Understanding The Art of Tea

By: Chee Hee Seng (CO19)

Photos: Gwynn Lim (11) + Myren Allen (9)

Tea … is a religion of the art of life.

-Kakuzo Okakura

On March 17, 2018, Mrs. Babette Donaldson, the founder of the International Tea Sippers Society, came to visit the Developing Virtue Tea Club to share her experience and knowledge of tea. She recently hosted a Sip For Peace event, aiming to unite the world with a tea blend consisting of tea leaves from different regions in the world.

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At our tea circle, she shared a story about the tea “TieGuanYin,” in which a tea farmer in China prayed to Guan Yin Bodhisattva and received a tea plant that has continued to bless the generations with its pleasing and unique flavor. After a brief Q&A session, she introduced the process of teacupping, in which several different teas are brewed with the same amount of tea leaves (by grams) and water, the same temperature, and the same period of five minutes. This “controlled experiment” brings the tea leaves to their highest potential, and thus the flavor is highly enriched and concentrated. The teas that were being compared were all black teas from three different regions, namely: Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Assam (India), and Yunnan (China). In each region, the tea leaves were made in two forms, Orthodox and CTC. Although both came from the same tea leaves, the Orthodox tea leaves are whole leaves and the CTC leaves are leaves that went through the process of cut, tear, and curl, and are often seen in the form of tea bags.

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After five minutes of strong brewing, the tea is finally ready to be tested. The students walked around, each with a spoon, and savored each of the teas with scrupulous attention. A discussion of the tasting then followed, wherein we learned from our sense of taste that tea from each region carried its own emblematic flavor, and that Orthodox teas tasted less concentrated when compared to CTC teas, possibly because it had less surface area microscopically.

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In short, this experience of teacupping was unforgettable and we sincerely thank Mrs. Donaldson for her visit and continuing support of our tea club.