A Prose of Contemplation
Thank you for drinking tea with us.
"Contemplation" aims to leads the casual tea drinker into the deeper world of tea, where tea extends beyond its thirst-quenching function, where it provokes thinking and debate, where it awakes inner reflections.
The three teas on feature are a green tea and two wulong teas, namely:
- 2022 Enshi Jade Dew + Matcha (抹茶恩施玉露), 6 gm [Unlisted]
- 2019 Beiyuan Short Leg Wu Long (北苑贡茶矮脚乌龙), 8 gm [Unlisted]
- 2021 Century Tea Farm Dong Ding Wulong Medium Roast (百年茶园冻顶乌龙中焙), 6 gm
The story of Jade Dew is one of tea romance between China and Japan for a millennium. It started when Japanese Buddhist monks came to China to learn Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, and they took part in the daily monasterial routine of tea cultivation and making. The techniques and tea seeds were then imported to Japan by Myoan Yosai (明菴栄西) who in 1202 founded Japan’s first Zen temple in Kyoto called Kennin-ji (建仁寺), in which he was buried. The technique of steaming tea leaves to make green tea has become the default method of tea making in Japan today but is exclusively used in Enshi to make Jade Dew in China. Tea making techniques remained much the same way from the Tang to the Yuan dynasties, with development only in form and style. Rough tea cakes of the Tang dynasty became neatly pressed with auspicious patterns of dragons and phoenixes during the Song dynasty and continued till the Yuan dynasty. Serving styles also became more refined during the Song dynasty with whisking tea powder in a small bowl to make a thick foamy beverage instead of directly boiling the tea powder in a pot with salt. This also gave rise to the development of paraphernalia for this style of tea whisking which was then exported again to Japan to subsequently become the standard tools for the Japanese tea ceremony.
玉露茶的故事是中日之间千年的茶话情缘。它始于唐代日本佛教僧侣来中国学习佛法，也学会了寺院日常的茶叶种植和制作。 1202 年，明庵栄西将这技术和茶籽传入日本，并在京都建立了日本第一座禅寺建仁寺，并安葬于此。蒸青绿茶已成为当今日本主要的制茶方法，而在中国则专独用于恩施制玉露。制茶技术从唐到元朝基本相同，只是在形式和风格上有所发展。唐代的粗饼在宋代用摸具压上龙凤吉祥图案，一直延续到元代。宋代的饮茶方式也变得更加精致，从锅中加盐煮茶粉到在小碗中用少量水击沸茶粉制成浓稠的茶汤。这方式称‘点茶’，发展出来的茶具也再次出口到日本，随后成为日本茶道的标准工具。
During the Ming dynasty (since mid 14th century), the royal court outlawed tea cakes and favoured loose leaf tea. Tea steaming which aided in tea leaves sticking together to make tea cakes was now an obstacle to the shaping of individual leaf in the loose form. New methods and equipment became popular, leading to pan-frying becoming the dominant method of tea processing. At this time, while Enshi as a tea region was affected by this new law, the inaccessibility of its mountainous area meant that new techniques and equipment had problems reaching the tribes who made the tea. As everyone advanced to the new style of tea making, Enshi continued their old ways which was frozen in time to become the living fossil of the ancient tea making world. In parallel, Japan was in the stage of refinement of their tea ceremony protocol, with the Cha-no-yu steps developed by Sen no Rikyu (千利休) towards the end of the 16th century. This ceremony can only be performed using green tea powder, which involved full ingestion of the leaves. A softer tea was needed to allow a good flavour, and the steaming method remained important in achieving this. Henceforth from the Ming dynasty, Chinese and Japanese teas parted ways in tea style.
