Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tea Chi

Unknown to many outside of Asia, premium grade, loose leaf Chinese teas actually have, and grow their own chi energy. Considered hokus pokus or nonesense to some, the rare, aged pu erh and oolong teas that have been traditionally produced in the ancient art of tea growing and processing are truly unique. When the British took tea from China to India, Sri Lanka and Africa, they did not preserve the quality with which it was being produced in China. Interestingly however, some tea plantations in the "tea transplant" zones have begun to recognize the importance of the handling of tea leaves from growth to picking to processing and consequently their own teas have improved dramatically! But I digress.

For families that have been growing tea for generations, growing and processing tea is not a science measured with the requisite instruments, but an art-form requiring a keen intuition and deep understanding of mother nature's seasonal cycles, weather patterns and other quirks of growing/processing influence. Some tea trees are fondly named by the family on the estate they are grown. And it is this familiarity and careful handling of the tea that contributes to its chi. For fresh teas, such as the white, green and lightly oxidized oolong varietals, the chi tends to be lighter as there is less processing and no aging. These teas are best consumed fresh for the most flavour and best aromas, as well as chi. But it is the aged teas, the oxidized oolongs and the pu erhs, particularly those aged for decades, that are truly special and spiritual. Smooth, often sweet and rich on the palate, these teas can leave one in a deep state of meditation, or if the mind is not quieted, perhaps contemplation. And in many highly spiritual societies of East Asia, tea has been used for just this purpose!

Cha Dao, or the way of tea, is considered to be one of the means, ways or paths to ultimate enlightenment, a state of being so pure and true as to suggest nirvana. I do not propose that this is 'the way' for all, but I do suggest that drinking tea can be much, much more than an afternoon past-time involving Earl Grey and some delicious scones. No, tea appreciation in China, Japan, Taiwan and other societies in the region can best be described as a culture, and yes, in many cases a way of life. If you can, try a great multi-decade aged pu erh or oolong and discover just what I'm talking about. They are powerful, and will leave you wondering when your next cup will be.

Cloudwalker Specialty Teas offers only these kinds of teas and are very particular about this as we work with a Taiwanese tea master. Check out our website at

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