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Kung Fu Cha – allt om kinesikt te

From 1976 until his passing in 1999, I was the principle apprentice to Taoist Abbot Huang Gengshi (born 1910). In addition to his training in Taoism, Dr. Huang was an acupuncturist, qigong master, and martial artist. He had been a student of the famed Tiger-Crane Master Lam Sai Wing, who had learned, in turn, from Wong Fei Hong. Dr. Huang was used to hard training and knew how to make the bone strengthening tonic wines as well as the tie da yao liniments necessary to treat martial injuries. But his real secret to health was in the little plastic baggie he carried everywhere he went. If we were having lunch in a restaurant, he would order hot water, then take out his baggie, and add the tea leaves in it to the cup. His favorite tea was a mixture ofpu-erh tea with Chinese dried chrysanthemum flowers. According to Chinese medicine, pu-erh aids digestion and prevents bad cholesterol from accumulating in the arteries; chrysanthemum helps the liver spread qi (life force) throughout the body. Pu-erh is slightly yang and warming, chrysanthemum slightly yin and cooling-a perfect balance. But he drank other teas as well. From ancient times to the present, tea has been an important facet of martial arts and Chinese medicine. No matter what the doctrinal or stylistic differences, everyone agrees that it is important to drink tea. It is the great equalizer. On a cold winter evening, a wandering Buddhist monk knocked on the door to the monastery, seeking lodging and refuge from the cold. The Buddhist master answered the door. Seeing the shivering monk, he welcomed him, ”Come in and have a cup of tea.” An hour later, there was another knock on the door. This time it was another master who was knocking, an esteemed teacher of the Dharma (Buddhist wisdom) who was on a religious pilgrimage. The resident master again answered the door and said, ”Come in and have a cup of tea.” The head monk was disturbed by these events. The next day he asked his teacher, ”Why did you offer the same cup of tea to the wandering monk and to the visiting master? Shouldn’t you have demonstrated extra respect to a senior Dharma master?” The master replied, ”Have a cup of tea!” What is Tea? Before discussing the importance of tea, it is important to understand something about the plant. I am speaking here of what in Chinese is called cha (Camellia sinensis), and not just any random herbal infusion. English is somewhat confusing because we say chamomile ”tea,” peppermint ”tea.” In this article I use the word ”tea” as a translation forcha. There are five major ways to process the tea leaf, resulting in five unique tasting beverages: white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, andpu-erh tea. It’s all the same plant. White tea consists of young leaves and buds and produces a lilac-scented, spring-like bouquet. As the leaf matures, it turns first bright green and then darker green. Pick and dry this leaf and you have green tea. If the tea leaf is slightly bruised by, for example, compressing it under a stone or turning it in a barrel, and then left in a moist environment, it starts to interact with oxygen and turn red. The semi-oxidized leaf is called oolong. To produce a fragrant oolong, the leaf is dried while it is still mostly green. If you wait longer and dry the leaf after most of it has turned reddish-brown, then the brew is rich and dark, like a fine Bordeaux wine. If the leaf is allowed to fully oxidize, it becomes what the Chinese call hong cha, red tea, and which Westerners inaccurately label ”black tea.” Finally, there is a type of tea made from leaves grown in southern Yunnan province that has a completely unique flavor. This is pu-erh tea. The most famous pu-erhs are called ”ripened” or ”cooked” (shu). This means that the leaf is partially or, more commonly, fully oxidized, creating a brew that is earthy and peaty, like a single malt scotch. A good cooked pu-erh is complex and smooth, a poor (and much less expensive)pu-erh may taste like an old barn mixed with stale and slightly bitter mushrooms. Green or ”raw” (shengpu-erh has an equally unusual taste, like a wild mountain meadow – expansive and somewhat musky, without any sourness. Like fine wines, raw pu-erh gets better with age, peaking at about 15 years.

