Tea and the Tea Ceremony
"The simple elegance and subdued beauty of celadon tea ware adds quiet peace to a relaxing moment with a cup of your favorite tea."
Tea was fist discovered about 2700BC
and was first cultivated around 350AD in China. The first recorded tea ceremony
was held in China about 800AD but in Korea the first offering of tea to an
ancestral god was believed to have been performed in the year 661.
Korean green tea can be roughly classified into three categories based primarily on the time the tea leaves were picked. The fist category is called U-jeon (우전) and consists of the first tea leaf buds that appear around April 21. Of course the time varies slightly each year, but these first buds of the leaves are picked before they become too large and are used to make tea with the most delicate flavor and fragrance. The second classification is called Se-jak (세작) and are the slightly larger leaves that appear about 14 days after the first harvest. The third picking, Jung-jak (중작) are picked about 14 days after the second and all consecutive pickings for the rest of the year are classified as Dae-jak (대작). These last pickings are what is used to make most of green tea supplied in tea bags. It consists of pieces of larger tea leaves and has a stronger, somewhat harsher flavor than the first three pickings.
While it is widely believed that green tea
has less caffeine than other teas such as oolong, that is not necessarily true,
and studies have found that all teas have about the same amount of caffeine.
in teabags, however, does have slightly less caffeine than the more expensive teas and
this can be attributed to the larger, lower quality leaves used in teabags.
Korea has eight provinces and while each
province has its own unique method of preparing green tea, below is a
common method that is familiar to all the provinces.
Using a tea set with a cooling bowl: Refer to the instructions
for your particular type of tea for the amount of tea and steeping time that
best suits your tea.
Refer to the instructions for your particular type of tea for the amount of tea and steeping time that best suits your tea.
Once the water is cooled, it is ready to be poured into the pot. After letting it steep for 2 ½ minutes, it should then be poured equally into the cups, and sipped slowly for maximum enjoyment. For a teapot set without a cooling bowl, the boiling water may first be poured into the cups and then left to cool in them for several minutes before it is poured into the teapot. The tea leaves should be used three times, and then washed out of the teapot with water.
Using a cup set with strainers:
While many think the quality of the water cannot have an impact on the taste of the tea, nothing could be farther from the truth. The taste and fragrance of the better teas are so delicate that the wrong water - that is water containing chlorine, hard minerals, or other additives - can destroy the delicate aroma and taste of the tea. The best water to use for tea is fresh spring water or a good quality bottled spring water. The water can be boiled in any vessel but a non-reactive one is the best. Ceramic coated pots or teapots, are the best, while bare aluminum vessels are the worst as the aluminum is very reactive and tends to add a metallic flavor to the water.
The tea ware should be laid out on a small low tea table
or a Gyo-ja-sang (교자상). Though the placement of the various pieces is different
for each province and school of thought, below is listed a general guide that is
the most common.
Drinking green tea is an art in itself, and the rhythm and ritual of the ceremony is an aid to help the mind relax and achieve a higher level of spiritual enlightenment. In order to achieve that, the following movements are all performed with slow grace, and in a very smooth, controlled and artful motion. First the cloth cover is removed from the top of the table and the tea ware. Next with the right hand the lid of the tea container is removed and placed on a stand (not shown) or on the table in front of the container, and then the lid of the teapot is removed in the same manner. Then with the left hand the tea container is picked up, and with the right hand the spoon is used to place the proper amount of tea in the teapot. The tea container is then returned to its place and the lid restored At this time, hot water from the kettle is poured into the cooling bowl and one must wait the appropriate amount of time for the water to cool sufficiently - generally one to two minutes. After the water is cooled, the bowl should be lifted with two hands and the water poured gently into the teapot, then the cooling bowl placed back on the table. The lid is then placed on the teapot, and the tea is allowed to steep for the proper amount of time (in some cases, water from the cooling bowl is also poured into the teacups to pre-heat them, and then poured out into the waste water bowl). The tea is then poured into the cups and served. After drinking the first cup of tea, the last steps of pouring the water into the cooling bowl, then into the teapot, and then into the cups is repeated two more times. Each time a serving of tea leaves is placed in the teapot they are steeped three times.
As mentioned above, the tea leaves should be steeped three times, and each time a cup of tea is served, the cup should be sipped from three times, sipping about a third of the cup each time. The tea drinkers should be seated on the floor either on their legs, or cross-legged in front of the serving table. After the tea is poured into the cups, the cup should be picked up with the right hand and the left hand placed flat under the cup and then with the elbows slightly out to ones side, the hands and cup are brought up together to the mouth. Prior to sipping the tea, the delicate fragrance of the tea should first be enjoyed by holding the cup under your nose and inhaling deeply. After a moment, the tea should be sipped lightly and rolled over the tongue while savoring the fragrance and taste. After the tea is swallowed there remains an aftertaste that should be enjoyed for its own unique flavor before taking your next sip of tea. After the first sip, the cup is then brought down to the level of the belly and held there while the drinker breathes and clears the mind of thoughts while focusing ones energy into the area of the body behind the belly button. After the second sip of tea the cup should be brought to the middle of the torso, and again, one should breathe, clear the mind of thoughts and feel the energy flow from the middle of the chest. The third and last sip should drain the cup, and then the cup is brought down to the upper part of the chest and the breathing, mind clearing and energy focusing repeated.
Green tea is said to be an aid to digestion after a meal
and some claim it helps the complexion as well. It has no calories and is much
lower in caffeine than coffee. But the real joy in drinking green tea is the