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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Allergies Ughhh....

Remembering Ian

I have been wanting to celebrate quite a bit of good news lately.  A paper I am a co-author on has been published in a well known [to graph theorists] journal, and my brother asked me to be the Best Man at his wedding coming up next year.  Instead I don't trust my senses completely, especially when it comes to the incredibly delicate creature tea can be.

So instead I have settled for a lot of sencha, and strong hong cha when I do find time to work in tea in what is turning out to be a rather hectic schedule.  Hopefully things settle down now that the first 4 weeks of class are over in which with our new schedule included 2 half exams that needed to be graded eating up prime tea time of a long Friday afternoon I would have otherwise had off to start the weekend.

They say green teas, especially the more broken up ones like Sencha (especially the heavily steamed ones) are great for Allergies, I remain unconvinced. Though something in the air this fall seems to be really getting to me, so while I love the weather we have been having in Michigan lately, I am almost secretly hoping for a week straight of frosts to hopefully kill what ever it is that is getting to me.

Also with the sudden shift to almost consistently sub 70F degree temps, I find myself much more eager to reach for my Chawans that I use for Grandpa style brewing. Or Bowl Tea similar to that featured in this Global Tea Hut Video.

I have been going back and forth with mentioning this on my blog, but as I chose this photo I should really share why this photo is extra special to me, and the purpose behind me taking the photo.  The photo is a dedication to the memory of a kind, and wonderful person I knew through the Teachat Forum.  He was known on there as Iannon, and I along with many others got to know him incredibly well.  He had a wonderful talent for finding good quality teaware for almost a steal on Goodwill and similar sites. For those that knew Ian on Teachat this photo has a bit of extra meaning, as the Kyusu is one of a triplet of identical kyusu's he got from a goodwill purchase, this one he kindly gifted to me.  While the Yunomi I am using, is nearly identical to the cup he chose to use in his Avatar/ profile pic on the forum.  My condolences go to his family, may he rest in peace.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Breaking my own rules


I have been breaking my own rules in so many ways lately, and yet for some reason I am loving it.  Now what do I mean by my own rules?  Well for the most part I have tried to keep pieces of pottery reserved almost exclusively ( there were a few I allowed to cross over previously) for teas from their own country.  The odd ones out were always the American artists wares, which I then fit in for their intended purpose based on their size and shape.  Yes that means a vast majority of my teaware was used exclusively for Japanese teas, and for Korean tea I was basically down to two items.

But lately I have really been breaking out of my mold, because the main purpose of tea is to be able to enjoy tea.  I've suddenly started to do things like use a Japanese Yunomi, and a Korean tea pot to drink a Taiwanese tea.   Or use a "yixing" ( not exactly sure of its provenance) to brew Hong Cha then pouring it into Yunomi from Okinawa.

Part of also breaking those own rules, are now teas that I usually enjoy almost exclusively in more of a gong fu setting, if I am not in the mood to fuss with all that repeated pouring, or careful pouring between cups, I sometimes brew several in a row and pour straight into a larger vessel.   Or simply just using a larger vessel to brew the tea.

I'm having a lot of fun breaking my self imposed rules, and I am currently feeling that I was far too strict with my rules, aiming for a set of cohesion.  I am glad though that with all my teaware I can easily make a nice cohesive set up if I need to. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Encouraging Original Thought

Of all the things I have learned in my life so far, none I enjoy nearly as much as knowing nothing is more important that being able to have your own thoughts, and be willing to defend them, discuss them, and be open to change them.  Now this knowledge has been wonderfully able to be applied to all aspects of life, including tea.  Below I discuss a few of those such area's.

Understanding tea classifications, is  a step everyone takes when they enter the tea world, and for those most part those are straight forward. (But I still have no clue what the heck Balhyocha is!)  But often there are huge varieties of sub categories in even a single category of tea, the most easily recognizable of which are the steaming levels in Japanese tea.  But there are times where from taste, examining leaves, and using any other knowledge you can gather about a tea, you can often argue one way or another about a certain tea. 

In a similar vein to this I have three types of High Fired Tie Guan Yin currently on hand, I could brew all three of them side by side or one after another, and I bet even all novice tea drinkers can tell that they are completely different styles.  Not really apparent what so ever from the looks of the dry leaves.  But being able to attempt to describe what difference you are experiencing between the teas in terms of taste, and mouth feel, even when very new to tea is the first step in trying to be able to identify what you look for in that specific category of tea.  For instance I have learned that I am incredibly fond of High Fire TGY that is slightly more oxidized before the roasting, and not roasted to nearly ash, but still quite roasted.  Sadly this type seems to be rather hard to find in the world of Highfire TGY.

What original thought is not, is sitting down and reading many many things, and taking those things at face value no matter how reputable the source is.  This is coming from a teacher, and its often the policy many of my teachers have also had.  People that love thought and love knowledge, know memorized knowledge has little value, because being able to say its true because the textbook said its true while it might get a few points on a test, is nearly useless when eventually someone asks you to justify why it should be true. 

To any students that happen to be reading this, this does not mean that you should question your teacher throughout the entire lesson, but rather absorb the lesson, and then go over your notes in detail and any part that is fuzzy, you should try and figure out why it is true. Usually if you approach the teacher during office hours, or during a time for questions we would love to explain it to you even more.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Different Types of Tea sessions

So the more and more I drink tea, and talk with others about drinking tea, you tend to find that the types of brewing methods/ procedures change depending on the situation.  I have already written quite a bit on Gong Fu, and Grandpa Style brewing, but currently I am doing a method I can only describe as the Office gong fu.

Its actually quite simple, pick any brewing vessel you have around that you would brew gong fu style with.  A gaiwan or teapot works great.  Now here is the trick, pick a huge cup, something that can hold 2-4 brews from the gong fu brewing vessel.  Then simply brew several infusions in a row and fill the cup.  Brew them how you normally would for that tea, and this method requires a bit of familiarity with the tea you are brewing.

The result a nice big cup of tea, which while not completely as nuanced as each individual brew is a nice large cup of gong fu style tea.  Even better is once the cup is finished go back and repeat the process again until the leaves are dead.

I call it the office gong fu, because it is great for being able to have a big cup of tea while working diligently on a project or assignment.  I think I like it so much I might start doing this quite often.

Currently I am doing it with a 100 ml gaiwan, a Yunomi from Julie Devers, and some Ali shan from Pheonix tea shop.  Just curious if any of my readers might have some notes on brewing tea this way?  I did note with the gaiwan I did have to pause a bit between infusions to allow the gaiwan to cool enough to ensure I didn't get burnt fingers.

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