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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seeking Simplicity

I know many of my more intense tea drinker readers may object to this, but while I know there is no replacement to a solid session or two of tea, in which you really get all you can out of the tea in many steeps, sometimes simplicity is the answer.  I personally am not a morning person, so any time I do have tea in the mornings it is what can I do with minimal effort.  The answer is in just about every case "Grandpa Style".

So what exactly is the beauty of Grandpa style?  For one steep times are nearly optional, as it resorts to adding hot/ warm water to the cup/glass/bowl full of leaves and tea, and drinking.  Then repeat until the tea seems to be little more than colored water.  Even better is as its usually a lower leaf to water ratio, the temperature of the water you introduce to the leaves will either cool quickly enough to not extract the incredibly bitter components that can come from too hot of water exposed for too long of a time in a Gong Fu session.

In my personal opinion your feelings towards the vessel you use to brew "Grandpa style" will significantly alter your total enjoyment.  Such as if you love to watch the dance of the leaves, then perhaps a glass vessel is ideal. I do not care as much about the dance of the leaves, and I like to see how a piece is progressing, so my Celadon teabowl is ideal in my opinion, as while the inner cracks are quite stained, the cracks on the outside of the bowl are slowly staining.

When busy I find it is so much easier to stick to simple types of brewing than working about fitting in entire gong fu sessions with teas that require a lot more attention.  While certainly those gong fu sessions produce excellent tea, well worth the effort, when you really love tea, you want to enjoy tea in any way you can.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making it work

MTR 1.2km Trad Fire DD

So recently I have had the chance to try a good quality Taiwanese tea, and for my regularly readers you may have noticed or remember me at one time mentioning that I just do not do Taiwanese teas.  Not because I do not like them, but rather I just have not put forth any effort in exploring them.  As such I perhaps have slight holes in my teaware (shocking I know).  

But in regards to this, I was told for this tea heat retention was key, so a thin gaiwan could not be used.  This had me rattling my head, as for all more delicate teas that are not heavily roasted or heavily oxidized my go to vessels are Gaiwans.  But determined to make it work, I realized I have a Seong-il pot which is bulbous in shape, holds heat quite well, and is glazed on the inside so I shouldn't have to worry about much interaction.

MTR 1.2km Trad Fire DD Setup

It was certainly an experience, while this was not a super green high mountain taiwanese oolong, it was actually labeled as being traditionally fired, which I learned upon opening the package that traditional fire in Taiwan means a whole different thing than traditional fired for Hong Kong.  The leaves were still decently green, but the taste was quite interesting, I would have almost guessed this was a midway aged tea, that was not in an "off stage."  There were some interesting flavors of darker fruits most notably plum, but also a lot of nice greener and fresher notes.

If Taiwan offers many more teas like that I might just have to give in and start placing some orders.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seeing Triple

What else can I say other than when looking for decent quality on a budget, in a size that is rarely offered in stores that cater to English speakers, options get quite limited quite quickly.  While I honestly do not know how many of these little 50ml brown yixing's Zen8Tea has sold, but quite a few people I know that have bought one have not stopped at just one.  I recently purchased two more bringing myself up to 3 of these little guys.  They might not be the greatest quality but they seem to work wonderfully with stuffed pots of roasted oolongs.

My biggest problem was how would I keep these straight, as one was to be used with high Quality Yancha, the other to be used with High Fire TGY, and the 3rd a switch hitter who is to fill in the gaps if I ever want to do a side by side brew/comparison.  I realized a simple wrapping around certain parts of the handles could greatly help.  So while I currently do not have string available, I did mark one in an interesting fashion with some dental floss.

Having used them quite a bit,I will say they do not hide what they are, but for giving you the ability to brew in a teapot, and one that does pick up a little bit of patina, instead of a gaiwan.  I love gaiwans but the ones I have are absolutely horrible in terms of heat retention and even when having the gaiwans half submerged in hot water, I feel like I am fighting a loosing battle with heat. Not to mention fighting a loosing battle in terms of water.

I must say this is the first item of teaware I have ever bought multiple of that is not a cup to create a matching set.  I am still unsure how I feel about that.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My favorite time of year

There is little better than the cool crisp days that come with the oncoming fall season.  To me it is the ideal weather for warm tea, and lots of it.  I also relish the cool weather days, as the weather is ideal where I do not feel like having a kettle on is counter productive to my comfort, or to my air conditioner.  In fact I almost feel like it is an added bonus, I get to heat my apartment while getting the added benefit of preparing beverages I love.

It remains to be seen what my teas of this winter season will be, but due to my schedule I definitely feel the need for teas I can enjoy while doing other work.  As such I almost feel Hong Cha is a must, for its wonderful ability to be brewed Grandpa style with little effort but often delivering a very drinkable and warm broth.  But for some reason the desire to drink gallons of tea when it is cold out often has me turning to Japanese Sencha, which while not consumed at such a warm temp as say Hong Cha or most Oolongs, still on those very cold days is warm enough to make me happy.

I think it goes without saying that the roasted oolongs most notably High Fire TGY and Yancha are ideal cool weather teas, which if budget were no issue, would be my consistent go to tea.

Then of course there is the winter classic in Japan, which somehow is the tea often consumed the coolest of them all ( when making tea with hot water), is gyokuro.   I think it has to do with the strong umami presence, and the extra soup like characteristics of this tea that make it incredibly ideal for the winter months.

So my question to my readers is, what teas are your go to winter teas?

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