Melody of Tea Incense
作者: Steven R. Jones
This paper, along with many other tea related papers, were collected published in a book by Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute
Abstract: The purpose of this writing is to explore only one small part of the many elements of Incense Culture and Arts, specifically Tea Incense. It has been recorded since ancient times that tea has been appreciated not only for its taste, but also for its odor, more pleasantly known as, “fragrance, aroma, or scent”. Through history tea has been mixed with other ingredients to make different varieties of incense. In a Tea Incense Ceremony pure tea is used as incense and the focus is purely on tea.
Key words: Incense, Tea, Tea Incense, Incense Ceremony, Tea Incense Ceremony
“a scent is worth 10,000 words”
Preface: I am very fortunate to be in Taiwan and to have several very knowledgeable Incense and Tea Instructors; all of them are very sincere, professional, and dedicated, about their fields. I feel that I should share what I am learning with the English speaking audience; since there is not much English language writing on the classical arts subject of Incense. Fresh dry tea can be used as incense, thus “Tea Incense”. Using tea as incense to sniff is an excellent way to experience it. It’s important to understand that Tea Incense is simply pure tea of good quality, taken from the same canister, box, or teabag that has been bought for drinking tea.
By using pure tea as incense, a tea’s character can be experienced, even without taking a single sip. Just as time is forever moving, so the scent of tea continues changing. Beginning with opening the tea canister or incense box, through heating the tea incense, until the end of the incense ceremony, the scents of the tea continue to change. Also the surrounding space is purified with the released “Tea Essence”. When we burn incense, the burning vessel is called an incense burner. The vessel for incense appreciation is the “censer”, also known as an “incense burner”; by heating the tea its fragrance moves with time, effortlessly though space.
TEA AND ITS HISTORIC RELATIONSHIP WITH INCENSE CULTURE
Tea and Incense has been used in China, for more than 5000 years ago, and has spread throughout the world. Classical Incense Culture has been integrated with this relatively contemporary form of, Tea Scent Appreciation; we call “Tea Incense Arts”. The Study of Tea Incense Arts should not be taken lightly, but with a true devotion; also some understanding of Incense Culture and Tea Culture are a prerequisite for this special kind of Tea Experience. By having knowledge and experience the Incense Ceremony Methodology, practitioners and participants have trained their sense of smell and sniff so to sensually and mentally experience incense and further learn by discussing with the rest of the group. For the most part “Incense Ceremony” involves natural incense such as incense woods, and no artificial made substitutes. Usually in Incense Ceremony, mostly agarwood is used. In the incense ceremony the uniqueness, varieties, and complexities of agarwood make it the noblest substance worthy for the Incense Ceremony. Incense and Tea have a very long interwoven historic relation. One complimenting the other on many occasions, they seem as though they were made for each other. So in this very special exception, Tea is used as Incense in the realm of Incense Culture, and we will explore the various scents of Teas by using the Incense Ceremony.
A RAINBOW OF TEAS
The term tea has several definitions; but in Tea Arts or Incense Arts it is to reference the tea plant, genus Camellia, species Sinensis, and the various varieties and the many sub-varieties. Tea comes in many shapes like, long, twisted, ball, flat, natural leaf-shape, or compact. It can be heavy or light. Also the leaf color is not always green. Due to the numerous Teas that are produced around the world, the choices are endless; but we will take a look at the basic tea variety spectrum. This will give a basic foundation for further learning.
The following is an appreciation description specifically of fresh tea using a heated in a censer and sniffed. Time, care, and thought were conducted into this Tea Incense Ceremony. I have attempted to describe in words what I have sniffed. We say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I say “a scent is worth 10,000 words”. I have taken into account and mixed together the physical scent description, imagery, metaphors, memories, and the feelings I get when experiencing (sniffing) the tea incenses:
A BROAD RANGE SELECTION OF SIXTEEN TEA INCENSES (fresh quality tea) WAS USED:
Dragon Well - - Fresh, mung bean, green sweet grassy scent. With the very natural way this green tea is traditionally made, whenever I sniff Dragon Well tea, I can’t help but think of the very name and the historic meaning of it. Lu Yu, “the Tea Saint or Expert”, lived in China during the Tang Dynasty, he knew all waters were not the same and it was an important element of tea brewing. The term “Dragon Well” is also written as “Longjing”, in China the area of Longjing Village in Hangzhou has always been a very good source for fresh water and this tea originates from there also.
