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Cha Qi: Tea's Most Mysterious Benefit

fresh-brewed leaves
fresh-brewed leaves
Ah, Cha Qi (Cha Chi, 茶氣) a term bandied around tea communities as a way of describing a tea that knocks one's socks clean off, a term that has a lot of confusion around it - a term that when asked what it is, you are met with the phrase "you will know." Well, that is about as helpful as a teapot without a handle, but that is often the way with things that are metaphysical in nature. In the simplest terms, Cha Qi is the life force of the tea. In China there is the concept of Qi, the 'breath' or life force of all things: the earth has Qi, plants have Qi, my cats have Qi, the air has it, the plants, everything has it. The food we eat imparts Qi into us as does the tea we drink, but if it is everywhere, what makes it special? Here is where it gets really fun, or really confusing, you can pick. Cha Qi is experienced differently by everyone. It can be a zen-like state of bliss or an intense feeling of concentration, and of course everything in between. Just make sure you don't get it confused with being Tea Drunk or having too much caffeine. How do you know the difference? Actually, it is like everyone says: 'you will know'. For lack of a better way of putting it, experiencing Cha Qi is experiencing tea at its most fundamental level. You and the tea become one, in a dance of the senses and spirit. In theory, any tea can give you this experience, but the better the tea the better the experience. Of course the rabbit hole goes even deeper. It might not really be the tea that gives you the feeling of Cha Qi, it might just be the experience of drinking it. Ever notice that the tea you drink in a serene environment, at peace and able to just experience the tea, tastes and feels better than the tea you drink in a hurry or while distracted? This could be Cha Qi, as some theorize that it is more about the moment and not the the tea itself. This could also be why one of the teas most associated with Cha Qi is Pu erh, a tea that is notorious for requiring very long steeping sessions. Oolongs are another option that's often re-steeped and pondered over. To be fair, I think that even a block of wood would start to notice something if it spent an entire day steeping the same tea. I hope that, if you have not experienced it yet, you get the chance someday. Then you can be one of the lucky ones who respond "you will know" the next time a new tea drinker asks you to define Cha Qi. Good luck, and may the Qi be with you!