|The thing, and the nature of the thing. A cake is mighty tasty.|
Question: What is the Frame of puerh tea drinking?
Definition of Frame: an aesthetic experience of a painting is a “frame,” limited to only the painting, minus the effects of architecture, lighting or anything outside of the painting.
Limit: a limitation is proposed on the notion of the frame for tea, taken from wine tasting. That is, wine tasters spit the wine to eliminate the effect of drunkenness, likewise removing the drunkenness effect of the tea is also proposed.
For me, addressing this issue for my email friend, who is a philosophy professional, requires taking a look at who invented this idea of the frame, and how it got applied to a painting on the wall, before I can consider a “tea equivalent.”
Kant identifies a “gap” between aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment. Or, to paraphrase, a gap between the abstract, reasoned consideration of the qualities, pleasure, or merits, or a “taste” of the “thing” versus the nature, or purpose, of the thing. So, the aesthetics of the thing versus the purpose of thing creates a gap. For example, if we judge the aesthetic merits of a fork, we also have the nature or purpose of the fork which is to pierce food to carry to the mouth. Kant’s gap between a specific fork’s merits and the purpose is what Derrida calls the “frame,” at least for the purposes of his discussion in his paper “The Parergon” For him, the frame is defined as “the limit between the inside of the object and the outside of the object (Derrida, p. 12).”
In “The Parergon,” [concept which means the state of neutral observing], Derrida is careful to interpret Kant’s judgment of taste as “not a judgment of knowledge, it is not ‘logical,’ but subjective and therefore aesthetic relation to affect (aesthesis). Every relation of a representation, even a sensible one, can eventually be objective, but never pleasure or displeasure. Certainly aesthetic representations may give rise to logical judgments when they are related by judgment to the object; but when judgment itself is related to the subject [person judging], to the subjective affect…it is and can only be aesthetic (Ibid, p. 11).” So, in questions of judgment of taste, both Kant and Derrida put to bed the notion that aesthetic judgments are objective. They are not. As noted, logical conclusions certainly may arise, such as “this wine contains 30% alcohol content,” or “this tea contains theanine.” But logical statements such as these are not the same as statements like “the roast is balanced,” or “the kuwei lingers long” because these statements are subjective experiences. My tongue is not and will never be your tongue.
What I really want to say, though, is that we shouldn’t feel bad about the subjective nature of judgments of taste in tea, we need to embrace them, celebrate them. The experience of purely subjective pleasure is the dancing in the moonlight moment, let us dance together and feel. What we are after in judgment of taste are the moments of harmony with other people tasting together. And together we might reach an agreement that makes tea or wine tasting competition possible.
All of this lies outside the scope of my emailer’s question. But because we still have disagreement amongst tea people whether judgments of taste in tea are objective or subjective, I felt I needed to repeat much of this before coming up with my own thoughts on the question at hand. Also, I assume most readers are not familiar with Kant or Derrida, even though one can hardly get through university these days without the latter shoved down one’s throat which, in my case, can certainly corrupt my tea drinking palate just by sheer repetition. And I think the subjective versus objective “fogginess” in the tea world corrupts many an argument on tea forums, and results in enthusiastic posters feeling put down, as more subjective than others, when really everyone is equally subjective in judgments of taste. The great equalizer here is that we are all subjective, so let us enjoy it and embrace a diversity of opinion while we can, and leave the need for agreement to the formal competition setting! Only in that environment do tea tasters declare the need for a winner, and recently MarshalN dealt rather handily with the "confusions of the aged" in the competition setting.
|The nature of the thing.|
"Sugar"...err...now oolong jar, by rmoralespottery, Etsy
In considering wine, my email writer notes that wine tasters spit out the wine in order to avoid the drunkenness effect to purely consider the taste experience. Thus, the wine is judged minus the alcohol content and effects from that content. This seems reasonable to me with wine. However, the nature of alcohol is that it will produce drunkenness 100% of the time, even if the quantity one must drink to obtain a drunken state will vary with the individual. Tea on the other hand, produces drunkenness from the theanine/caffeine combination in only certain individuals, and not in 100% of cases.
Should tea drunkenness be removed as a variable in aesthetic judgments of puerh tea? Increasingly, many of us, myself included, point out specific teas which seem to produce a greater effect of tea drunk. I’ve made jokes about seeking tea drunk teas, because my incontinent and lonely old lady self finds a good tea drunk a substitute for companionship and whatever else my psychology might lack. But I separate my comedy side from my thinking self now when considering a serious matter like this email question.