在明朝（自 14 世纪中叶），宫廷“废团改散“（废弃团茶，改用散茶）。蒸青工艺不易于茶叶条索分明，不适合制作散茶。炒茶工艺开始广泛使用，并成为主流。恩施傣族地处深山，消息和交通不便，保持着本来的制茶方式，慢慢成为蒸青工艺的活化石。与此同时，千利休在 16 世纪末完成日本茶道礼仪‘茶之汤’的编制，是仿照宋代点茶法，需要较软和的制茶法，也就延续了宋代的蒸青工艺。从明代起，中国茶和日本茶分道扬镳。
The Jade Dew was previously known as Jade Green (玉绿) and changed name to the present form in 1939, and Japan adopted the same name to refer to their highest grade of green tea (gyokuro) made with similar methods. Powdered green tea fell out of favour since the Ming dynasty but is now making a comeback in China in the form of matcha lattes. Blending the tea leaves with the tea powder seems like a cross of styles from the two different time periods of tea cakes and loose leaf tea. Steamed green tea seems to have come full circle with the grinding of Enshi Jade Dew to blend with its own loose leaf form.
玉露于 1939 命名，之前是叫玉绿。日本也采用玉露（gyokuro）来划分最高等级的绿茶。绿茶粉自明代以来就很少见，但今日却以日本抹茶拿铁的形式在中国卷土重来。将茶叶与茶粉拼配起来似乎是茶饼和散茶的时空交叉。恩施玉露与其茶粉的结合是否为这中日之间千年的茶话情缘画下圆满的结局？
Japanese green tea features clean flavour profiles from superior cultivation and mechanised tea making. Chinese tea making focuses on natural terroir coupled with superior tea making techniques by hand. The former demands umami laden notes of seaweeds, which could be fully presented with soft brewing at a low temperature. The latter requires higher temperature to bring out the floral and fruity notes reflective of its growing environment. In this tea, we used the Parchmen tea evaluation set, at 3 gm to 100 ml (2/3 of cup), at 75°C for 30 seconds, repeated at 35 seconds, using Purete water we bought off the supermarket. We got a cloudy cup of sweet wheatgrass juice and white flowers with a round mouthfeel, amazingly without astringency. We got a strong rush of the aroma of kill-green when we smelled the brewed leaves after the first brew.
日本制茶法是完善栽培，机械制茶，而中国的制茶哲学是自然生长，用心用手加工。日本茶突显海藻味，需要低温冲泡。华茶则需要较高温来带出其生长环境的花香和果香。我们使用百茶门审评杯，用3 克茶叶和 100 毫升（2/3 杯）水，在 75°C 下泡 30 秒，续水 35 秒，水是从超市买的Purete。茶汤滋味如小麦草的甜汁，也带白色的花朵的香气，口感圆润无涩味。初泡出汤后闻杯中茶底是一股浓郁的杀青香。
While the central areas of China were famous for tea since the Tang dynasty, Jian Zhou (建州) in southern China (today’s Jian Ou in Fujian province) was not known for tea. Even so, the Zhang family in that area held influential power as the largest tea merchant and tea maker. Zhang Ting Hui (张廷晖), following the footsteps of his father, establish a large tea garden around Phoenix Mountain (凤凰山) on the east of the Jian Brooke (建溪), reportedly the largest tea garden of the Tang dynasty based on records. The collapse of the Tang dynasty led to a period of upheaval and division with powerful warlords forming their own countries. The kingdom of Min was established at this time in that area. Zhang Ting Hui gifted the tea garden to the King of Min, starting a period of royal patronage for the tea from the garden till the Ming dynasty for a total of 458 years paying tribute to 42 emperors. Because the garden is located at the north of the Kingdom of Min, it was named North Royal Garden (北苑). It was also the first tea department established under official capacity, and was called the Dragon’s Tea Factory (龙焙, with the word ‘龙’ which means dragon signifying royal property and the word ‘焙’ meaning tea factory).
