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Thread: Green tea and zazen

  1. #1

    Green tea and zazen

    Hello, everyone.

    Given the historical connection between green tea and zazen, I suspect that there are many green-tea drinkers and connoisseurs in this forum. If so, I would like to solicit your help.

    I have been drinking Japanese green tea for years, and with the help of a thermometer and a timer I can now make a satisfying cup of Sencha tea or a tasty bowl of matcha, but when it comes to brewing the premium Japanese tea known as Gyokuro ("jeweled dew"), my efforts fall far short. This tea is rare, expensive, and famous for its bittersweet taste. I buy it fresh from Japan, and I follow the instructions precisely. But despite my best efforts, it ends up tasting rather ordinary. I realize that tea-brewing is highly subjective and a matter of trial-and-error, and that there may be no ultimate cup of Gyokuro tea. But knowing this has not been very helpful. So if anyone has secrets to share, I'd be grateful.

    Beyond the brewing of Gyokuro, I'd be interested to know how the tea drinkers among us integrate the consumption of tea with the practice of zazen. Here at home, as in the zendo during sesshin, I drink green tea before my morning sitting. It has become an essential part of my practice. I'm wondering whether others have had similar experiences.

    Gassho,

    Ben

  2. #2
    Hello Shiju,

    We drink green tea (sencha) before zazen in our little group, a tradition started back in 1624.

  3. #3
    Regarding the drinking of tea prior to morning zazen:

    Very interesting! My own experience, both within and outside of the monastery, is that there is no other activity (save getting up and using the toilet and brushing my teeth) before morning zazen. In the monastery there certainly wasn't as one barely had time to wake, shove one's futon and bedding into the closet on your tan, throw on your robe, head for the toilet, and be back on the cushion before the bell rang to begin zazen. (Brushing teeth often didn't happen until after breakfast some time.)

    Post-monastery, I still hold with this practice. The Big Picture reason that was given me for not doing anything prior to the first sitting of the day was that this established a physical discipline which led to the blood and bones understanding that there *is nothing more important than zazen and one should show up "as is" without any props when coming before the Buddhas and Ancestors.

    On the more mundane level it helps breaks the cycle that many have regarding the thinking that they simply NEED to have their coffee/tea whatever prior to starting their day or their minds aren't bright, they fall asleep, etc. Having to have one's coffee/tea was seen as another attachment and distraction to lead one into perpetuating the myth that one does not have all they need within their own Buddha Nature to find their enlightenment regardless of physical/mental/emotional states which are impermanent. I can't speak to what the senior monks got up to first thing but this was the novice's lot, and the lay peoples as well when they came for sessin.

    But I don't think about this reasoning behind the practice anymore. I just wake, suit up and show up. Now this is habit of a sort. Admittedly, there are days where I hit the ground running according to my schedule and I do the "five minutes of meditation in the shower" routine then grab as much coffee as the known universe is willing to shell out in order to spare others the wrath of Queen Kong :twisted: .

    Again, this is just my own, personal experience. So I'd be interested to know what others have experienced as well and why you do/don't do it.

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn (Queen of Why, Why, Why??)

  4. #4
    Gyokuro is a favourite of mine. But I never brew it properly! I like the colour and texture of the leaves almost as well as the taste of the tea.

    I also like the Chinese Spring Snail Shell (Bi Luo Chun) and Dragonwell (Lung Ching) teas.

    I'm hoping Santa will bring me a small Henley teapot this year. I've bought 5 as gifts for family and friends, but I don't have one of my own.

  5. #5
    Some excerpts from the book "Meditations with Tea: Paths to Inner Peace" here - http://www.teamuse.com/article_040801.html

    An interesting article on green tea and meditation in Korea here - http://www.skynews.co.kr/skynews_main/e ... ok_033.htm

    Green tea enhances the feeling of well being that is already present in meditation and has a long tradition. Green tea detoxifies the body, increases blood flow and stimulates mental clarity.

    It has also been found that tea has a stimulating effect on the immune system. A stronger immune system as a result of drinking green tea helps reduce the risks of illness.

  6. #6
    I asked my wife, as the green tea drinker, for a comment (I do the "Coffee Ceremony"). Here is what she wrote ...

    ________________

    Hi,

    If restaurant business is about "location, location & location." Making Gyokuro tea is about "temperature, temperature & temperature"

    Gyokuro is the finest green tea. It is like fillet mignon to beef. You need to deal with it properly.

    NEVER make Gyokuro with boiling water. (even many tea store in America do this when I asked a sample of expensive Gyokuro) Water, which once boiled, should be cooled down to 50 to 60'c. (I have a Japanese branded electronic thermo, which even has a "Gyokuro temperature" setting.) This range of water temperature allows the sweet flavor to come out.

    0) prepare 1 small tea cup and 1 teaspoon tea for 1 serving in the teapot
    1) Boil water
    2) cool down to 50 to 60'C by pouring water from cup to cup
    3) Pour the water to the pot, wait 2 to 2.5 minutes (while you are waiting warm up the cup by pouring hot water)
    4) Dump the water and pour Gyokuro including the VERY LAST DROP into the cup to enjoy
    5) for the 2nd round, use 55 to 65'C water, wait 1.5 to 2 minutes before drink it.


