tea pots, and the fine art of preparing tea are one of China's greatest
and most enduringly popular contributions to world civilization.
Among the many varieties of Chinese tea available on the market today,
there is one whose fragrance and flavor surpass all others and make
it stand out among teas "like a crane among chickens," as the Chinese
would say. This peerless distinction belongs to a noble variety of
Oolong ("Black Dragon") tea known as High Mountain Oolong Tea (gao-shan
wu-lung cha), which early Chinese settlers brought from mainland
China to Taiwan during the late 17th century. Over the centuries,
Chinese planters in Taiwan's mountainous central highlands meticulously
cultivated this special variety of tea to produce what sophisticated
connoisseurs of Chinese tea today regard as the finest tea on earth,
the ultimate masterpiece in the Chinese art of tea.
Mountain Oolong is a semi-fermented tea which retains all of the
nutrients and natural healing factors contained
in unfermented green tea, but without the "raw" grassy taste and
harsh impact on the stomach that make green tea disagreeable to most
people. The very brief fermentation process
eliminates harsh irritants from the raw tea and creates
the subtle fragrances and flavors which distinguish this tea from
all other varieties, without producing
the tannins and other toxic compounds found in fully fermented
tea. The cultivation and appreciation of High Mountain Oolong is
somewhat similar to fine wine, with each plantation and each mountain
producing its own unique bouquet of flavors, and each year's harvest
yielding its own special character.
Once you've tasted a fine grade of High Mountain
Oolong, properly prepared the traditional Chinese way, you will know
exactly what makes it so special. This tea delivers a bouquet of
flavors that clearly speaks for itself the moment it touches your
tongue and wafts through your nose, creating tastes and after-tastes,
tones and over-tones, that cannot be faked or imitated by less well
bred teas. A sip of freshly poured High Mountain Oolong introduces
itself quietly in the mouth with a dry, slightly astringent foretaste
which instantly clears the palate of all other residual flavors.
As soon as the sip is swallowed, its marvelous floral aftertaste
blooms quickly on the tongue and expands aromatically into the throat
and sinuses, unfolding like the fumes of a fragrant flower. This
is a very hard act for any other tea to follow, and many tea drinkers
become lifelong devotees of High Mountain Oolong after trying it
for the first time.
Daniel Reid's Tea Tidings Newsletter
In conjunction withOolong-Tea.OrgDaniel Reid authors the "Tea Tidings" Newsletter, the definitive
guide to the world of High Mountain Oolong Tea.
important as the quality of the tea is the Chinese art of properly
preparing and appreciating High Mountain Oolong. Small unglazed
clay teapots hand-crafted by master potters are used to steep this
of tea, and these are highly treasured collectors items among dedicated
drinkers of High Mountain Oolong. Connoisseurs also collect tea
cups and tea caddies, tea scoops and tea trays, and other requisite
of the ancient art.
Unlike the stiff
formality of the Japanese tea ceremony, in which every move is ritualized and
the quality of the tea itself is not very important, the
Chinese art of tea focuses entirely on the practical points of savoring the
flavor and fragrance of the tea, enjoying the touch and utility of the tea
tools, and engaging in the spontaneous exchange of thoughts and feelings
which drinking this tea together always inspires among fellow tea drinkers.
In fact, the Chinese refer to devoted connoisseurs
of fine tea as cha ren, literally "tea people," as though they were
a unique breed, which indeed they are. There are so many subtle facets
to the Chinese art of tea, and particularly High Mountain Oolong
Tea, that it takes a lifetime to master them all, but basically it's
the expression of a whole way of life, a way that harmonizes the
various elements of nature in a balanced, aesthetically pleasing
manner that refreshes the body, soothes the mind, and delights the
spirit. The Venerable Popchong Sunim of Korea, who cultivates the
art of tea as part of his spiritual cultivation, describes the proper
appreciation of tea as follows:
To determine whether a tea is good or not,
one should examine the color, scent, and taste of the infusion.
The perfect color is that of the first leaves in spring; the
scent is like that of a young baby. The taste cannot be described
but can be appreciated with experience. Tea is drunk to quench
the thirst, savor the taste, or simply to spend a quiet hour
appreciating the pottery and the general atmosphere that accompanies
tea drinking. There is no need to have a special attitude while
drinking it, except one of thankfulness.
