Oct 28, 2010

tea and the inner climate of the body

About the photo: Dance of the Han, by Robert Seto. Don't they all look tea drunk? :D

Having a lot of teas in stock makes me feel like a king :D The moment deciding which tea to drink is always a sweet moment. Most of the time it doesn't seem an entirely arbitrary decision. Actually, there seems an inner me who decides which tea I "need". (And occasionally the "need" is "coffee", which can surely be deemed as an herbal tea. Haha.) A good tea doesn't only bring pleasant taste to me, it makes me feel good inside out. For example, today I was feeling cold, not because of the weather, and not due to short of layers of clothes. It felt like having a tiny glacier inside me. That's why I reached for my favorite charcoal roast Tie Guan Yin. Sip after sip, I feel the little glacier inside me is melting and I start to sweat slightly. This makes me feel so strong and alive.

Some people I know have very prominent seasonal patterns of tea preference. I myself have such pattern too. In spring months, I crave green tea, and almost never touch red tea. Then from some day in September, I would start to yearn for red tea from time to time. Generally, I drink "greener" teas during Spring and Summer, and "darker" teas during Autumn and Winter.

But it's not always about seasons. There are summer days when I feel a strong need for "high fire" teas such as Yan Cha. And there are winter days when the heated room is so dry and I crave some Sheng puerh. In some sense, these can all be explained by Chinese medical theories. For example, it's believed that in summer days, people's yang spirit emerges to the very surface of the body, and the core of the body is surrounded mostly by yin. Hence a Chinese herbal medicine doctor would often emphasize the importance of drinking hot/warm water in summer, even more than in winter days. I believe human body is an extremely complex system and general theories, no matter oriental or occidental, traditional or modern scientific, can't summarize the mechanisms of every single body. Therefore, I sometimes vaguely understand why I "need" certain tea at certain time, and sometimes I have no understanding but just follow the senses. Very often, I am amazed that one's intuition often brings one to what's really good and healthy. (I have to admit that to me this is restricted to tea and following my intuition to ice-cream doesn't have such healthy outcome.)

This unknown, ever changing inner climate of the body is also why I never believe it's fair to say one tea is "healthier" than others. There are few things in this world that are "the more, the better". One man's sweet treat can be another man's poison. Nowadays in food industry, it's amazing how many clinical studies on "health benefits" of things are actually sponsored by or affiliated to corporations that sell these things (and very often, by large corporations that sell these things not in their best or most natural forms, corporations that are more interested in selling then in the food stuff itself). Tea is not an exception. Many of these things, including tea, are indeed healthy in one way or another, but probably not at all "the more, the healthier". I do believe one tea can be healthier to a specific person than another tea, and one tea serves a person better at one time than at another time. But I guess tea drinkers have to rely on themselves to discover. Human body is a complex and ever changing system. Clinical studies can hardly tell you what tea is the healthiest to you on a specific day.

So, I wonder if you tea drinkers sometimes feel a changing pattern of desire to certain teas, and what the pattern is like. Does seasonal climate affect your tea drinking? Does weather affect your tea preferences? Are there specific teas that you crave in cold? In a heat wave? On a rainy or snowy or windy day?

If you don't feel such a pattern at all, it's actually very good too. An herbal medicine doctor once told me that people who are not sensitive to seasonal or environmental changes are usually the physically fittest ones.


Marlena said...

I to have an interior climate. On a recent very cold day I "needed" a cup of S&V's "Rose-kissed Jasmine". Generally, though, in Fall and Winter I like black and darker Oolongs, although somestimes I crave the lighter teas because they are such an antidote to the weather and I can think Spring thoughts. Always renewal.

@dizzwave said...

interesting post! I am an almost-every-day shu pu-erh drinker.. It just does me right. Some days, though, I do reach for the green tea, sheng pu-erh, Earl Grey... And I can't explain those changes by anything but intuition. I liked how you brought up intuition and Chinese Medicine (and our constant striving for internal equilibrium) -- that sums up pretty wel what I feel on some level about my tea drinking as a sort of self-medicating.
oh -- I do love lapsang souchong on cold winter days. :)

Matt said...


Great post.

These days one has felt much internal heat so have been dabbling in more white and green teas than usual for this time of year.


Cosmin said...

I do drink according to weather.

I love red teas in cold mornings, green teas in the evening, sheng puerh on 'lazy' days , shu puerh in autumn - winter, tie guan yin in evenings (especially summer), green teas in spring , and so on.

But I also (try to) use their energetic effect to recreate a memory. To think of summer in the winter or a distant place, etc.

I guess I choose from instinct many of them, but I can't 'decide' on the effect of white teas. It's neither warming or cooling, but more like 'usable energy' that kicks in.

Gingko said...

Thank you guys for your interesting inputs! I can see we all share more or less similarities in our patterns and there are some interesting variations from person to person!

Alex Zorach said...

I really appreciate your critical mentality here...regarding industry sponsorship of health studies, and also the "mass" approach to health of labelling substances as "good" or "bad", or viewing a diverse, multifaceted drink like tea as a single entity.

And on a personal note, I do really notice that some teas really strike me as appropriate for certain situations and states of being. For example, I don't normally like Gyokuro, but today I had an odd craving for it...it was a rainy day and I was in a bad mood, and somehow it was just what I needed.

Gingko said...

Alex, thanks for your comments! Nowadays there are fake environmentalism organizations, fake grass root movements and semi-fake science all plotted by profit-driven corporations. We've got to be very alerted :-p

It happens to me too, from time to time, that I suddenly crave for a tea I normally don't like too much. Shu puerh is such a tea for me :D

Alex Zorach said...

Yes, this is so true; I recently learned of a fake "mom blog" organization that was corn-industry funded, trying to solicit bloggers to write about high fructose corn syrup and health. Fortunately it backfired; interesting article here if you're interested.

Gingko said...

Hi Alex, Thank you for the link. Yeah it's outrageous! It's amazing they would strive to such a degree to influence consumers!

One of the educators mentioned in the article in the link, Marion Nestle, is a great one. I love her book What to Eat. It's a very nice book to learn about healthy food, unhealthy food and food politics.