The Story of our Wrappers

We’ve had some enquiries from customers as to the meaning of the calligraphy on our wrappers this year. Each year, we keep it in the backs of our minds that we’ll need some new wrappers for the coming Spring’s puerh tea cakes. When Master Lim visited us last Summer to give talks in Postcard teas in London and the Leach Pottery in Cornwall, he brought with him a gift of some calligraphy that he’d commissioned for us. It contained a short list of his tea brewing instructions.

Many people have asked us for tea brewing instructions in the past, and we’ve always shied away from putting precise instructions on our website. It always felt a little dogmatic to list precise grams, water temperatures and seconds, preferring that people experiment organically and find out what works for themselves. When Master Lim gave us these guidelines though, we thought they were perfect to share & reconfigured the characters from the tall, thin piece of calligraphy he’d given us into a format suitable for puerh tea wrappers.

So, for the English speaking among us, here’s a brief explanation of the tea wrapper.

恒温静沁 – (Héngwēn jìng qìn) – Keeping the temperature steady, absorbing peace into your soul,

动轻揉運 – (dòng qīng róu yùn) – with soft, gentle intention in your movements,

心無別向 – (xīn wú bié xiàng) – and heart free from distractions,

一氣呵成 – (yī qì hē chéng) – finish everything in one breath.

Keeping the temperature steady refers to prewarming the cups, showering the teapot with boiling water outside before and after filling it when brewing and never mixing different temperatures of water in the kettle.

Sitting in an upright position with the back straight and the shoulders open, allows one to become peaceful and for the energies of the body to flow freely. Some gentle focusing of the mind and body allows one to direct their intentions and eliminate distraction. Finishing everything in one breath refers to smooth and direct brewing of the tea in one go (it doesn’t mean literally holding one’s breath!).

I’ve found these few points very useful to keep in mind when brewing tea & hope they might be of use to some others too.

  • Martin Haefele-Klasen

    What a wonderful way of sharinf Master Lim’s wisdom!

    Your comment –

    “never mixing different temperatures of water in the kettle.”

    – Made me wonder: Aren’t you supposed to add fresh water for reboils, because otherwise the water will become “dead”?
    Could you expand on that?
    – Martin

    • The Essence of Tea (David)

      I think the trick is not to boil too much water at one time. I use two kettles when brewing tea – a larger one to boil ~1.5l water, then I transfer around 400-500ml at a time into a small Yixing kettle to use for brewing. I keep both on top of alcohol burners to keep them close to boiling, but not to overboil the water. I find this approach works well in practice.

      The beauty about all of this is that you can try it for yourself and experiment – try pouring water from the kettle into one cup, then add water to the kettle (mixing the water) and pour into another cup. When tasting them both, pay attention to how thick and smooth the water is, if there is any roughness, and how your mouth and throat feel afterwards. These effects will be the same for any teas you brew with the water.