Green Spiral - - Lightly raw grassy and vegetal scents in this green tea, light notes of fresh cut flowers with a hint of the floral stocks, mild and well rounded, sweet and lightly tangy scent. Experiencing this tea’s aroma sends me to the misty hilltops, where I often go walking on the weekend mornings, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Cool, fresh air, green and natural everywhere and if I concentrate I can see in my mind the forest’s life quietly at work.
Gunpowder Tea - - The aroma is sharp, pungent yet still smoothly fresh and wakes me up. Another classic traditional green tea, this tea sends me to the early traditional Eastern Tea Trade with the West, and how colorful and bold those folks were in the naming of this tea.
Light Oolong (Wen Shan area in Taiwan) - - A classic oolong also known as “Pouchoung” tea, with just the right touch of light floral notes and definitely not overpowering. Years ago, while with some friends in a tea shop, I asked them which tea is popular, they pointed to a big barrel, and told me they buy that tea. So I told them I want some too, and they told the owner wrap up a package of it. The owner took of the lid of the barrel and motioned me to take a whiff, very fresh, I was surprised they used paper and no tea canister, I said, “Hey where’s my tea canister?”, to my surprise everyone laughed and said traditional Light Oolong tea has been wrapped like this for ages and even the name pouchoung means wrapped up. This tea always reminds me of a traditional tea shop.
High Mountain Oolong (Ali Mountain in Taiwan) - - Nice touch of orchid scent, famous oolong tea of Taiwan, light yet distinct, Taiwan in my mind, cool misty early mornings in the beautiful mountains, over 400 years ago, the Dutch adventurer “Jan Huygen van Linschoten” while on a Portuguese vessel proclaimed it, “Ilha Formosa”, meaning “Isle of Beauty”, today known as Taiwan.
Iron Mercy Goddess Tea (Taiwanese) - - The scent of chestnuts dried apricots with notes of roasting. With its roots in China and perfected in Taiwan, I always think of the skill that goes in to the making and roasting of this spirited tea. When sniffing this tea I think of the wise, experienced, and aged, tea connoisseur…this is the goddess of teas.
Finger Citron - - This oolong has a nutty and citrusy scent. I asked how they got the name for this tea, and I got many responses, so I went to a day market and bought a finger citron, and I noticed the tea did have similar aromatic qualities of the fruit’s peelings.
Wuyi Cassia Tea - - Fresh, sweet, floral, and as the name portrays, spicy deep notes similar of cinnamon and an appealing sharp lingering scent. Just being near this wondrous tea sends me to China where we hiked the Wuyi Mountains and every picture I took, looked like a Chinese ink painting in color, this tea makes me feel vivid.
White Tip Oolong - - Ripe fruit and honey, my first experience with Taiwan teas, also known as the fitting name “Oriental Beauty”. This tea reminiscent of kings and queens and very musical in aroma with a warm and comforting sense. I can’t help but think of the beautiful women of Asia when sniffing this tea incense, an excellent icon to represent the oriental beauties of the world.
Assam Tea - - This malty fragrant and sweet tea reminds me of the rich abundant earth. A few years ago I met a man from Africa that lived in India on an Assam Tea Plantation for a brief time. He told me about how they observed the exposed tea roots searching for water and nutrients, and could tell that the plants were thriving.
Ceylon Tea - - A very crisp and citrusy aroma with notes of caramel. This tea comes from Sri Lanka before called “Ceylon”. Years ago a young fellow colleague from Sri Lanka, which at the time I knew little about, gave me some Ceylon for the first time. He would tell me how beautiful his Country was, and with such magic in his bright eyes, and he was surprised I had never been there; I guess this precious place is worth seeing. One day I’ll go there and of course have some Ceylon tea.
Darjeeling - - Muscat grapes, lingering fullness, a great complex scent. My grandmother was from England, refined and proper, this tea is like a fine wine and I always think of her when experiencing this tea.
Puer Tea (post fermented, loose, aged) - - Plum, aged woody scent, thoughts of wisdom and age. The old-growth redwood forests of Northern California come to mind with this tea. The aged wood scent is like the ancient sequoias, the giants of the earth. In the ancient forests, being among the towering trees remind me of just how small we are.
Jasmine - - Clear, blended mix of jasmine and crisp green fragrances. The busy Dim Sum restaurants of Hong Kong come to mind, with the waitresses rolling carts of fresh delicious plates of food around the tables, just smile, look, choose, and point, and it’s yours on the table, yummy.
Osmanthus Oolong- - A perfect match of oolong tea fragrance and blanketed in sweet Osmanthus notes One day on a nearby hilltop in Taipei, We looking at this bush with tiny white-yellow flowers and my mother-in-law brushed at them and then dropped some of the flowers in my hand and said, “smell the flowers and put them in your pocket”. I was surprised how much fragrance these little beauties possessed. Sniffing this scented oolong is a floral delight but does not over power the oolong’s scent.
