September 12, 2014

3 Keys That Unlock The Alchemy of Tea.


Let’s start with some soul-salavating tea quotes:

Tea embodies the union of heaven, earth and man. By heaven we mean the climate and weather, by Earth we mean the soil, and man refers to the process of making good tea from the leaves.”

~ Chinese Proverb

“The first cup sleekly moistened my throat and lips, The second banished all my loneliness. The third expelled the dullness from my mind, sharpening inspiration gained from all the books I’ve read. The fourth brought forth light perspiration, dispersing a lifetime’s troubles through my pores. The fifth cup cleansed every cell of my being. The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals. This seventh…I can take no more.”

~ Lu Tung (755 – 805 AD)

“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.”

~ James Norwood Pratt

“The sounds of the tea being made invite the peach blossoms to peep in through the window.”

~ Uson (quoted in Sasaki Sanmi, Sadô Saijiki)

“Water is the mother of tea, a teapot its father, and fire the teacher.”

~ Chinese Proverb

Tea is a culture. It is a practice. It is an awareness that blossoms when known, seen and felt. It is a ritual that changes the participant (through both its properties and essence). Through tea you can be transported to far away lands, to the moment of its growth or harvest, and to the people who cultivated its growth and being.

All teas are not created equal. Perhaps, if we are lucky, we will stumble upon a tea that will magically transport us into a new realm and experience. Tea is mysterious and transformational.

Tea is an alchemical agent with metaphysical attributes that are known for producing enhancement, clarification of perception, elevation of mood, and energizing effect on the mind. (High Mountain Oolong Tea in particular is a potent alchemical agent that I am obsessed with at the moment.)

We can define an alchemical agent as a substance with physiological effects on the body that also produces psychoactive and metaphysical effects on the mind. A high quality alchemical agent will have a potent effect on the body, mind and spirit.

How does this work? How does something have an alchemical effect? It starts with its complex biochemistry. Tea has been found to have more than 600 biochemical factors. This includes chemicals like L‑theanine and a significant amount of the two most potent antioxidants on Earth, polyphenols and catechins.

The Nutrient Breakdown:

1) L‑theanine in particular has been shown to have a direct influence on brain activity such as reducing stress and relaxing the mind without causing drowsiness. It helps to relax tension in the body while also elevating mood and generating a state of well‑being. L-theanine triggers the release of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps to calm the brain and nervous system. It is also believed to induce the release of dopamine, which is our primary neuro-chemical associated with feelings of satisfaction and pleasure.

2) Antioxidants—catechins and polyphenols—in tea have been shown to provide protection from toxins in the brain and nervous system (prevention of tumors). They help to reduce inflammation in the brain and nervous tissues. Catechins improve cerebral functioning, modulate mood and increase mental stamina. They serve as MAO inhibitor which enhances mental and emotional equilibrium.

The soul of tea:

There are some things that can’t really be known by the mind—they have to be felt by the heart. Due to its superb quality tea seems to possess subtle energetic and metaphysical properties that are quite tangible. It is an experience (and relationship) that the person communing with the tea or herb will find very personal. Other alchemical agents like reishi mushroom or wild ginseng have a similar effect because they address one’s shen (or spirit).

The secrets to a good and potent cup of tea is in its cultivation (and brewing). With all herbs, certain variables must be considered, such as:

Where it is grown
When it was picked
By whom it was picked
How old it was when it was picked
How it was processed
How it was prepared

Each of these variables can influence how much of that “special something” the resulting herbal product will have. Quality and attention to detail is everything.

The experience is pure poetry:

From just a flavor standpoint, we can really categorize the flavor as floral, smooth, clean and aromatic. It has amazing alchemical effects. It is also very pleasing and pleasant. A good tea is like wild honey with an amazing herbal bouquet over a sweet, savory flavor that lands on the palate. Tea provides a captivating sensory experience that is memorable. A good tea will stay with you for hours—the aromas will fill your palate and throat. This is what tea connoisseurs call an echo—the lingering essence that is characteristic of high-quality teas.

Bonus—some tips on how to make a proper cup of tea:


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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Mo Riza/Flickr

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