Search the Sip Tip

Looking for something on this site? Use this search to find it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Go With Passion

It was a fall evening in 2008 that I decided to start a tea blog.  In retrospect I knew very little (still do in fact.) However I did have one thing, passion, passion to learn, passion to know, and passion to try. Honestly I had no clue then what the next 7 years would entail, and what I would learn, but knowledge about tea aside, the thing I have learned is what passion can do for life, and enjoyment of life.

There have been wonderful moments, from the time I had tea in a high rise New York apartment building with a view of Central park. The people in the room were some of the most knowledgeable and well respected people in the East Asian tea world in the New York City area, and here I was, a nobody,  in a room with just four other people, several of which could almost rightly be considered tea masters in the most literal and figurative senses of the word.  There have been downright sad and tear filled moments from the death of someone I never met yet still felt very close to personally.  Every time I look at a particular kyusu in my collection, I can not help but think of and pray for Ian's wife and young daughter he left behind. Yet also think fondly of the evenings chatting with him while he told stories of brewing and sharing tea with his little girl, and how she wanted a tea set just like daddy's.  To the downright weird but great experience of drinking sencha brewed in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a mall in Pennsylvania. With a husband and wife pair that have become great and supportive friends, especially all the more recently, who I believe I owe the credit of starting me along the way to my pottery addiction. Hopefully  I've mostly tamed the addiction into an appreciation now.  Then the downright heartwarming and comforting, yet wholly unexpected part of receiving an email from someone halfway around the world I had never met, or even exchanged correspondence, expressing concern. Hoping I would get back to blog posts, and youtube videos soon, as they have really helped them a lot, and inspired them to share their passion with others as well.

However this blog will not hit its seventh birthday, as the domain name expires in a few days, and this blog will not remain beyond that.  Hopefully when I am well again I will be able to return to youtube videos, as I still refuse to give up on sharing my passion of tea with the world. If you go into life, and things in life with passion it is not just the places you'll go, but also the people you'll know!  In the end the things you do and experience are wonderful, but connecting with others about a mutual passion creates a bond stronger than you would believe otherwise.  So if you happen to see me, and *know* me through tea, please do not hesitate to say Hi!  It has been such a pleasure writing for all of you for so long.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Musing On Tea

 "Wine is sunlight held together by water."
                                           -Galileo Galilei

If that is true, then what would tea be?  I'd venture to guess it would be something along the lines of:  tea is life infused into water.  Or at least, that is how I've perceived it lately. All the good things in life, I find in tea, relaxation, happiness, and a calming energy, bringing an excitement to keep moving forward.  

Perhaps I'm just a bit oversensitive to the abundance of life, as I've never wanted a spring to arrive more before in my life.  It has been a very rough winter, and there are good things on the horizon, so the change of seasons is incredibly over due in my mind.  Similarly a return to (more) green tea is incredibly needed while I ponder placing the highly roasted teas away for the winter, and an amazing craving for Matcha has started to surface.   (Quite possibly this was the first St. Patrick's day in the last 5 years I did not have a wonderfully green bowl of the magical powdered tea.)

In this continued musing about tea, I will leave with one final thought train. Tea has taught me many things, yet quite possibly the most incredible one is the ability to have peaceful patience.   Patience is great, but if you can be patient in a peaceful manner, even you don't realize you are anxiously waiting.

Monday, February 16, 2015

10 Things in every tea session

Honestly as tea drinkers a lot of thoughts go through our head every single time we sit down to brew tea.  Granted not all of them are tea related, however I have found ten things we should all definitely think about every time we sit down to brew.   These are split into the three large categories which really encompass the main things that are used when enjoying tea.


Temperature -- How hot does the water need to be?  How hot should it be?  Is there anything I want to do out of the norm?  If the tea is the end of the bag and mostly broken up, do I want to go a little cooler to account for the increased bitterness from the broken pieces?

Type / Mineral content -- Is there any reason I would want to use a special water today, or for the tea I picked out?  (Mostly I care less about this one, however for a fun experiment try varying water sources for a little while and notice how it can change even the teas you are used to having every day.)

Volume -- How much tea do I want to have? Does the type of tea I am brewing lend itself to large or small steeps?  In the case of teas that demand a large leaf to water ratio, is it even practical to brew a large cup, when you'd need to use basically the entire bag of tea you have to do so?  Sometimes cost is the largest factor in determining steep size.  Well I guess teaware as well.


