Tea “drunkenness,” according to ITMA Certified Grand Tea Master Roy Fong , usually refers to the feeling resulting from drinking too much tea, similar to drinking too much liquor. However, the description is more like what the Chinese refer to as “Cha Qi” or “Cha Chi.” The Chinese believe that Chi or Qi is an invisible energy traveling within the human body. The stronger the Chi, the better a person’s health, awareness, concentration, and energy. Cha Chi varies from tea to tea, some are very active and strong, some rather mild, and some unnoticeable. The cause is likely the high levels of unique properties like L-Theanine and other yet understood ingredients in unique teas like “raw” or “green” puerh grown and processed in the Ban Zhang region of China’s Yunnan province. Ban Zhang tea is known for its “Cha Chi” and commands a huge price not only because of the multi-complexity of its flavor and aroma, but most importantly, the belief of strong Cha Chi.
Ban Zhang is a remote tea village high up in the Bulang mountain range, flooded with sudden wealth, and in the midst of a building boom. Today the village is one of the richest in Banna, if not all of Yunnan. Ban Zhang has held onto its crown as the king of puerh producing regions, primarily because of its tea’s extraordinary taste and the tea energy it gives tea drinkers.
L-Theanine, found only in tea leaves, acts as an enhancing agent on the glutamates in tea to create a superior flavor. L-Theanine is created in the tea plant’s roots and distributed through the plant’s vascular system into its leaves where it transforms into catechines (antioxidants) through photosynthesis.
Because photosynthesis is just starting in the spring, L-Theanine is strongest in that it has not had time to convert to catechines. This would obviously also apply to shade grown Japanese teas and teas that are composed of only buds.
Chi is the vital force believed in Taoism and other Chinese thought to be inherent in all things. The unimpeded circulation of Chi and a balance of its negative and positive forms in the body are held to be essential for good health in traditional Chinese medicine.
Western medicine tries to link tea and health from a scientific point of view, but the countless claims about tea’s health benefits leave many skeptical. The concept of Chi is very elusive, but for tea lovers it may be more noticeable. A good, well brewed tea gives the drinker more than a lasting aroma and taste in one’s mouth. One may feel the Chi because your whole body feels warm and you start to sweat or your mouth will be secreting saliva because it tells you it wants more of that tea, and your mind will feel crystal clear as if you had breathed very pure, fresh air.
By ITMA Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll