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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tea as an Art


Gong fu cha has been translated in the past as "tea with skill."  We can view tea as either a science or an art, but for those of us that have spent time dealing with sciences, know once you go beyond just the standard calculations, the distinction between science and art are quite obscured.  Just like trying to become proficient in any area, practice is key to mastering anything.   With that in mind I often hope to practice brewing each type of tea at least once a week, and when trying to become proficient in a type of tea much more than that.

I learned when I rarely touched Yancha for nearly a year, that even though I had once been able to almost absentmindedly brew a very drinkable series of infusions of Yancha, and when I really gave the tea my full attention it was often wonderful.  Since then I switched to Sencha, which for some reason seems slightly more like an enigma, possibly because patience comes much more into play when trying to get the right water temperature for each infusion, and not just keeping track of somewhat short steep times.  

While my tastes are shifting back towards Yancha, and other roasted oolongs these days, my goal is to try not to let any my sencha chops fade into the abyss.  While I honestly hope to stay on top of my brewing skills for the types of tea I brew regularly, I always want to keep on exploring new teas.  It honestly seems like walking a thin line trying to brew Sencha, Yancha, High fire TGY, and Hong Cha at least once a week, and that is when I do not have some Korean greens to fit into the fold too, or in the winter when I want to have Gyokuro regularly.  I am honestly trying to figure out how I could fit Taiwanese Gaoshan oolongs into my routine, or try to recover my ability to brew a cup of puerh that I honestly would rather dump. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Schedule Changes

Those of us who participate in Gong Fu cha or similar type methods of drinking tea, know we often need a solid hour or more close to our tea gear, with hopefully minimal distractions to drink our tea.  As such we tend to create a schedule where we insert those blocks into our day and stick to them.  The problem though is a changing schedule.  My regular tea drinking schedule has been thrown for a bit of a loop lately with the weekends being just about the only reliable time to enjoy drinking tea.

My schedule has always been to enjoy tea shortly after dinner or shortly before depending on the time I could get back to my place.  This would energize me for the evenings and allow me to tackle my work in the evening, but have the caffeine wear off enough by the time  I would need to go to bed.  Worse now is Monday through Thursday I have evening classes and often do not get home till 6:30 and its often at least an hour later or more by the time I finish dinner and could start to be ready for tea.  Even worse is on most nights I need to head to bed earlier than usual as I need to make sure I am awake an aware to teach morning classes.

So this major shift in my schedule has left me in a bit of a pickle when trying to decide how to fit tea into most of my days.  Now that I am a bit more used to my schedule I will try and resume posting regularly, the cold I have had for the last week certainly isn't helping either.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Miracle Cast Iron?

So a few months ago I was at a store, and they had a bunch of Cast Iron "Teapots."  Normally I would write these things off right away, but upon further inspection of some of them, I came to realize these were not the lined cast iron Teapots.  Even more confusing I imagine they would make horrible teapots even though they came with infuser baskets, as I can't help but think if moisture was left inside them for an extended length of time they would rust horribly.  These were such bargain priced I decided to grab one to experiment with it as a kettle.   It has started to rust ever so slightly on the inside, and is gathering a little bit of white frosty build up on the inside.

But what teas should I use the kettle for when brewing?  This is a quite hard choice, as even inside similar categories I have gotten wonderful and not so great results between similar teas.  For example I tried it with my last bunch of The Tea Galleries Iron Warrior Monk, and it was phenomenal, I tried it with Red Blossoms Tie Lou Han, and while it had a similar effect by making the body much more pronounced the flavors seemed quite off.  The same thing has happened with some Sencha sometimes it is wonderful, other times with different teas some of the major notes of the teas seem horribly off.  They also seem to be off in interesting ways, like sometimes the tea tastes almost hollow,  in the sense that if the taste of a tea is a large painting sometimes it almost is like a cannon ball had been fired through the painting.

In full disclosure, I hope to elaborate on this more in the future, and one thing to consider is I have been eating a lot more Indian food, and it is entirely possible that on certain days the spice pallate I am not entirely used to has altered how I taste teas on those evenings.

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