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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tea and Holiday Travel

This post is an experiment, I am trying to post from a mobile source as lately I've tried to "unplug" around the holidays.  To get to the topic of tea, I think the more teaware one has the harder it is to consider packing tea items for travel. While now I know moving all of it is impractical, but through use you start to like certain items for certain teas.  So the thought of having tea while traveling suddenly raises the questions of what teas?

I think I had an ingenious idea when paralyzed by analysis with my tea packing. I realized with a single piece of teaware I can with a select selection of teas enjoy all sorts of delicious options. So this Christmas is the holiday of grandpa style brewing. Only piece of teaware needed is a chawan, or other large bowl.

First day was a great success, a morning full of balhyocha and an evening of Sejak.  I often find Korean teas great choices for grandpa style, In addition to larger leaf hong cha, and non balled Oolong's.

The only more versatile teaware I own, but more problematic to pack would be a  gaiwan, which as most tea drinkers know can brew pretty much anything. In a related note gaiwans sadly are just about as useful with brewing any type of tea as they are breakable.  Wishing everyone a happy holiday season, and good tea into and throughout the new year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Korean Sejak Jungno [Video]

Guess what, I've finally had a weekend to be knocked down and productive at home.  That means I found time to do another video.  Love snow days, especially on weekends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Behind the tea scenes

You maybe a tea drinker if

Lately I've felt my pictures have been almost a bit too scripted, so when I was looking through shots I have taken I stumbled upon this one and realized -- this is my normal tea "set up," or rather lack there of.  The photos are almost too scripted, and I honestly feel a lot of tea bloggers are the same way though I am only admitting to my own faults here.  I mean table littered with pitcher of filtered water, random tea canisters, and quite a bit of teaware waiting to be put away, and maybe given a final cleaning before being put away.

So I am showing a bit of a behind the scenes shot here, hopefully to make everyone appreciate to drink good tea, you do not need to have an immaculate brewing area, with everything neat, orderly, and organized as though you have a photo shoot any second.  For the most part my table is full of a hodgepodge of my random teaware that has been used lately, and mostly only fully put away when the weekend comes and I finally feel like I have a little bit more time to engage in tidying up my place.

I actually dare a few other bloggers to take more candid shots of their tea areas when they normally would not even consider taking a photo. So what other bloggers/ or tea drinkers have the guts to show their normal tea area, and not the one that they show in photos.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Confessions of a Tea Blogger -- TAG!

So on a few tea blogs lately you may have noticed a game of tag going around.  Well  it was started by The Cup of Life, and I have been tagged by The Art of Japanese Green Tea.  Possibly others I have to admit (maybe as a first confession), I have been incredibly busy lately and am very very behind on my reading.

1) First, let's start with how you were introduced & fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea.

Is "I am not sure" a valid answer here?  Honestly it was a little bit at a time, when I was younger tea would always help relax me, and give me energy to keep going.  So I started drinking it near daily, and then things slowly blossomed from there.  It all sort of exploded when I realized there were online groups that could help people more easily learn about tea, and different ways to brew tea.  That is when things really took off, and since then tea has pretty much found its way into an essential part of my life.

2) What was the very first tea blend that you ever tried?

First I have no clue.  When I was in middle school or high school  ( I forget exactly which) I would drink a lot of honeysuckle white tea from Republic of tea. First loose leaf that I can recall was Assam Golden Rain from a mall Teaglomerate now owned by a coffee shop that started in Seattle.

3) When did you start your tea blog & what was your hope for creating it?

My first post was a little over five years ago.  Honestly my initial intentions for the blog was for it to be a tea review blog.  Along the way certain things I have learned about how tastes work, and how people in general are  *calibrated* (for lack of a better word), combined with the fact that so much of the final product for tea is handled at the time of preparation, made me feel like reviewing teas could be more of less a futile ordeal.  By that I mean we may have our tastes and noses tuned differently so even drinking the exact same cup we get different things.  Or even worse our tastes and noses could be very similar, but the fact that you are using different water, kettle, method of heating, brewing in different weather, and the list goes on... even with identical parameters with amount, temperature, and time, could lead to vastly different cups of tea.   That is when I started to shift my blog from reviewing teas, to focusing on tea as a part of life, and how we can expand our tea horizons.  