    The site like the following may be interesting to you though it is in Japanese.

    http://www.yokaocha.com/irekata-kyousitu-gyokuro.htm

    I hope this helps you.

    Mina

  7. #7
    Mina wrote:

    I hope this helps you.

    ***
    It did. Thanks very much for the instructions. The taste has improved, though I'm still experimenting. I have two further questions:

    --Is one kind of teapot (stoneware, porcelain, cast iron) best for Gyokuro?

    --Is it important that the tea leaves remain loose rather than confined to an infuser?

    * * *

    Jun wrote:

    Green tea enhances the feeling of well being that is already present in meditation and has a long tradition. Green tea detoxifies the body, increases blood flow and stimulates mental clarity.

    It has also been found that tea has a stimulating effect on the immune system. A stronger immune system as a result of drinking green tea helps reduce the risks of illness.

    * * *

    I can validate these claims in my own experience. However, I find it difficult to isolate any one variable (meditation? Tai Chi? green tea?) as the cause for a general state of well-being.

    Paige wrote:

    Gyokuro is a favourite of mine. But I never brew it properly! I like the colour and texture of the leaves almost as well as the taste of the tea.

    * * *

    I too enjoy the color and texture of the leaves--and especially the aroma when the tea arrives, fresh from Japan.

    * * *

    Lynn wrote:

    On the more mundane level it helps breaks the cycle that many have regarding the thinking that they simply NEED to have their coffee/tea whatever prior to starting their day or their minds aren't bright, they fall asleep, etc. Having to have one's coffee/tea was seen as another attachment and distraction to lead one into perpetuating the myth that one does not have all they need within their own Buddha Nature to find their enlightenment regardless of physical/mental/emotional states which are impermanent. I can't speak to what the senior monks got up to first thing but this was the novice's lot, and the lay peoples as well when they came for sessin.

    * * *

    Thanks for these comments, Lynn. The issue you raise here might be the subject of a new thread, namely the place of self-imposed deprivation or hardship in Zen practice. Depriving oneself of tea or coffee in the morning strikes me as analogous to having bare feet in the zendo during winter sesshin. Is it an essential condition? an ascetic practice? a collective habit? Does it truly support the practice? Depriving oneself of a habitual pleasure might well engender insight, but on this issue I tend to side with Thich Nhat Hanh, who once remarked that the body already has enough woes without inflicting more during the practice of meditation.


    Gassho,

    Ben

  8. #8
    On a Tea related note, here is a nice blog on Tea ceremony from a teacher in Portland: http://sweetpersimmon1.blogspot.com/

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  9. #9
    I tend to side with Thich Nhat Hanh, who once remarked that the body already has enough woes without inflicting more during the practice of meditation.
    I agree. As with many westerners, Thich Nhat Hanh is who inspired me to start practicing Buddhism - especially mindfulness. I like to have what I call "tea parties" with my daughter every weekend. We do the ritual green tea in the afternoon when things are nice and quiet. I like how Nhat Hanh stresses that quality time with family can be a wonderful practice of mindfulness.

  10. #10
    Thich Nhat Hanh is who inspired me to start practicing Buddhism - especially mindfulness.

    Gotta agree there. Thich Nhat Hahn has ben one of the people who's influenced me the most. It was actually a book by Pema Chodron, though, that drew me in initially.

  11. #11
    Don't make tea myself. Used to. Water most of the time. Coffee sometimes. Yep.

    I always found (Keizan Zenji making tea from pine needles) interesting though.

    G,W

  12. #12
    Hi,

    A couple of more comments from Mina. And before that, may I mention water and bagels. Bagels I know, and they never taste they way they should (meaning, from New York). Same with pizza crust. A large part of it is the water, which varies from place to place. I would experiment with various water sources.

    Now, Mina's comment ...


    _________________________

    As for teapot, I never thought of using anything other than earthenware or porcelain. Many Japanese "how to enjoy green tea" recommends earthenware because of its water absorbancy.

    I have never seen anybody in Japan using stoneware or cast iron as teapot. In America, I sometimes see tea is served with heavy stoneware or cast iron pot at a rather upscale cafe such as an "organic tea house" Whole Foods market sells those heavy ones as a teapot, which strikes me (and all my Japanese friends) very strange. Maybe for chinese tea? but definitely not for Japanese tea, especialy for Gyokuro.

    Also water make a big difference in taste of tea. You are better off with soft water. (while Chinese tea is said to be good with hard water)

    I am not sure about your second question, but, you should infuse your tea until the last drop to enjoy the entireness of it.

    Mina

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hello,

    I got a little teapot for Christmas. 8)

    Is there a supplier of good tea on the net?

    Regards and Happy Christ/Zen/Other- Mass to All,

    Harry.
    Harry,

    You can buy Japanese green tea online at http://japanesegreenteaonline.com/ or http://www.hibiki-an.com/.

    You might also check with the folks at Yamamori Noodle on South Great Georges Street or the Uki Yo sake bar on Exchequer Street. They could probably tell you where to find good green tea in Dublin.

    Slante,

    Ben

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