Chinese tea culture originated in the Tang Dynasty and flourished in the Song Dynasty. In the Song Dynasty, tea had become a necessity in people’s daily life.
With the overall prosperity of the Song dynasty’s social commodity economy, tribute tea, tea sets, tea art, tea workshops, etc., but also flourished.
The traditional Dian Cha (点茶, whisking tea) in the Song Dynasty had an extremely important position in the history of the Chinese tea ceremony.
In this article, we will introduce the history and steps of whisking tea in the Song Dynasty, and let’s feel the elegance of the literati in the Song Dynasty.
China’s Tea Culture
Chinese tea culture has a long history, the earliest written record is: “Shennong tasted hundred herbs, the day encountered seventy-two poisons, and got the Tu (荼) and solve”, where the “Tu” is tea. Tea (茶) in the history of the five had used the name: Tu (荼), Jia (槚), She (蔎), Ming (茗), Chuan (荈).
In five thousand years of Chinese civilization, people have accumulated a deep tea culture. In history, the application process of tea is roughly medicinal, edible, drinking.
The way of tea drinking has also gone through several stages of development, such as cooking tea in the Tang Dynasty, whisking tea in the Song Dynasty, making tea in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and contemporary tea drinking.
In the history of Chinese tea, there is a saying that “tea was developed in the Tang Dynasty and flourished in the Song Dynasty”, and the whisking tea in the Song Dynasty has an extremely important position in the history of the Chinese tea ceremony.
Song Dynasty Whisking Tea Culture
The Song Dynasty was the pinnacle of aesthetics in Chinese history, when the economy was developed and people had high demands on the aesthetics of life, focusing on simplicity, chic, and elegance.
Song people pursued elegant life, from the emperor to the people, they all advocated Si Yi (四艺, four arts), namely: Dian Cha, Fen Xiang (焚香, burning incense), Cha Hua (插花, flower arrangement), Gua Hua (挂画, hanging paintings). Not only enriched the life of the Song dynasty, but also inspired the literati, leaving behind many works of art about it.
Whether it is this year’s popular Chinese drama “Palace of Devotion“, or the once popular “The Story of Minglan”, “Serenade of Peaceful Joy“, these dramas inadvertently show the elegant aesthetics of life in the Song Dynasty to the fullest, but also let the Song Dynasty’s original whisking tea is known to the public.
In history, there was a big fan of whisking tea: Emperor Huizong of Song. He studied the tea ceremony, and was so accomplished that he wrote the “Da Guan Tea Lun” on the tea ceremony, created the “Qi Tang Dian Cha Fa“, making a great contribution to the development of tea culture in the Song Dynasty.
What are the specific steps of whisking tea?
Let’s start with the production of tea in the Song Dynasty.
After the tea leaves were picked, they were not directly roasted for use, but went through a series of complicated processes to make tea cakes, which was “Tuan Cha (团茶)”. After the “Tuan Cha” is made, it should be stored in Cha Bei Long (茶焙笼).
Detailed steps of the Song Dynasty whisking tea.
- First, take out the tea cakes from the Cha Bei Long → (Qu Cha, 取茶).
- Using a tea mallet to crush the “Tuan Cha” into small pieces → (Zhen Nian, 砧碾).
- Then put it into a tea mill or tea grinder to grind the tea into powder → (Cha Mo, 茶磨).
- Then sift the tea powder with Luo He (罗合) → (Luo Cha, 罗茶).
- Put the finely sieved tea powder into a tea box for storage → (Chu Cha, 储茶).
Once the tea powder is grinded, it is time to make the tea. Whisking tea is made by pouring water seven times in total, to make the tea powder melt with the water and make the surface of the tea broth appear Xue Mo Ru Hua (雪沫乳花), but this whole process takes less than a few minutes.
- Boil clean water with Cha Fu (茶釜) and slowly warm up the Cha Zhan (茶盏, tea bowl).
- Take out an appropriate amount of tea powder with a small spoon and put it into the Cha Zhan.
- Add a small amount of boiling water and whisk it with a Cha Xian (茶筅, tea whisk) until it becomes paste-like → (Tiao Gao, 调膏).
- Add water in seven times with the soup bottle, adding water continuously while whisk with Cha Xian, so that the tea powder is evenly integrated into the tea broth (Qi Tang Dian Cha Fa).
- The tea soup is thorough, the color of tea is white, and the Mo Bo (沫饽, froth of tea leaves) that hangs on the wall of the cup is distinct, then the whisking tea is completed. → (Yao Zhan, 咬盏)
A fragrant Song-style hot tea is finished. This whole process, the Song people called “whisking tea”. After whisking tea, the tea soup will be divided into jangs, for people to drink, and the Mo Bo of each tea soup to be even.
What is “Qi Tang Dian Cha Fa”
Qi Tang Dian Cha Fa (七汤点茶法) refers to the process of adding hot water and whisking the tea in seven times during Dian Cha.
The first time of water adding should surround the wall of the Cha Zhan to keep the water from soaking into the tea paste. Stirring the tea paste first, gradually increasing the amplitude of the whisk, the fingers and wrist circling back and forth together, make the tea goes up and down thoroughly, producing a bright and distinct Mo Bo.
The second to the sixth time of water injection, the action looks quite similar, but in fact, it is completely different, each time the location of the water added, the amount of water added and the force of the whisk rotation are each exquisite.
For the seventh time, the focus is on the lightness and clarity of the tea and the thinness and density of the Mo Bo.
What is “Xue Mo Ru Hua”?
It means that the surface of the tea soup appears as rich and milky foam as snowflakes, which is the highest level pursued by the whisking tea experts.
There are even skillful people who paint on the “Xue Mo Ru Hua”, which is a test of whisking tea people’s skills, and it takes years and years of continuous accumulation to achieve the “perfect painting” on tea.
A video about the introduction to whisking tea:
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