4) List one thing most rewarding about your blog & one thing most discouraging.

I will start with discouraging, and honestly it is that way for so many bloggers.  But when ever you start any blog there is going to be an extended length of time, where you might as well just be taping your post to a tree in the middle of some isolated forest.  By that I mean, at first almost no visitors will stop by, and likely most of them think your posts are littering the forest. But eventually you get a few people that like the content, and start coming back occasionally, and they tell friends, who decide to visit this isolated forest with posts taped to trees.  Suddenly you just start getting more and more people, to the point that some people actually find ways to get notified when you put up another post.

Wow that felt like a labored metaphor, but in all honesty  being able to fight through that extended length of time with very little traffic can be challenging.  Quite a few times I have felt like scrapping my blog, mostly during the very early years.  In some ways while I do not think it has changed greatly, I was starting this blog before many of these social media sites had ways specifically designed to interact with and *promote* blogs.

Rewarding is varied, but having written about the most discouraging part, I honestly think one of the most rewarding parts is when you suddenly feel like those years of posting to no one were worth it. Now everyone has different metrics they value, for awhile I really tried to garner up user comments on my posts, but for the most part that lacked.  But with technology always making it easy to gather data, just being able to see the numbers of people stopping buy on a regular basis, and even being able to judge how many of those are people actually interested in your site can make it worth it. 

5) What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?

What time of year is it?  Honestly this is a hard one for me to answer.  I feel like I drink a lot of Japanese green teas, which I do, but when I really sit back and look at what teas I drink it varies incredibly.  Lately I have been drinking a lot of Korean Balhyocha, Taiwanese teas in general, and trying to work through the remainder of Japanese Shincha (I know I am bad!).

6) Favourite tea latte to indulge in?

I don't really drink tea latte's often/ at all, at the places they are sold, I typically go with a black coffee or americano, simply because it is lower in calories, and I don't mind the taste.  (In fact most tea latte's are way too sweet for me). 

7) Favourite treat to pair with your tea?

Dark chocolate when I have it, or a nice piece of Latvian Rye bread.  

8) If there was one place in the World that you could explore the tea culture at, where would it be & why?

Korea, while I may have bought into a lot of marketing gimmick from Korean tea vendors, but rumor has it there are quite a few places in Korea in which tea is a part of their life in much the same way it was a hundred or more years ago.  By that it is craftsmen/ farmers producing good tea simply because they love the tea itself.  (Same holds true for its ceramicists.)  I feel in both China and Japan modern technology and the insistence to maximize revenue as much as possible has stomped out a lot of the more traditional growing regions and production methods in those countries. 

9) Any tea time rituals you have that you'd like to share?

I often turn on the kettle (which takes a decent length of time to warm up), then sit there looking at the table, and then at my teaware, and to a lesser extent my boxes of tea, and just think.  Think might actually not be the right term for it, but I honestly just sit there for a bit, and wait for a tea idea to jump out to me, saying "you should brew this, in this, with this!"  Once I have an idea pop up, I then gather the items and start preparing to brew the tea. 

10) Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night or Anytime?

Anytime is good, but I almost miss it because I have finally gotten back to sleeping well at night.  I did though really enjoy the (few too many) mornings I found myself wide awake so early in the morning that the only natural thing to do seemed to be make tea and listen to music, until it was time to go to work. (I often got to work half an hour to an hour early on those days as well).

There is just something peaceful (if you can not do the more peaceful item of sleeping), with being up at 4 in the morning and brewing tea. 

11) What's one thing you wish for tea in the future?

For tea in general I am not sure.  But I am working with a local running group I am a part of that always looks for new ideas for runs.  I am planning on hosting a group run once a month or so while the weather is cooler, in which we meet, run the trail by my apartment, then return to my place, where I brew tea, and we enjoy some breakfast like snacks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Too Much Tea

I apologize for this sacrilegious post.