pu-erh tea cake wrapped in bamboo

pu-erh tea cake wrapped in bamboo  Pu-erh has a special place in Chinese history. Since at least 1074 AD, pu-erh tea was the major trade good for Tibetan horses that were used throughout China for transportation and the military. Typical of the volume of trade, in 1435 a Chinese official noted that 13,000 Tibetan horses were traded for 1,097,000 pounds of tea. For ease of transport, tea was carried on camel and horseback in compressed ”tea cakes.” Tibetans liked (and still enjoy) cakes of pu-erh leaves and stems. The tea is scraped or cut off the cake with a knife, added to boiling water, and often flavored with salt and yak butter – a custom never adopted by the Chinese. The best teas are ”single estate teas,” which means that they each come from a single plantation, rather than consisting of a mix or blend of teas from various areas. When you drink a single estate tea, you are supporting a specific farm and tasting the pride of the farmer and the many people who help harvest and craft the leaf. ”Two leaves and a bud” per picking; this is the common saying, though in fact some teas are picked leaf by leaf or by the handful. Depending on the weight of the leaf, it may require anywhere from 2,000 to more than 10,000 pickings to make a single pound of tea. Each leaf is checked for quality. It must be whole or nearly whole in order to fully release its flavor. In many of the best teas, the leaves are turned, folded, bent, twisted, rolled, or curled in a specific way so that, as the tea steeps, it gradually releases its flavor and aroma. For example, a green tea in which the leaf is folded in half to resemble a sword (tai ping hou kui) produces a different brew than a green leaf that is coiled into the shape of a small snail (bi luo chun). Fine teas are like works of art; the color and shape of the leaves are appreciated in the cup or by peeking into the teapot. But the leaves are only the raw ingredients; the other half of the art is how you prepare the tea. Brewed correctly (as I shall explain towards the end of this article), flavor fills the palate and lingers afterwards. There is an initial taste and aroma, and a secondary taste and aroma lasting several minutes after the last sip. In Chinese this is called the hui wei (”return flavor”). No, most of the teas you buy at the grocery store are neither skillfully crafted nor capable of producing a pleasing return flavor. The leaves are sheared and ground by machine, and they taste like it! The good news is that today you can find excellent loose-leaf teas at tea shops/houses, gourmet shops, and many natural foods markets in most major cities or online (contact me for a select tea catalog at info@qigonghealing.com). My personal preference is tea from China. However, excellent tea leaves are also grown in Japan, India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, and, recently, in Guatemala and Hawaii. There are four legends to the history of tea. Whether real or fanciful, they reveal its antiquity, importance, and character.

