– know in your heart that it's the water, and not anything else. It's all about the water..
来源：Austin Yoder 2013/09/27 发表于 The News Lens 关键评论网
Photo Credit: 陈镜 CHEN-CHING 翻译／红凯利
The Most Important Ingredient in Tea Isn't Tea.
What is the most important ingredient in good tea? I'll give you a hint – it isn't the tea. Here's some funky Chinese tea lore to illustrate what is the most important ingredient in good tea.
Legend has it that in the Tang Dynasty the governor of Huzhou Prefecture encountered Lu Yu, the renowned expert in tea-tasting. They were on board the same boat. The governor asked Lu Yu to brew tea and sent a servant to fetch water from Nanru River. [One of the best rivers to get tea from]. When the water was brought in, Lu Yu glanced at it and said it was not from the Nanru River. The governor ordered the man to pour it out. When about half of it was dumped, Lu Yu asked the man to stop pouring and said the remaining was from Nanru River. It turned out that on his way back the man was caught in a storm and half of the water in the container got spilt. Fearing that the master would reprimand him, he filled the container with water from the river on which he was sailing. He had not expected that his trick would be detected by Lu Yu.
- Excerpt from Chinese Tea Culture by Li Xiusong.
I was meeting with a Guqin master in Taiwan three years ago, hoping to become his apprentice. The Guqin is a traditional Chinese zither with seven strings, which is seen as the height of Chinese musical culture. Confucius played one, and Chinese scholar-gentlemen have played them for thousands of years.
In order to become an apprentice Guqin player, the teacher asks you a series of questions to evaluate your moral character. We were sitting down over a cup of tea, and the Guqin Master asked me a simple question. "
What is the most important ingredient in making a good tea?"
It seemed like a trick question to me, but I couldn't imagine any tricky answers. Good wine requires good grapes, so I thought the answer must be high quality tea leaves.
"High quality tea leaves picked at the right time and during the right time of day." I answered nervously. If I got the answer wrong, the Master might see me as stupid, and unsuited to playing the Guqin.
"Wrong!" He yelled at me, whipping out a finger and sticking it directly in front of my nose.
"Everyone always thinks that the most important ingredient in good tea is the tea. It's a total falsehood, because tea is different from any other beverage out there. Just like the Guqin is different than any other instrument out there. Guess again."
I really didn't want to make a fool out of myself, so I just sat quietly, trying to look pensive long enough that he'd give up and tell me the answer. I sipped on my tea, waiting for the Guqin Master to enlighten me.
"If you have the best quality tea in the world, but you brew it with pool water – that tea will taste like a pool – with all of the chlorine and piss and chemicals to boot. If you have a mediocre tea, but brew it with the freshest, most vibrant mountain spring water full of soft minerals, the water will draw out magical tones in the tea which you wouldn't ordinarily find. Good tea is entirely at the mercy of the quality of the water in which it is brewed. So, the most important ingredient in high quality tea is, in fact…" he paused to let me finish his thought.
"Water." I nodded, beginning to see the logic.
"Correct. And just like water is the most important ingredient in tea, moral character and integrity are the most important ingredient in a good Guqin apprentice. You are like water. I can teach you all of the techniques, culture, and philosophy behind the Guqin. But if you aren't a good person, your music will be like tea brewed with pool water – it will sound like chlorine and piss and chemicals. If, on the other hand, you are a good person, and I teach you the techniques, culture, and philosophy behind the Guqin… even if you aren't the fastest learner, your character will draw out magical tones in the music of the Guqin which not I, or any other Master can teach you. You will bring your own special quality to the music, and broaden our collective understanding and experience of how the Guqin applies to life."
I nodded vigorously, hoping that he would still be willing to take me on as an apprentice, even after I goofed up his question.
"Your homework for the night is to go back home. Take three different cups and put the same tea in all of them. Brew three different kinds of water up – tap water, cheap bottled water, and a more expensive, balanced bottled mineral water. Use each of these three waters to brew three cups of the same tea."
"Yes, Master Chen." I replied. It sounded easy enough so far.
"Pour one of the boiling waters into each of the three cups, blindfold yourself, taste them all, and write down as many impressions on the difference in quality and character of tea as you are able to. Based on what you write down, I will decide whether or not it is worth my while to take you on as an apprentice."
I went back and performed a blind taste-test of different waters like Master Chen asked me to.
The tap water tea tasted flat and dull. The cheap bottled water tea tasted somewhat more vibrant, but lacked a full body and the mouthfeel was almost nonexistent. The more expensive bottled water tea was like an entirely different tea. I picked up on more grassy and vegetal tones in the tea I was brewing – tones I had never noticed in the tea before. I was blown away by the mouthfeel, and how the tea made me salivate sweetly from the sides of my tongue, like sugar water was being painted onto my molars with a calligraphy brush.
I recorded as many of the impressions I had as I could, and went back the next week to meet again with Master Chen. When I showed him what I had recorded, and discussed my impressions with him, he listened intently. He stared intensely into my eyes, as if trying to decide whether or not I was telling him the truth – gauging some new intangible about me with each description. By the time I finished, Master Chen was sitting up straighter, and on the edge of his chair.
"You see. You see the difference, and are patient enough to seek it out, and discern for yourself based on your own senses. This is exactly the type of character you must have if you are to become a Guqin player, and it makes me happy to see an American who is so curious about our culture here in Taiwan."
I was so relieved!
"We begin next week. I will have a practice Guqin for you to start with. Show up at the same time and place, but that is all for today. Go home, and reflect on your personal motivations." "Yes, Master Chen." I nodded, and bowed my head slightly.
So, take this as a lesson. And if a Guqin Master or anyone else ever asks you what the most important ingredient in good quality tea is – know in your heart that it's the water, and not anything else. It's all about the water.
Sourse：Austin Yoder 2013/09/27 The News Lens
Photo Credit: CHEN-CHING 陈镜