Remaking powdered tea

How do you keep adding water to powdered tea?

That’s my question when I read Daguan Chalun, because Song Huizong seems to think you can.  In fact, he mentioned adding water seven times.

Because of this description, I’m not entirely certain what he’s talking about.  If it’s anything like today’s matcha, then… adding water in seven steps without adding tea seems strange… after all, the tea will just get really, really thin.  This is, in some ways, more mysterious than Lu Yu’s boiling, which is actually relatively straightforward.


Comments

Remaking powdered tea — 5 Comments

  1. Friends with chanoyu training say that they are still taught to add water incrementally to the matcha powder, up until they reach the target water:powder ratio. They say that some schools formalise this by specifying the number of incremental additions of water, which sounds very similar to the recommendation that you mention. I wonder if perhaps they are related, given that chanoyu was imported from Song practices and formalised.

    Toodlepip,

    Hobbes

  2. Your intuition is right. Here is an example of Sung style tea and how water is added toward the end of the preparation.

    The reason to add water several times is similar to the reason why you would add water to flour several times when you make bread. It’s to better mix the ingredients together and to control the point when the mix is right.

  3. The instructions are very complicated, especially coming from Song Huizong. You add water seven times, each time you whisk differently than previously. Cai Xiang mentioned that the bowl should only be about 40% full of water when done, so each incremental addition of water would be extremely small, otherwise you’d fall into the “too much water” category.

    There’s also a shift from using what Cai Xiang called “spoon” (for which he explicitly banned using bamboo) to Song Huizong’s whisk (chasen — which he explicitly said use bamboo) a hundred years later. I’m always a bit skeptical of the way we tend to simply equate Japanese chanoyu practice with Song dynasty tea — I think it’s more complicated than that.

  4. Adding water seven times refer not to the tea making process in the bowl, but to the tea manufacturing process.
    Both of Tang and Song dyn. tea was brick tea. The Song brick was a more finely textured tea which through grinding in a fine powdered tea and the immediate infusion by the addition of hot water (the so called diancha method) was possible.

    The Song tea was and this is very important – a only bud tea, steamed than grinded, and with the addition of sevgen times water molded and pressed in bricks.

    “White buds gathered
    Make an ingot black.
    Hard, dark as an ink stick
    Powdered, white comes back…”

    The ground white powder tea was pressed in decorated bricks dried over fire all night (external appearance was black, inside was white). The prepared brick than, before preparing tea was broken and ground once more and shifted with a utensil similar to nowadays japanese chasen. Please refer photos here.

    http://teautja.hu/teahaz/a_teak_evolucioja.html

  5. @Rinpou – 

    Thanks for your input Rinpou, but adding water seven times is specifically under the section “diancha”, with the last step ending with drinking the tea. We’re not processing the raw leaves into tea here, we are making it for drinking.

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