Hawaiian "Mauna Kea" Tea Plantation

Hawaiian ”Mauna Kea” Tea Plantation  Shen Nong: The Divine Farmer Shen Nong, the Divine Farmer, is considered one of the founders of Chinese medicine. Many thousands of years ago, he tasted each of the plants and noted their effects on his body. His extraordinary sensitivity allowed him to feel which organ and meridian was affected by the various plants. In order to neutralize the toxicity of any potentially poisonous herbs, after tasting each plant, he would drink an infusion of Camellia sinensis (tea). I don’t recommend trying this unless you are sure you have the same miraculous qi-powers as the Divine Farmer! HisClassic of Roots and Herbs (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing) laid the foundation for Chinese herbal medicine. Though attributed to Shen Nong, scholars admit that an early version of the text was more likely written by the Taoist alchemist Tao Hongjing (452-536). There is a good scientific basis for Shen Nong’s discovery. Tea helps the liver detoxify harmful substances by boosting the levels of important biochemicals such as glutathione and free radical scavengers (free radicals are not formerly incarcerated hippies, but rather highly reactive oxygen atoms or molecules that damage tissues and accelerate aging). Lao Zi The fourth century BC Taoist sage, Lao Zi, transmitted a philosophy of yin, yang, and qi (life force) cultivation that formed the basis of Chinese medicine, qigong, and martial arts. But he is also associated with tea. According to legend, Lao Zi had been a librarian in the Emperor’s court. Disillusioned with the intrigue, corruption, and aggression of the times, he decided to leave the city for a life of reclusion in nature. As he was walking through a high mountain pass, the border guard Yin Xi asked Lao Zi about his philosophy of life. Lao Zi then recited his famous classic, theDao De Jing (Classic of the Way and Its Virtue). When he finished, Yin Xi offered Lao Zi the first cup of ceremonial tea. Tea enthusiasts believe that Lao Zi may have even referred to tea in his book. Chapter 32 says, ”Heaven and Earth join together to bestow the sweet dew (gan lu).” Sweet dew is the name given to Taoist elixirs of immortality and to high quality tea. In relation to tea cultivation, ”heaven” is unpolluted air and majestic mountains; ”earth” is fertile soil and moisture. Yang and Yin must be in balance to produce good tea. Tea may be the quick road to immortality. It awakens a tranquil state of being, at one with all of life. It may take years to reap the fruits of meditation. But it takes only a half-hour to enjoy several leisurely cups of mind-transforming tea. Indeed, according to legend, Taoist Immortals may have planted the most ambrosial teas.   Zhuge Liang This great Chinese general, strategist, and scholar lived from 181-234 AD. Many Westerners are now familiar with him thanks to the North American release of the spectacular movie Red Cliff. In a famous battle portrayed in the movie, the general is commanded to get 100,000 arrows in ten days. If he fails, he will be executed. Zhuge Liang sends twenty boats on a mock attack. Each boat has a few soldiers, multiple bales of hay, and many manikin soldiers made of straw. As the boats approach, war drums resound. In the fog, the enemy cannot tell that the boats are actually almost entirely unmanned. The enemy soldiers launch their arrows, which stick into the straw. When the boats return, there are more than 100,000 arrows! In an equally brilliant strategy, Zhuge Liang needed to figure out a way to defend an entire city while his troops were deployed far away. As the enemy army approached, the city gates were thrown wide open. Meanwhile, the general, in clear view, sat nonchalantly on a high rampart playing his guqin (Chinese zither). This convinced the enemy commander that Zhuge Liang’s troops outnumbered his own and were waiting in ambush. He retreated! But few know the importance of Zhuge Liang in the history of tea. During a campaign in the western province of Yunnan, the general’s troops were unable to adapt to the warm, humid environment. They were becoming sick from abdominal and eye diseases. According to legend, Zhuge Liang stuck his walking stick in the rocky face of a mountain. It turned into the first tea tree to produce the unique, peaty pu-erh tea leaves. The brew from these leaves cured his men. Today, pu-erh tea is well known for its positive effects on digestion and both liver and eye health. BodhidharmaThe Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was the first patriarch of Zen (or Chan in Chinese) Buddhism. He arrived in China during the fifth century AD and spent nine long years meditating in a cave on the grounds of the Shaolin Monastery. One day, his mind lost its focus and he fell asleep. When he awakened, he was so angry at himself that he grabbed a nearby knife and cut off his own eyelids so he would never sleep again. (Have you ever noticed Bodhidharma’s huge eyes in the many famous Japanese and Chinese paintings that depict him? Look more closely-there are no eyelids!) Bodhidharma’s eyelids fell to the ground and arose as the first tea bush in China. Ever since that time, tea has kept the meditating monks awake and the warrior-monks alert. Or so the story goes. (I don’t know why such an unappetizing tale would make one want to drink tea!)

