make go to the core of the preparation. Literally!

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