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Friday, January 21, 2011

Regaining my enjoyment of tea

Seigan Sansai Tebineri

Despite having many sessions of tea I would describe as good, I have realized that to a small extent I have lost quite a bit of my enjoyment in tea. I do not know if it is lack of excitement in exploring more and more new teas, but while I continue to drink tea and try new teas but they never really surprise me. Something rather worrisome had occurred to me recently though, is that while less and less surprise me now, my tea habit has almost become going through the motions.

Going through the motions, is a phrase that has always worried me, while I can see to a certain extent how it might make certain boring tasks easier to accomplish, when it comes to something I used to enjoy, or something I want to enjoy it is deeply problematic. So I wonder how many cups of tea did I drink when just going through the motions, what subtle nuances did I miss based on slight changes in the surroundings, and my mood.

So I realized I have been neglecting my study of Zen Buddhism, which while I was taking the course, and practicing occasionally I felt there was some good coming from it. Somehow quieting the mind, to focus on the world around, has already helped me start to re-appreciate several things, such as the other night, I meditated for 40 minutes, then went to start a tea. I picked up that cup pictured above, and turned it over in my hand, and looked at it from all angles. It made me happy, and I enjoyed the cup much more than I have in quite some time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nothing worse than bad tea.

To start this post off on a good foot let me post a picture of some good tea I had yesterday.

Tea Gallery Keemum

That was Tea Gallery's Keemun, which I was running a test on how well it brewed in a certain tea pot I have, which I had previously only used for Korean Balhyocha. Now this is not a pot pairing thing in terms of matching teas to Yixing, it was mainly a test on heat retention, and whether the filter could adequately hold back the small leaves of the Keemun.

Hong Seong Il Teapot

It preformed wonderfully.

While this past weekend has been wonderful in terms of enjoying tea, I wish it continued into this holiday today. But leaning towards a roasted oolong today, I decided to give a compressed wuyi talked about before here, and here. And I found it absolutely dreadful today. I do not know if I used a bit too much, possibly wrongly adjusting for the larger gaiwan that I was using. It may have also had to do with the fact that I believe the leaf density in these bricks are horribly uneven. I've noticed with many compressed wuyi's that often one half the brick is rock hard, nearly impossible to cause much damage even with a pick, while the other side is still tough, but breakable by hand.

So I am wondering if I should write this off as a failed aging experiment, or break up these bricks and add them to the jar of Wuyi Yancha that has been rather uninspiring by itself or was what was left in a bag that did not have enough for even another small session which I plan on taking to the office when it gets full enough?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cold Days of Winter

Hundred Year Tree

While I love seasons, and even snow, I do find that I feel I am a bit sensitive to the cold weather outside. This is one of the reasons I love tea, as I feel the warm kettle contributes much appreciated warmth to the room, all while bringing about a great deal more enjoyment than just warm air flowing through the registers.

It also brings up what teas are best for cold winter days? Short answer seems to be anything that is prepared with boiling or just off boiling water.

Hundred Year Tree Guinomi

But I feel it has a decent bit to do with the flavors presented also. I do not know if it is because I got my start drinking coffee in the middle of winter when I wanted something to help warm me up in the morning, but I find roasted teas are great for the cold days of Winter, not to mention teas with a very strong and bold flavor common to most black teas. This also applies to some extent to aged teas, notably aged puerh and aged oolong.

Today I did a bit of experimenting as I wanted to see if bold flavors and boiling water were key for teas I love during winter. Sadly there seems to be another component, which I guess I will describe as "Greenness." To really test this I took a 2010 sheng, which I brewed with boiling water, and it certainly has a very strong and bold taste, but in the end I was not really surprised, while the tea was physically warm, the effect it had on my body was a bit cooling.

Somehow gyokuro though seems to walk the line, while it is aged, it is also very green. I think gyokuro might be a bit of an exception as it has the strong presence of the umami flavor which makes it rather comforting, fulfilling, and to a certain degree quite soup like.

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