In his book Vital Breath of the Tao, Master Xhongxian Wu notes that the Chinese art of tea "is a way of classical Chinese spiritual cultivation, which we call cha dao (the 'dao of tea'). One may become enlightened by drinking tea." This is not an overstatement. Chinese te lore abounds with stories of Buddhist monks and Taoist hermits who suddenly "awakened to the Dao" (wu dao) while savoring a cup of tea, and it was customary for spiritual adepts in China to gather together and "discuss the Dao while tasting tea" (pin ming lun dao). Indeed, the proper preparation of tea was highly regarded as a form of esoteric alchemy in which the fundamental elements of nature--fire, water, earth, air, and herbage--were correctly combined to produce an elixir with subtle metaphysical properties and rarefied energies that could purify the vital fluids of the body, boost vitality, and enhance awareness.
traditional method of preparing and drinking High Mountain Oolong
Tea has been developed to perfection in Taiwan, where it's known
as cha yi ("tea art") or lao-ren cha ("old folk's tea"), names which
reflect the two essential elements required to properly appreciate
High Mountain Oolong: taste and time. A unique technique in the classical
way of preparing this tea is the preliminary "hot bath," whereby
hot water is poured onto the dry leaves in the pot and immediately
poured out and discarded. This step washes the tea leaves and eliminates
all residual traces of dust, oxidation, smog, fumigants, and any
other contaminants to which the tea may have been exposed during
processing, thereby guaranteeing pure flavor and natural fragrance
with each subsequent infusion.
Potent Medicinal Benefits of High Mountain Oolong
addition to its value as an epicurean and aesthetic experience, High
Mountain Oolong Tea also has potent medicinal benefits
and is an excellent elixir for health and longevity. Long known
in traditional Chinese medicine for its detoxifying and digestive
this tea has been proven by recent scientific research in Japan
to have powerful cleansing and protective properties for the lungs.
This effect is produced by the volatile aromatic fumes which give
this tea its distinctive fragrance and flavor. As gases suspended
within the fluid of the tea, these aromatic elements are excreted
from the bloodstream through the lungs, not the kidneys, and as
pass through the delicate lung tissues with each exhalation, they
dislodge heavy metals, tars, and other toxic residues from the
alveoli (air sacs) and bronchia, allowing the toxins to be coughed
spit out. As a result of this discovery, High Mountain Oolong has
become the beverage of choice for millions of Chinese and Japanese
people, who rank among the world's heaviest smokers. Studies have
shown that smokers who drink this tea throughout the day have significantly
lower rates of lung cancer, emphysema, and other respiratory ailments
than those who don't.
High Mountain Oolong Tea also has many other health
benefits, and these have all been validated by modern scientific
research. The most important therapeutic advantages derived from
drinking this tea on a daily basis are briefly discussed below:
High Mountain Oolong contains
abundant supplies of potent antioxidants known as "polyphenols" and "catechins." These
compounds, also known as "free radical scavengers," neutralize
and eliminate the highly reactive metabolic and environmental
toxins known as "free radicals," which destroy cells, corrode
tissues, and cause premature degeneration of the internal organs.
The antioxidants in the tea provide constant detoxifying activity
in the blood and tissues, protecting the body from toxic damage
and preventing formation of tumors.
Since the polyphenols and other
antioxidants contained in High Mountain Oolong suppress tumor
formation, drinking this tea daily provides strong protection
against the development of all types of cancer, particularly
in the lungs and liver, which suffer the heaviest exposure to
toxic contaminants in air, water, and food. This protection against
cancer is further enhanced by the tea's strong alkalizing action
in the blood and tissues, where it counter-acts the excessive
acidity associated with all forms of cancer.
Scientists already know green tea plays a role in preventing
cancer, but now they know why: EGCG, or Epigallocatechin gallate.
EGCG works in precisely the same way as the chemotherapy drug
methotrexate: Both hinder the action of an enzyme that incites
cells to divide, according to Spirituality & Health (July/August
2005). Since EGCG causes less damage to healthy cells than
chemotherapy, it could become a promising cancer treatment.
Oolong has even more potent anti-cancer properties than green
tea, and unlike green tea, it can be drunk continuously throughout
the day for maximum therapeutic benefits.
High Mountain Oolong alkalizes
the digestive tract, bloodstream, and cellular fluids, neutralizing
the acidity which permits formation of cancerous tumors and causes
many other degenerative conditions. Blood and tissue acidity
is the primary cause of loss of calcium from the bones and teeth,
and this in turn leads to osteoporosis and tooth decay. Drinking
this tea daily therefore helps prevent these conditions as well
as other health problems associated with calcium deficiency.
Diuretic: The tea's mild diuretic properties promote swift elimination
of the toxins and acid wastes flushed from the blood and tissues by the
antioxidant and alkaline elements in the tea.
The tea's mild diuretic properties
promote swift elimination of the toxins and acid wastes flushed
from the blood and tissues by the antioxidant and alkaline elements
in the tea.