Ginseng Oolong - - Very rich and full of ginseng, floral and powder, mixed and complex, distinct pleasant clean smell. A distinct oolong spiced with ginseng gives this a rich complex energizing smell. I remember the first time I got off the airplane in Korea the smell of garlic was in the air; but it was not long before I found out about the herb ginseng and its many uses. I am always amazed to see the ginseng root which sometimes resembles a person. I also feel healthy when I smell this spiced oolong tea, I don’t necessarily believe all its claims of power or healing, but just the thought is enough to stir the imagination.
The following below is a summary chart of the teas used above. A little bit of fresh loose tea was heated in the censer and sniffed then discarded (Incense Teas Scents). Then some more tea was sniffed fresh out of the packaging (Dry Leaf). After that, the tea was brewed and poured into a cup and sniffed (Brewed Tea Liquid), and lastly, after several brewings the spent tea leaves were also sniffed (Brewed Leaves). The scents observed were compiled into a simple chart below. Please note that teas of the same variety may vary and this chart is just a generalization of the major scents associated to the specific tea used. The Incense Tea column is in bold chart cells.
SENSE OF SMELL AND TASTES
The human tongue can distinguish seven or eight types of taste, while the human nose specifically the olfactory glands can distinguish among hundreds of scents as well as the seemingly infinite intensities of each scent. The olfactory glands have an important role of not only smelling but also in tasting. This is why, when one has a stuffy nose, causing blockage of the olfactory glands, food will have little or no flavor. And there will be little or no sense of smell at all. The olfactory glands are the key to the Incense Ceremony and it is better if one is a non-smoker and also before an Incense Ceremony it is important not to eat strong tasting foods or drink alcohol. Having some plain simple tea to drink before a Tea Incense Ceremony is perfect way to prepare physically and mentally. Teas have different scents depending on the species, variety, processing, age, quality, and the individual character of the tea, some scents are easily noticeable and some are faint. So it is vital that the olfactory glands that have not been overly stimulated prior to the ceremony.
Odorant characteristics of a substance can be divided into three parts, and when sniffing tea incense these parts make up a time event with similar aspects to sound. Therefore musical terminology* is borrowed and related to the descriptions for scent:
Sharp notes- the first and most volatile scents, quick to dissipate.
Round notes- the main body scents, dissipating in the middle.
Deep notes- the finishing scents, lingering and slowest to dissipate.
*Note: the above terms are also used similarly in the perfume industry.
-WORD OF CAUTION-
“Don’t play with matches, you could get burnt”, we all have heard this more than once. For obvious safety, it is important to have some basic knowledge of using charcoal and an incense censer. Before burning the charcoal and heating any incense, safety precautions must be taken seriously. And of course care must be taken when handling the censer.
HEATING THE TEA INCENSE
A good quality censer that is simple and easy to handle and without any physical defaults is a must. Also it must not get hot when in use. It is important that there is good contact between the tea and the heating chip for proper use. If the tea incense is round shape, breaking it apart will help to make contact also keep in from rolling on the heating chip. With compressed puer, pry a few leaves off and then break them into smaller convenient pieces so they fit on the heating chip. When preparing Tea Incense for use, breaking up into small pieces helps it free its aroma.
Any kind of good quality tea can be used; but some varieties are better for the Tea Incense Ceremony than others. For example, leaf-tea type teas are usually more readily suitable for releasing their scents under the heat of the censer. Where as tip-tea type teas with their young and delicate character are just as special but usually have light fragrances that give off modest fragrances and too much heat can adversely affect the scents. But of course care must be taken with all tea incense not to over heat them or they all will smoke or burn. Controlling the heat can be done by positioning the depth of the odorless charcoal under the ash in the censer. In this way one can adjust the heat that reaches the heating chip and the tea.
TEA, SMELL, AND MEMORY
The sense of smell can trigger: memory recollections, past experienced scents, and even abstract ideas or emotions. We use our scent recognition, feeling, and the other participants’ descriptions to try to define the scents in words. Odor information is easily stored in long-term memory and has strong connections to emotional memory and our moods. This is possibly due to the olfactory system’s close physical connection to the part of the brain that is involved in emotion, long-term memory, and place memory.
APPRECIATION FOR THE SPIRIT OF TEA SCENT
* The participants should be in a tranquil mood with a clear mind, and to focus on the tea.
* The participants should strive to interact and cooperate.