A wooden tea leaf holder

A wooden tea leaf holder (or ”presenter”) used to display the leaves to the guests. This one, modeled after the presenter used to serve the Emperor of China, contains tightly rolled oolong leaves.  Tea and Qi: The Health Benefits For martial artists, the chief attraction of tea is its ability to prevent disease, increase energy, spread qi (like qigong), and shorten recovery time after an injury. Chinese medicine classifies tea as bitter. Bitter is the flavor that has the most beneficial effect on the heart. Chinese medicine also relates the colors of foods and plants to various organs or systems. The green color of the tea leaf corresponds to the liver. Tea helps the liver rid the body of toxins and, because liver function influences muscles and nerves, drinking tea dissolves tension. Tea is also great for the eyes and eyestrain. According to Li Shizhen’s sixteenth century classic, Materia Medica: Principles, Categories, and Details (Ben Cao Gang Mu), tea relieves thirst, improves digestion, and leads to mental clarity. Other early works claim that tea increases strength and creates feelings of contentment. It has long been considered an elixir of immortality. These benefits and more are supported by western medical research. In 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported the results of an eleven-year study of more than 40,000 subjects. There were 16% less deaths, from all causes of mortality, among green tea drinkers compared to non-tea drinkers. That same year the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a study of 1,003 subjects over age 70. The more green tea they drank, the less cognitive impairment. In other words, if you want to keep your mind sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s, drink tea! Equally impressive studies document that tea is antiviral and is helpful in combating the flu virus. Tea is also antibacterial. In ancient China, powdered green tea or chewed leaves were applied as external poultices to stop infection from wounds and insect bites. Modern experiments confirm these effects and also show inhibition of staph, salmonella, cholera, and the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Tea is an important adjunct in the fight against the two major killers of our age: heart disease and cancer. In 1993, the Lancet reported that when 805 elderly men were tracked for five years, those who consumed black tea regularly had half the rate of fatal heart disease compared to those who drank less tea. Interestingly, tea is effective even if one begins drinking it after a heart attack. Harvard Medical School conducted a four-year study that found that subjects who drank two cups of green or black tea each day had 44% lower death rate after an initial heart attack compared with people who didn’t drink tea. There are three major reasons why tea has such positive effects on cardiovascular health:

Tea plants and seed pods

Tea plants and seed pods

    1. Tea lowers cholesterol. Rats given a high cholesterol diet and fed chemicals extracted from tea had a 16.7% reduction in cholesterol absorption. A 1992 Israeli study of 5,369 factory workers found that the more black tea they drank, the less total cholesterol and the less LDL (bad cholesterol) and the more HDL (good cholesterol). One of the reasons for these effects is thatcatechin, a type of chemical in tea, inhibits the body’s production of lipase, an enzyme that helps the body absorb fats. This same chemical is also as effective as aspirin in preventing blood clots from forming (and with far less harmful side-effects).
    1. Tea prevents inflammation and oxidation. In fact, tea has 200 times the antioxidant power of Vitamin E. Why is this important? Reactive oxygen, produced by stress and various metabolic processes, rots the body the way it rots an apple (notice how an apple turns brown after you take a bite-it’s the oxygen effect). When the oxygen interacts with cholesterol and arterial plaque, the resulting inflammation may block the blood vessel, resulting in a heart attack. Tea prevents this from happening.
  1. Tea creates a calm, peaceful state of mind. It has an amino acid called L-Theanine that is structurally similar to seratonin, a mood-regulating biochemical.

Some of the most impressive research demonstrates how and why tea prevents cancer. A chemical called epigallocatechin gallate, found in highest concentration in green tea, prevents the enzyme urokinase from promoting tumor growth. In 1994, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that men and women who drank as little as one cup of green tea per week for six months had, respectively, 20% and 50% less risk of developing esophageal cancer. The Laboratory of Cancer Research at Rutgers University found that when mice were given green tea to drink, 87% of all skin cancers were blocked, 58% of stomach cancers, and 56% of lung cancers. A University of Minnesota study of 35,000 women over an eight year period found that those who drank two or more cups of green or black tea per day had a 10% reduction in risk developing any cancer, compared to those who rarely drank tea. At the microscopic level, tea prevents mutation of cellular DNA, explaining why it is especially important to drink tea if you are exposed to carcinogenic substances, such as cigarette smoke. The list of health benefits goes on and on. Tea improves bone density, normalizes blood sugar, and helps with weight loss. To get the best results, it is important to drink three to five cups per day, including shortly after a martial arts workout. As with any change in diet, consult with your physician to make sure that you don’t have a health condition that would make tea inadvisable, for example caffeine intolerance, ulcers, or cardiac arrhythmia. Tea is a powerful aspect of complementary medicine, not meant to take the place of necessary medical treatment.   Tea and the Martial ArtistPerhaps the most important reason why martial artists love tea is that it improves alertness and attentiveness. After drinking a cup of tea, one feels, paradoxically, more relaxed and more awake. Tea alters consciousness, not only because of its chemical constituents and biological effects, but because to prepare a delicious cup of tea, one is required to slow down and enjoy life’s passing moments. No wonder tea was called ”the divine medicine” by Japanese tea masters, who sometimes served it on the battlefield. After a cup of tea, meditatively prepared and consumed, one is beyond the dualities of life and death, in a state of pure being. The tea drinker can face battles without fear, whether in life or in the ring.