Amount -- How much of a jump start do I need right now?  Last time I had this tea, was it too strong or too weak?  Are these large full leaves, or small broken pieces.  Is it compact or "fluffy"?

As I personally don't weigh my leaves for each session, I have a rule of thumb that with compact leaves I use less than I think I should, while with fuller larger and more "fluffy" leaves I tend to go a little more than I think I should.  Practice always makes perfect, but the eyes can lie when it comes to amount of tea with certain types.

Storage -- Did I store the tea well, is it freshly opened?  Have I had this tea for far longer than I should have?  If anything is amiss I should definitely wade into this carefully to try and avoid a bitter disappointing cup, because I was expecting it to have lost it's punch, when in reality the time made the tea extra bitter.

Type -- What type of tea do I feel like?  Or sometimes more realistically, what type of tea do I have?  Is there anything special I want to try this time when I am brewing tea?

The easiest way to avoid a stale tea routine, is to occasionally just try something new.  Like I normally like my sencha brewed extra cool, but I'm in a rush today, and feeling adventerous, lets go hot and quick, and still see if I can make an enjoyable cup by experimenting with the variables available to us as a tea brewer.


Material/ Glazing -- Is the vessels unglazed to the point that they may potentially round out harsh components of the tea?  If it is glazed and very neutral can I use that to my advantage to brew an awesome cup of tea?   (Smelling the underside of a gaiwan lid while brewing, to judge brew strength, done-ness.)

Heat Retention -- How thick is the piece, and tying into the materials, does this cool very quickly or very slowly.  If it is not preheated with it take all the heat out of the first steeps water, or will it take almost none?  For future steeps, is the teapot still too hot to handle meaning water temp should be near perfect, or basically between each steep does the vessel return to basically its room temperature state?

This can make or break tea brewing.  It is often the hardest to understand and get a hold of, especially as with others, we can often brew at a different pace than when brewing alone. Thankfully we hopefully still have *some* intact nerve endings in our hands to be able to judge the temperature with a touch or two.  Gaiwan users, may not have any working nerve endings in their finger tips, but that is something we have come to live with. ;-)

Ease of Use -- Am I using a vessel that always clogs?  Am I using a vessel that I am unable to pour without leaving half the water in the pot, or spilling half the tea down the front of the teapot?  Am I trying to use a handle-less vessel with no noticeable gripping points with a tea that is brewed with boiling water?

If you do not understand the point of the last question, consider yourself lucky.  However once you do something like try and brew sencha extra hot from a houhin that has no well defined gripping point on the outside of its body you will know exactly what I mean.  If you already know what I mean, I am sorry you put yourself through that torture test of will, of trying to grip a well loved piece of teaware that just might be hotter than the sun, precariously above a teacup to pour out the molten tea, while trying to keep the flesh on your fingers from vaporizing from the intense heat.

Practicality -- Do I really want to brew with my smallest teapot yet also use my largest cup? Or on the other side, I really want to use this teapot, for this tea, with these cups, I know I am drinking tea alone, but surely I shouldn't feel bad about using 5 different teacups for one person, because I want to use the entire set at once, right?

I need to work on this one! ;-)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tea with Dinner

I have to laugh how things can change.  I used to be a person who had tea when they were having tea, and ate when he was going to eat.  I almost never even had a small snack with my tea even though it can be fairly common. However with schedules being what they have been lately, I've found almost the only time I can have tea would be if I start brewing tea around the same time I start cooking dinner.  Typically eating while imbibing on the last few steeps of which ever tea I happened to be brewing.

While I've never been one to work on pairings, even in the wine world, I mostly think if you are eating what you like to eat, and drinking what you like to drink it will be OK 90% of the time. However I will say mild dishes seem to go well with green tea, and spicy dishes with darker teas.

However this also seems to be changing the *ceremony* of it all.  Brewing tea is also seldom the private meditation it once was, I now am doing about eight different things instead of waiting for the kettle to boil and then steeping the tea.   It has lost the private meditation it used to be, that helped keep stress in check, and had me leave the tea table incredibly relaxed and ready to continue on with the day.  Now it seems akin to grabbing a coffee and drinking it while running errands, or throwing a teabag in a cup of hot water and letting it steep while you slowly drink it to nothing.  Nothing is inherently bad in either of those endeavors, however I feel they lose the draw that was tea for me, and instead it is all now just an energy drink delivery system.

So while tea with dinner can be fun, it certainly has caused a loss in the desire to appreciate tea.  When tea loses the private meditation and reflection, is there much left?

Bottom Banner