* When sniffing tea, smell the pleasure of living and train one's heart to be generous.
* The experiences of sniffing tea can enlighten and increase the capacity of consciousness to achieve greatness and direction, as well as noble simplicity.
In conclusion, just like any experience is different due to the fact that time is ever changing and new experiences are encountered, perceived, and evaluated by past experiences, and present circumstances. Sniffing and passing the censer around a few times and sharing by describing and listening to others while trying to define the different scents as the tea releases its aroma as the odorless charcoal changes temperature due to all these factors the experience will always be different. The mood and ambience just like any Incense Ceremony is directly affected and focused around the incense used, the heating of incense purifies the space and sets a tone of the moment depending on the incense used.
Agarwood - [ 沈香 ] – from heartwood from Aquilaria trees, unique, the incense wood most used in incense ceremony.
Another name is Lignum aloes or Aloeswood. “This is potentially confusing, since a genus Aloe exists (unrelated), which has medicinal uses, . However, the Aloes of the Old Testament (Num. 24:6; Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17; and Cant. 4:14) and of the Hebrew Bible (ahalim in Hebrew) are believed to be agarwood from Aquilaria malaccensis. Agarwood.”, this reference is from: (2007, December 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:58, December 27, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Agarwood&oldid=180300956
Censer - [香爐] - usually small, and used for heating incense not burning.
Censer and incense burner, the terms are sometimes interchangeable.
Charcoal - [木炭] - only the odorless kind is used.
Incense burner - [香爐] - usually larger than a censer, and used for burning incense.
Incense woods - [ 香木 ] - a naturally fragrant resinous wood.
Leaf-tea type - [葉茶類] - tea consisting of the leaves, no tips.
Musical terminology* borrowed and related to scent:
Sharp notes - [高頻] - the first and most volatile scents, quick to dissipate.
Round notes - [中頻] - the main body scents, dissipating in the middle.
Deep notes - [低頻] - the finishing scents, lingering and slowest to dissipate.
*Note: the above musical terms are also used similarly in the perfume industry.
Odor - more pleasantly known as, “fragrance, aroma, or scent” - [ 香 ].
Olfactory glands - [嗅腺] - the glands that are responsible for the sense of smell.
Tea incense - [茶香] - pure brew-able and drinkable tea used as incense.
Tip-tea type - [芽茶類] - tea consisting the young unfurled tips and leaves.
* * *
rough draft: 12/19/06, revised: 3/29/07,revised 12/20/07
* Incense Lore, Elementary Course, Author: Lin, Rai-Hsian, Published: JUN 2005
( 香道入門 , 作者 ：林瑞萱 , 出版日期：2005 年 06 月 )
* Tea Culture Monthly, Progress Report, Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute
Chief Editor: Tsai Rong Tsang, (蔡榮章) (茶藝月刊, 陸羽茶藝中心工作報告)
* Britannica is copyrighted 1994-2006 by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
* Encyclopædia Britannica® Online 2006
* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary (Eleventh Edition), 2003
* United Kingdom Tea Council Ltd. 2006, Web:www.tea.co.uk
PERSONAL INFORMATION, EDUCATION & EXPERIENCE
Steven R. Jones
OBJECTIVE: Education, Translation, Document History, and Promote Tea Studies. I enjoy working with other people and teams. I also am very devoted to the Spirit of Tea and am still learning myself everyday. I am involved in the working on English Tea Terminology, and several books in progress. I am also involved with several organizations, mostly for the preservation, sharing, innovations, and expansion of: Tea Ceremony, Arts, and Culture, Tea Performances, Tea Processing, and Classical Asian Arts.
*Writer and translator, "Tea Culture Monthly" of the Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute
* Leader, Herin Tea Troupe, Ten Ren Teaism Foundation
* International Affairs, Tea Master Guild
* Activity ,International Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony Association
* Tea Master, Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute
* Instructor, International Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony Association
* American English Instructor, Writer and Translator
* Instructor, Tea Brewing, Ankang Senior Citizens Home, Taipei
* Education & Heritage Tea Promotion Team, Taipei Tea Merchants Association
* Tea Arts Society, Taipei Shihlin Community College
* Jing Tzu Cha Dao, graduated both courses on Tea Ceremony by Buddhist Compassion
Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Tzu Chi University Continuing Education Center, Taiwan
個人資訊， 教育 / 經驗
Steven R. Jones
◎美語老師 / 作者 / 翻譯人
◎台北市茶商業同業公會- [大稻埕找茶趣活動推動小組 ]
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日期 (date): Feb. 2, 2008