I remember my first trip up into the Ah Li Shan mountain range located in central Taiwan. I passed through a place called Xi Ding where I met Lai Wen Zheng 賴文政at an elevation of 1,100 meters. I remember distinctly on either the first or second time visiting him, he explained to me the importance of the temperature at which tea is consumed. He then proceeded to torture me by brewing up some of his choice High Mountain Mt Ah Li Oolong and then making me wait a full five minutes before drinking it. Before brewing the tea, he made sure that all of the tea ware was extremely hot. Once the tea had finished steeping he said, “Now we must wait. It is important to taste tea at the right temperature so that we can experience all of the flavors that are in the tea.” He picked up a digital timer and set the minutes for five. Silence filled the air as we waited and he explained once again why it was important to wait. It was cold at this elevation and the hot tea seamed to be playing tricks on my mind. I had traveled so far for this cup of tea and now it was sitting there in front of me, steaming, fresh, and bright. I tried to wait patiently. Mr. Lai could tell it was difficult for me, so he explained again that waiting was important if we were going to truly taste all that the tea has to offer. Sipping the tea, it was interesting to notice the greater mouthfeel present at this temperature, which was neither hot or cool.
What is the ideal temperature for the body to absorb the tea and create the most positive impact? The reason that tea is so terrific is that it adjusts to what you need and you are the alchemist charged with concocting your own brew. This is an idea that relates to the way tea enters the stomach. I have noticed, more with some teas than others that it really seems to matter at which temperature the tea enters the stomach. What does this mean? I am trying to describe the way that the stomach takes the tea. Does it open receptively? Does it close up and resist so that the tea seems only to bounce off and roll down the sides of the stomach or does it open too fully and not absorb?