The long period of royal support of the garden allowed the tea style and quality to flourish. Further developing the tea cake styles of the Tang dynasty, neat tea cakes imprinted with the shapes of dragons and phoenix started appearing during the Song dynasty. Ancient China saw dragons and phoenixes as the representation of emperors and empresses respectively. Termed Long Tuan Feng Bing (龙团凤饼) as a lyrical name to describe the compressed cakes with the shapes of the auspicious mythical animals. Tea cakes made in such a manner was most befitting for royal tribute, which explained its length of royal patronage till the Ming dynasty when compressed tea was abolished. Ever since then, tea cultivation developed in a different direction at the tea garden to focus on individual shapes of tea leaves and strong infusion from loose leaf brewing. The cultivars which survived till today included Shui Xian (水仙) and Dwarf Wulong (aka Ai Jiao Wu Long), both of which were transplanted to Wuyi Mountain in the north towards the end of the Qing dynasty. Ai Jiao Wu Long has other names of Soft Stem Green Heart Wu Long (软枝青心乌龙) and Small Leaf Wu Long (小叶乌龙). It was also transplanted to Taiwan during the same time and became the world-famous Dong Ding Wu Long (冻顶乌龙). [The term Wu Long here does not refer to the processing style but rather the name of the cultivar.]
The story of Dong Ding wulong bears a certain resemblance to the story of Scarlet Robe (). In 1855, Lin Feng Chi (林凤池) was a local scholar in today’s Lu Gu Township (鹿谷乡) of Taiwan who had to continue his higher-level examinations across the seas in Fujian. With the help of the local community, he managed to raise funds to take the examination, in which he successfully emerged as Ju Ren (举人), which is equivalent to Master’s degree in today’s context. To celebrate his success, his distant relatives in Fujian gifted him 36 stocks of local tea variety which was the Soft Stem Green Heart Wu Long. He chose to plant some of these stocks himself, while distributing the remaining 24 stocks to the village sponsors. With the area dominated by Dong Ding Mountain (), the tea made from these stocks took its name. The Dong Ding tea we feature here is cultivated from a tea garden that received one of the initial stocks of tea, hence its name of Century Tea Garden.
冻顶乌龙的故事与大红袍的故事异曲同工。 1855年，林风池考上秀才，在（今）鹿谷乡亲的帮助下前往福建参加乡试。他众望所归考取举人，相等于今日的硕士学位。福建的宗亲送他36株当地茶种，即软枝青心乌龙。他自种12株，把 24 株分给资助他的乡亲。冻顶山是等地最高的山，制出来的茶亦称冻顶乌龙。我们这款冻顶乌龙就是从那时种下的其中24 株，故称百年茶园。
It is interesting to compare the Short Leg Wu Long and the Dong Ding Wu Long, the latter being in the continuation of the former in a different form. The Short Leg is of finer picking with smaller leaves. The Dong Ding is of coarse picking, with larger and stiffer leaves. It is noteworthy that Dong Ding Wu Long technique requires a coarser picking to enable a traditionally longer roast. Both the teas are oxidised to about 30-40%, as seen from the reddish rim around the brewed leaves. Both are medium roasted, but they present different colours when brewed - the Short Leg presents a darker orange tone whereas the Dong Ding presents a dark yellowish tone. The difference is due to the difference in leaf maturity, size and shape, allowing the Dong Ding to withstand higher roasting than the Short Leg. Both teas carry a complex aromas of honey, baked sweet potatoes, roasted mangoes, sweet cranberries, baked strawberries and baked peach. The Dong Ding is round and smooth, whereas the Short Leg has a hint of cream and nut butter.
We are brewing both the teas in our "Authority" zisha tea pot, at 90°C for 1.5 min, at 8 gm to 150 ml. In view of the political situation today in the South China Sea, our selection of these tea and tea pot is especially intriguing.
我们在秦权壶中冲泡这两款茶，用90°C于 1.5 分钟，8 克茶叶和150 毫升水。目前台海紧张情势下，我们这期的选茶和用壶尤其耐人寻味。