Kung fu tea set up with "red clay" yi xing teapot, tea boat, ceramic "tea ocean" decanter, and cups.

Kung fu tea set up with ”red clay” yi xing teapot, tea boat, ceramic ”tea ocean” decanter, and cups.  Cha Yi: The Art of Tea Chinese scholars and tea enthusiasts use the term cha yi (the art of tea) to distinguish their unique culture and aesthetics from the protocols of the Japanese way of tea (chado). The art of tea may also be called the culture of tea (cha wen hua), since tea skill and knowledge includes far more than technique. A tea master knows about tea cultivation, tea ceremony, tea appreciation, tea pottery, tea history, tea poetry, and how to make guests feel welcome. A tea master can create the feeling and atmosphere of a mountain hermitage in the middle of a bustling city. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. You don’t have to be a tea expert to present and enjoy tea. The most important ingredients are good water, fine tea, beautiful surroundings, and refined guests. Serve tea in a clean uncluttered space with a view of nature or artful representations of nature, such as flowers, landscape paintings, or Chinese calligraphy. Invite guests who appreciate taste and aroma and who have the patience to observe and learn. The rules of tea conversation are simple: no yesterday, no tomorrow, no politics, no business! The Foundation: Pure WaterWater for tea should have the qualities of purity, clarity, sweetness, and energy (qi). The best water is from mountain springs or rivers that flow in gently shaded areas over stones. This makes good sense. Flowing water, compared to stagnant water, is less likely to breed algae or bacteria. Partially shaded water has the proper balance of yin (shade) and yang (sun). In feng-shui, the rule is 3/5 yang, 2/5 yin, whether for a house, a monastery, or water. Water flowing over stones is preferred over water that flows over a soft, earthy riverbed, which would be more likely to contain silt and impurities. Of course, today, it is generally unsafe to drink river water, unless it is carefully purified. Bottled spring water is often the best choice. Chlorine, fluoride, and heavy mineral content can ruin the taste of water and tea.

Gaiwan with oolong tea

Gaiwan with oolong tea  Heat water in a stainless steel or pyrex kettle, never aluminum or copper. Be sure that the tea equipment and utensils-kettle, teapot, thermos, cups, etc.-do not have the scent of coffee or any other substance. Different teas require different temperatures of water to bring out their taste and fragrance. Use fully boiled water for black and pu-erh teas, very hot water for oolongs (approx. 180-190 degrees F.), and very warm water for green or ”white” teas (160-170 degrees F.). Hot water can scald and destroy the flavor of white or green teas. You want to brew your tea, not cook it! How to Prepare Tea Brew only loose tea leaves. No tea bags. No metallic or plastic ”tea ball” infusers. Tea leaves need room to open and ”breathe” their fragrance into the water. When you add tea to a cup or pot, use a wooden or bamboo spoon (or scoop), never your hands! There are three basic ways to prepare tea: (A) Western style in a teapot, (B) Chinese style in a specially designed ceramic or porcelain teacup called a gaiwan (covered cup), and (C) kung fu style in a ceramic yi xing ware teapot. White and green teas brew best in porcelain. Oolong may also be brewed in porcelain, but only yi xing ware brings out the full flavor. Black and pu-erh teas may be steeped in any style of teapot. A. Western Style

