Contribution by: Lisa Dong
Chaqi (茶气), literally means “tea energy,” and is a frequently used word by Chinese tea people. This important characteristic of good tea goes beyond other characteristics such as taste, smell and shape. But what is Chaqi? It is a concept that people find indescribable. You always were told that Chaqi was beyond words; you have to sense it by yourself, for yourself.
The body of people would be different more or less, thus the sense of the tea would also be different. I often heard one of my friends saying that she got sweaty when she was having a tea with Chaqi. In my case, if the tea has enough Chaqi, I would sometimes hiccup repeatedly.
It is from meditation practice that I have a new angle for seeing and understanding in my way to Chaqi. There is a skill in doing meditation as follows: first find the part of your body most contained. For example: some people might find their heart beating quickly as they become angry; some might find their kidneys reacting when they experience a huge upset; and some might find the muscles in the neck feeling stress as they prepare to take an important exam. Those parts are the first parts: reacting to your anger, upset and stress. Find this part of your body, this is the first step. Second, use breathing energy to fulfill this part, to take care of this part. Your body is like a spider web—the contained part of your body is the location of the spider, and other parts of your body are locations on the web. You pay most attention on the contained part, fulfilling your energy to that part; but you, like the spider, can sense the light movement on the net of web vigilantly. In practicing this skill of meditation, my body’s reaction is similar to that of drinking a great tea with “big” Chaqi: I keep hiccupping.
According to Chinese medicine, mood is very much a result of stored, stagnated, or excessive qi (energy) in the body, revealing an imbalance of the body – not just the mind. It seems to me that this meditation skill of working on finding one’s body part in which qi is stagnated or excessive, regulate one’s qi, and help the blood circulation. If the regulation works effectively, it will result in a better mood, a higher tolerance for emotional upset and easily being happy.
Back to the topic of tea energy, or Chaqi. What is it? To me, it works like this kind of meditation to regulate the imbalance of the qi in the body. Only in the process of doing this kind of purposeful meditation while in the process of drinking tea, my body naturally regulates the imbalance of qi. (I do not even pay attention to my body!) This might be the so called Chaqi? When the tea has the effect of regulating one’s qi, then we call the tea’s Chaqi “big”? Considering the original tea was used as Chinese medicine, these thoughts on Chaqi might be possible.
My thoughts on tea energy is an idea coming from the experience of practicing meditation. It is not an absolute conclusion on what Chaqi is, but based on my personal experience. I also believe people have different constitutions, thus their body’s reaction to Chaqi must be very different.