By alkalizing the mouth and stomach,
this tea eliminates the bacteria responsible for producing foul
odors in the breath. The aromatic fumes contained in the tea
saturate the blood and bodily fluids with cleansing medicinal
elements that help deodorize bodily secretions.
High Mountain Oolong contains
medicinal factors known as "adaptogens," which adapt the body's
vital functions to changing conditions in order to maintain a
healthy state of equilibrium. This balancing effect is strongest
in the bloodstream, where it regulates blood pressure, balances
blood sugar, and prevents thickening of the blood.
High Mountain Oolong assists
digestion by neutralizing excess acidity and preventing fermentation
and putrefaction in the stomach. It also breaks down fat molecules
into smaller particles, making them much easier to digest.
Drinking this tea daily produces
a continuous detoxifying effect throughout the body, facilitating
the elimination of metabolic wastes and toxic residues assimilated
from food, air, and water.
Studies have shown that High
Mountain Oolong Tea removes cholesterol deposits and other sticky
plaque from the walls of the blood vessels, thereby preventing
arteriosclerosis, heart disease, and strokes.
This tea contains only 0.5% caffeine,
plus several other compounds and co-factors which have mild stimulating
effects on the central nervous system. Unlike coffee, which stimulates
the body by racing the heart, the blend of natural stimulants
in High Mountain Oolong Tea directly activates the nervous system,
enhancing alertness, improving cerebral functions, and relieving
mental fatigue. They also stimulate swift eliminatiion of wastes
from the body. Due to the many nutrient co-factors contained
in this tea, the stimulation it provides does not enervate the
nervous system, as coffee and black tea can do, and its stimulating
properties may be enjoyed throughout the day without any negative
High Mountain Oolong contains
significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as essential
minerals and trace elements. These nutritional factors all have
potent antioxidant and healing properties, providing additional
support for detox and immune responses and increasing the health
benefits of the tea.
By producing a clean alkaline
environment in the body, this tea destoys a wide range of bacteria,
fungus, and other microbes, most of which depend on toxic acid
conditions in the blood and tissues in order to survive and spread
in the human body.
The Most Treasured Tea in the World
the top grades of High Mountain Oolong Tea from Taiwan rank among
the most expensive and highly prized teas in the world, with prices
ranging as high as US$800 per "catty," or "Chinese pound," equivalent
to 600 grams. While fairly good grades of High Mountain Oolong
grown from Taiwan tea plants by Chinese planters in Thailand and
are also available on the market today at lesser cost, the best
grades of this aromatic tea can only be found in Taiwan. As this
better known throughout the world for its unsurpassed flavor and
potent protective health properties, demand continues to drive
up the cost of limited supplies of the best quality harvests. Nevertheless,
since the top grades of this tea are not only the best tasting
also the most therapeutically beneficial, it's never a waste of
time to sit down each day to prepare and drink it properly, nor
ever a waste of money to buy the best quality you can afford.
For those who cultivate the Chinese art of tea,
cha dao ("The way of Tea") soon becomes a whole way of life . The
process of preparing and appreciating High Mountain Oolong Tea
the traditional way develops a personal refinement and discriminating
taste that gradually influence and improve every other aspect of
daily life and awaken the mind to subtle nuances of nature that
went unnoticed. All of the human senses are pleased by the art
of tea, which embraces the most basic elements of nature--earth,
fire, wood, air--in a harmonious interplay of energies that produces
the perfect cup of tea and establishes the perfect state of mind
to appreciate its virtues. In his excellent book, The Chinese Art
of Tea, the sinologist John Blofeld describes the aesthetic and
philosophical appeal of drinking this sort of tea the Chinese way:
One should recognize that drinking tea is
something in itself, to be done for its own sake and not to fulfill
an ulterior purpose, for only in this way can the drinker come
to "taste sunlight, wind, and clouds." This is a typically Taoist
and Zen sentiment. . . Tea, unlike powerful drugs or alcohol,
increases rather than dulls alertness and carries with it the
essence of sunlight and mist, the spirit of sparkling mountain
springs and a pleasant earthy tang. . . Tea mysteriously engenders
empathy with nature and kinship with one's fellow beings.
But be forewarned: once you develop a taste for
good High Mountain Oolong Tea, you will lose your taste for all other
tea, as well as coffee, and after you start collecting tea pots and
cultivating the Chinese art of tea, other hobbies will lose much
of their appeal, and the Way of Tea will become a new way of life.
Tea Tidings Newsletter
In conjunction withOolong-Tea.OrgDaniel Reid authors
the highly informative "Tea Tidings" Newsletter, the definitive
guide to the world of High Mountain Oolong Tea.