What do you think, is the tea drunk effect a good criterion for judging a puerh tea? I think the effect of theanine/caffeine “drunkenness” should be removed from judgments of taste, as it is in wine. Puerh tea tasters in settings like the Menghai Taetea factory taste and spit, they must spit because they are drinking so many cups of tea per day they cannot possibly swallow it all. But if the tea drunk effect varies so much that some people get it and some don’t from a particular tea, the effect is unreliable. I know that some people comment to me that a tea I got fairly tea drunk from didn’t affect them at all, and those persons felt somewhat disappointed when their experience wasn’t the same.
Is tea drunk the same as wine drunk? Aside from the unreliable nature of tea drunk, perhaps the reason the” drunk effect” is removed from wine tasting is to remove any impact upon their judgment of other characteristics. When you feel like saying “hell yeah, gimme another glass of that,” the brain is happily drunk and might judge other flavors or aging traits as better than perhaps they might seem when sober. Removing the “drunk effect” is the same as limiting the frame to exclude euphoric or psychedelic effects from the brain or, in other words, to remove the affected Brain from the Frame when judging wine.
|Not a tea fountain, but maybe it could be.|
Ceramic cat water fountain by ebifountains.com
For nose and mouth effects, several terms are used. Xiang Wei 香味is the smell of the dry leaves, fullness of fragrance. Ku Wei 苦味 refers to bitterness, or lingering bitterness or fullness of bitter taste in the mouth on more than just the areas on the tongue normally detecting bitterness, the whole mouth or throat too. Se Wei 涩味refers to the “astringent” effect of tea, a dry-ish, tingling in the mouth, or “dry mouth.” Tian Wei 甜味 is all about sweetness in the mouth after swallowing.
Throat effects are referred to as Hui Gan 回甘which is a returning sweetness that follows bitterness in the throat, or coolness in the throat that follows even when the tea is very hot. With puerh tea, some people consider lingering cool effects or flavors at the back of the throat, as well as in the esophagus and stomach as characteristics to look for in aging. Finally we have Chaqi 茶气, this illusive effect which is more than tea drunkenness, but rather an effect on the body, such as tingling in the spine, neck or scalp. This is different from Cha Zui 茶醉 which means tea drunk.
I don’t use these terms very often in my writing, not because I lack understanding of them, though perhaps I do, because to understand them fully requires a deeper understanding of the history of the characters and their drawing than I possess. Characters are pictures that evolved into more abstract and quickly written forms throughout the millennia. I do believe we can understand these terms through long experience drinking puerh tea. But what I’m after as a writer is finding the place for puerh tea in my local experience, and in creating a discussion in English within my own culture. This does not, and should not exclude the Chinese terms. I’m merely reflecting a beginning movement within my culture to accept puerh tea as a part of my life, as it is where I live. My writing is nothing more than a bookmark in internet tea discussion, one which will evolve as long as more people around the world drink puerh tea from Yunnan, China. Just as people around the world drink champagne, and we now distinguish sparkling wine from champagne because many cultures are creating their own wines that mimic French champagne. While we likely won’t grow puerh tea successfully in North America, we will evolve in our discussions over time, and as a more mutual understanding of tea terms evolves, we can use them without creating confusion or requiring pages and pages to explain.
|The nature of the thing. Red. House finch?|
Thus I say to my email friend, I believe the Frame for judgments of taste of puerh tea, if such a Frame is assumed to exist, must include all of the above terms, with the possible exception of Chaqi 茶气 and Cha Zui 茶醉 because these vary too much among individuals. Or maybe we need to split the frame into areas of the body. The Frame for Puerh Tea is Olfactory, Mouth/Throat, and Body/Mind. From here we can create other variables for what we consider a “good” puerh tea like processing, aging and the like.
How about you, how would you define the Frame for puerh tea? Does this popular Derrida metaphor work for Judgments of Taste with tea, or can you propose something else?
I apologize for any errors in philosophical definition, as I am not a scholar in philosophy. My degrees in philosophy and theology are at the undergraduate level where I carried a Theology major and philosophy minor, my doctorate is in another field. Feel free to comment or borrow anything from this post without attribution. I only feel brave enough to write about this stuff because of one of my undergraduate professors the late, great classical languages scholar Fr. Ivan Havener, OSB, who once wrote me “theology is not a sacred cow for scholars.” Oh yes, I saved that postcard.
I want to thank my friend Mr. C. Thi Nguyen for the wonderful email.
Derrida, J. & Owens, C. (trans). “The Parergon,” October Vol 9 (Summer 1979), Boston, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 3-41. Stable URL http://www.jstor.org/stable/778319. Translation from the French of the four-part essay Derrida, J. “Parergon.” La vérité en peinture, Paris: Flammarion, 1978, with parts originally appearing in Digraphe 2 and 3 (Paris: Galilée, 1974).
Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of Judgment” (Kritik der Urteilskraft, 1790). Take your pick of editions. I use my dad’s old Great Books Kant edition from the early 1960s that is hardly a decent scholarly edition today, and not worth citing.