    1. Use a ceramic teapot (try the classic British teapot called the ”Brown Betty”).
    1. Preheat the teapot with hot water. Pour in; pour out.
    1. Always place leaves in the pot before adding the water for brewing: approx. 1 tsp. of tea leaves per 8 oz. of water + ”1 for the pot.” For example, in a 4 cup capacity teapot use 5 tsp. of tea leaves. More or less to taste.
    1. Brew for 3 to 5 minutes.
    1. Pour the tea directly into guests’ cups. If you are using small or finely cut tea leaves, you may pour tea through a strainer.
    1. Pour any remaining tea into a separate pot or small pitcher to prevent over-steeping and a bitter taste.
    1. Re-steep as necessary, adding about 30 seconds to each steeping.
    1. In general, you may use the same leaves for three steepings. The second steeping is often considered the best.
  1. You may reuse the same tea leaves within a 3 hr. time period. However the tea always tastes best when you do not let the leaves cool off or sit in the pot. Never drink day-old tea. It loses both its taste and healthful benefits.

Yi xing teapot with beautiful incised Chinese calligraphy

Yi xing teapot with beautiful incised Chinese calligraphy. The four characters, from right to left read Qing (Refreshing, Pure), Ling (Spirited), Jing (Tranquil), Tai (Peaceful)  B. Everyday Chinese Style

    1. Use a ceramic cup, ideally with a lid. White interior color is best to highlight the color of the tea. One of the best ways to enjoy the tea experience is by drinking from the specially shaped Chinese ceramic cup called a gaiwan. The top of the cup flares out slightly, spreading the scent more effectively than a conventional cup. The gaiwan is also, more rarely, called the three powers cup (san cai wan) because it has a cover representing Heaven (the first power), a saucer-like support representing Earth (the second power), and the cup representing People (the third power).
    1. Preheat the cup by pouring in boiling hot water and then immediately pouring it out.
    1. Place 1-3 tsp. of tea leaves in an 8 oz. cup. The amount of tea leaves depends on the weight of the tea rather than its volume. For example, because white Silver Needle Tea is very light (in weight), you may add 2-3 tsp. per cup. Tieh Guanyin, a famous oolong, is relatively heavy, requiring between 1 and 2 tsp. per cup.
    1. Steep for approx. 2 minutes, checking for ideal taste and color. For green and white teas, leave the cup uncovered while steeping. For other teas, cover the cup.
    1. Before drinking the tea, you may use the lid of the gaiwan to push any floating leaves gently to the side, where they will congregate to make a clear space for drinking.
  1. When you finish the tea, you may add more hot water, adding about 30 seconds to the steeping time. Most good teas will retain flavor through three gaiwan steepings.

The gaiwan, covered tea cup

The gaiwan, covered tea cup  It is important to note that many tea connoisseurs use the gaiwan like a teapot. They brew the tea in it and then, while holding back the leaves with the lid, pour the tea into either a decanter or directly into smaller cups for the guests.   C. Kung Fu Tea Kung fu (gong fu in official Mandarin Romanization) means more than martial arts. It means a high level of skill in any activity, achieved through practice. Remember that kung fu tea is appropriate for preparing oolong, black, and pu-erh teas, but is generally not advised for white or green teas.

Yi xing teapot with frog and lotus design

Yi xing teapot with frog and lotus design  Utensils The most important utensil is a small ceramic teapot, somewhere between the size of an orange and a grapefruit-enough to hold one or two cups of water. The very best is Chinese Yi Xing ware, from the city of Yi Xing in Jiangsu Province. The Yi Xing ”purple sand/clay” (zi sha) or ”red clay” (zhu ni, rarer because it is often more deeply buried in the quarry) has been used to make teapots since at least 1500. The pots are generally unglazed to display the subtle earth tones of the clay and to allow seasoning of the pot. Use your Yi Xing pot with only one type of tea: that is, make only oolong, black, or pu-erh teas in a particular pot. Yi Xing ware holds the warmth, flavor, and qi of tea like no other utensil. Yi xing teapots are available at Asian art and tea shops. Other utensils needed: some small shot-glass size tea cups (Japanese ceramic or porcelain sake cups are perfect), a ceramic or heat-proof glass decanter (called the cha hai, ”tea ocean”, though a 3-5 oz. creamer pitcher also works), a flat-bottomed bowl (cha chuan ”tea boat”) large enough for the Yi Xing teapot to sit in, and a cloth to wipe up any spilled liquids.   The Essential Steps

