When I was hired for my current job last summer, I purchased 中国茶经 as a present to myself. 中国茶经, or “The Chinese Tea Bible,” is a Chinese book of about 800 pages edited by Chen Zhongxin in 1991. (You can see a listing here.) I know virtually no Chinese, but I have surprised myself by how much work I have done translating it so far. Prompted by Michael Coffey’s Google+ hangouts, I present my translation of the section on Bailin Gongfu. I hope it is the first in a series, but that’s something I’ve said many times…. Continue reading ‘中国茶经: Bailin Gongfu’
A while ago I bought a tea set from Dragon Tea House. It’s an affordable “Yixing” set that comes in a carrying case that doubles as a chápán, or draining tea tray. Included was a small tea towel – a washcloth, really – emblazoned with the legend CHA YUAN 茶缘. 茶 is tea, so I assumed this was Chinese for tea towel and moved on.
Recently, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to look up 缘. To my bafflement, Nciku defined 缘 [yuán] as “cause, fate or edge.” There are some poetic names for items used in gongfu tea, but this really took the cake. How is a tea towel a cause, fate or edge?
My wife’s graduate studies are winding down, so I’ve been taking advantage of her university privileges to access some tea books and journal articles. I recently read “Pu-erh tea tasting in Yunnan, China: Correlation of drinkers’ perceptions with phytochemistry,” by Ahmed et al., from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and my scattered reflections follow.
The authors studied 10 samples of puerh (ripe, new raw, and >10-year-old raw; plantation-grown and agro-forested), infusing each sample 10 times in gongfu fashion. Each infusion was described and rated by a panel of Yunnan experts, and also analyzed in the laboratory for its constituent chemical content.
Chinese tea names can be difficult for English-speaking tea drinkers. Mandarin characters are too thorny for our brains to grab hold of. But the most common alternative, unaccented pinyin, can be worse. If I write 茶, there is no question I am talking about “tea.” But imagine I write “cha.” Tea drinkers will probably guess what I’m referring to, and others will feel like they have something that can be looked up in a dictionary. Instead, they will still be lost: did I mean “to be surprised,” “inferior,” or “a fork”? Chinese is a tonal language, so accents or numbers must be used to convey tone information; otherwise, there can be too many possible translations for any romanized word.
I am no longer working at the Random Tea Room. This is just a note in case my local readers are hoping to catch me there.
The Philadelphia Tea Institute has been making a systematic study of The Art of Tea magazine series. The Art of Tea is the English version of 普洱壺藝, an irregularly-published periodical (an occasional?) on Chinese tea culture. This English version is marketed to non-Chinese-speaking Asian countries (e.g., Singapore, Malaysia, and Korea) for whom English is a common second language, but thankfully it’s available stateside from Tearoma. This post, my attempt at a recipe in The Art of Tea #1, will be the first in a series of comments on our studies.
I recently gave a presentation on “Chinese Tea Culture” at the Narberth Public Library. See here for coverage by the local patch.com affiliate! And hey, look at the comments–somebody else wants me to do another presentation. Thanks, Mom!