Well, one of the students volunteered to try making whisked Song dynasty tea in class today. The student has, as far as I know, no prior experience with making whisked tea, and we tried to follow the orders of Cai Xiang and Song Huizong to see if we can get something going.
The problem is, these manuals, if they are treated as such, as really bad manuals. They are for people who already know quite a bit, and are really not useful for those who don’t know anything to start. For example, they never mention how much tea to how much water. How much is appropriate? It’s not obvious. Of course, we know, because we’ve done it by experience, but if you are starting out cold, it’s tough.
The whisking also gets difficult, and in Song Huizong’s case, very cumbersome. Adding water in seven steps means that each individual step of water is really quite small. It’s not an easy feat to control such pouring, because for the most part, we are not practiced in such things.
We did try our best though, but the student reported that the tea didn’t taste like much — slightly grassy hot water, I think. The issue, of course, is that there wasn’t enough tea for the water used. It still begs the question of how much water is really used, and consequently, how much tea. Enough, of course, to make it frothy, but not too much so it’s too thick. It’s a fine balance.
Next week we’ll try making tea with a brazier outdoors, and I hope everybody can make a bowl for themselves. That should be interesting.