    1. Warm the teapot, cups, and the decanter with hot water. Discard this water.
    1. Fill the pot about 1/3 with tea leaves. Always use a spoon, preferably wooden, to put in the tea, never your hands! (The oil from your hands can affect the taste and freshness of tea.) With practice, you will learn the right amount of leaves to use, so that when they expand they will not block the spout.
    1. Place the teapot in the tea boat (the bowl). Pour enough hot water into the teapot to cover the leaves, and immediately pour this out into the tea boat. That’s right. You are warming the pot, washing the leaves, and teasing some flavor and aroma from the leaves. Now you are ready to make tea. (Since caffeine is water-soluble, this will also slightly decaffeinate the tea, a process that will continue with subsequent steepings.)
    1. Fill the pot with hot water (at a temperature appropriate for the type of tea). Put the lid on, and pour more hot water over the lid to seal in the heat. The bowl catches the hot water, forming a small pool that keeps the pot hot-a natural tea cozy.
    1. Steep the tea for about 10-20 seconds. Steeping differs from tea to tea, so it will take some practice to find the correct brewing time for the best color, aroma, and taste. When the tea is ready, pick up the teapot and make some leisurely counter-clockwise circles with it a few inches above the rim of the tea boat. This will mix the liquid and ensure that there is a harmonious infusion of tea flavor and color.
  1. Line up the guests’ teacups, so they are touching. Pour the tea back and forth into the cups until they are all filled. (Otherwise, the last cup will have too strong a flavor.) To prevent over-steeping, pour the remaining tea into the decanter. Or you may pour the steeped tea immediately into the decanter and serve tea from it.

As you and your guests drink tea, pour more hot water into the pot. Steep about 5 seconds shorter than the first steeping. (Again, no strict rule here. With some teas, the second steeping should be slightly longer.) Then repeat the procedure for pouring tea. With the third and subsequent infusions, most teas require adding about 15 sec. to each steeping. It will take some experimenting until you know your tea. When you make tea this way-a very tiny teapot with a large amount of leaves, steeped for a very brief period-you can keep infusing the tea from six to ten times before flavor is lost (depending on the quality of the tea and the shape of the leaf-for example, tightly rolled leaves open and release flavor slowly). This is a simple, elegant way to drink tea. Clean your Yi Xing pot with water promptly after use. Never scour or use soap.

Gaiwan with oolong tea

Gaiwan with oolong tea  Discover Your Inner Tea Master These steps are not ”rules.” There are many variations. For example, some people prefer to warm their cups by rolling them in the hot water in the tea boat. With large tea parties, it is also common to forgo the tea boat and, instead, use a large tea tray (cha pan) generally made of bamboo or wood which sits on a small basin to drain water used to clean utensils. Or, for personal kung fu tea, one may drink directly from the Yi Xing teapot spout! The important thing is making a delicious cup of tea in a relaxed and tranquil manner. Discover the Tea Master within and find your own way!

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About Kenneth Cohen: Kenneth Cohen, Gao Han (QigongHealing.com), is a world-renowned teacher of qigong, Taiji Quan, and related arts, including Tea. Gao Laoshi (Teacher/Professor Gao) received his teaching certificate from the William C. C. Chen Shool of T’ai Chi Ch’uan in 1974 and also trained with Masters B. P. Chan, Gao Fu, and others. He is the author of The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing(Ballantine Books), best-selling Sounds True audio and DVD courses, and numerous magazine articles. The first person to teach qigong in U.S. medical schools, in 2003 Gao Laoshi won the Lifetime Achievement Award in energy medicine.

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