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The Meaning of Ch'a Qi

June 12, 2017

When exploring the world of tea, you'll eventually start hearing terms thrown about in conversation. One of these will be "ch'a qi." Breaking the term down into two parts, we notice the words "ch'a" and "qi." Most people have heard the Chinese word "qi," and its most popular translation "energy." This leaves us with the word "ch'a" meaning "tea." Put them together and what do you have? Something much more complex than "tea energy," I promise.

 

Every tea practitioner will explain "ch'a qi" in their own way. For me to simply translate "ch'a qi" as the energy of the tea is not sufficient, and I've come to this conclusion over thousands of steeps and hundreds of teas. Ch'a qi is a sensation that folds together the energy, soul and wisdom of the leaves. The result is complex, engaging one deeply in the practice of tea, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. 

 

All teas carry some degree of "ch'a qi;" some more strongly than others. Some experts might argue that aged teas have more wisdom than newly harvested leaves; the latter sometimes like an unruly toddler, wild with much to learn still. That would make a lot of sense, and perhaps the reason why "ch'a qi" is often used in conversation when tasting aged and fermented teas such as puerh, for example.

 

I've sat at my tea table, entirely taken by each sip of tea, surrendering and allowing myself to get lost in the moment. Tea has the ability to take you under its wings. It can be centering when feeling off-balance, calming when hyper or anxious, energizing when sleepy, and so on. It can help us focus when the lines are blurred, and it does so with compassion. Tea doesn't smack you around, it simply takes your hand and guides you through a steady release of its very essence for as long as you want it. It's a dialogue between you and the leaves, ultimately leading to contemplation if you can be still. A very powerful beverage indeed that can shift your mood and bring you the gift of the here and now. "Ch'a qi" is all of this and more. 

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