Last of the Spring 2013 Lishan Cui Luan

I have been breaking a lot of ground in terms of my physical fitness lately.  Today I ran an identical race to one I ran last year, except this year I finished the 5k in nearly 8 and a half minutes less this time around.  Now I am very very confident that feat can not be duplicated as I was thrilled at my sub 25 minute time, and I can not even imagine a sub 20 minute 5k at this point in time.

As much as I want to say I owe my success to tea, every time I try and start down a road about how my new found physical fitness is linked to tea, I hit a near instant roadblock.

I now drink far less tea than I did a year ago or more.  Moreover now a lot of time I could spend drinking tea is spent working out.

I am not saying this has taken away from my enjoyment of tea, in fact it could be an instance of when you get a little less exposure to something it suddenly becomes all the more precious.  But could I actually owe part of my physical fitness to the fact that I am now drinking  a lot less tea?

Gone but not forgotten (1)

Sorry I needed a picture for us to dwell on that question for a bit, because I am going to dare to say the answer is yes. But before I give my answer let me ask a few questions of you to see if I can bring you into my line of thinking before I just go into an answer.

Do you ever have snacks with your tea, or feel the need to have food shortly after tea?

After having a good amount of tea have you ever felt the need to be lethargic, to try and recover from the large amount of caffeine, and other substances in tea?

On an otherwise beautiful day, have you ever spent over 2 hours on marathon tea sessions? 

To each of those my answer is a resounding yes.  Now to talk about each one a little more detail.  Not only do I feel the need to have food with or immediately after strong tea, especially when it is quite far from an otherwise standard meal, healthy options such as banana's, apples, or other fruits and veggies are almost never a satisfactory item to go with tea, or have after tea.  Tea being a bit harsh on the stomach, when it causes you to desire food it is almost always fatty, or oily food.

I can not count the number of 3-6 hour marathon afternoons of tea I have had, and this really is a double edge sword.  Yes it could be worse, I could be lethargic with a 6 pack of beer, or some other highly caloric beverage and watch TV all afternoon, but that almost makes it worse, if you tell yourself for those 4 hours you are being healthy, it removes the desire to actually be even more healthy by going for a walk, or meeting up with friends to throw around a Frisbee.  In fact while the tea is not bad, the best thing it is likely doing is causing repeated trips to the restroom, at least then you are moving.  To circle back to the second question, even more so after many of those sessions, there is often a need to recover.  It really is a lot of strong tea, and I have had enough bad experiences of going out in public after a large amount of strong tea, and once in public, things are scary, I feel like a tweaked out meth addict (hopefully I didn't look like one).

Again I apologize for this post, but I am not knocking anything about how great tea is, but more attacking the fact that it is not bad for you, so clearly drinking it in excess could not be bad for you either.  I also admit there was a lot more going on than just reducing my tea intake to get me to where I am today.   If at anything I hope this post sparks an interesting debate about whether this is a case of too much of a good thing can actually be detrimental.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Going back to practice...

1984 Baozhong (1)

Influenced by recent events with my personal life, namely my return to physical activity through running and mild weight training.  One thing I have been reading about runners is it is fairly easy once at given level to just maintain at that level, but to get better though you need to train in new and more taxing ways.  Thinking about where I am with tea, and I think it has somewhat shown on my blog, I have for quite a while been pretty much maintaining my tea brewing skills.

So I am making a commitment to go back to practice and train with my tea brewing.  People may be wondering what exactly I mean by that?  I have quite a few ideas, and I will work on seeking them out.  Definite things that come to mind is get back in the habit of having somewhat regular tea sessions with minimal distractions, so it can be just me and the tea.  Also really digging in and looking into the effects of water on tea, not to mention stop being complacent with good cups of tea, but rather really seek to get to know how to get the absolute best out of each steep of each tea.

1984 Baozhong(3)

Not to mention the photos are not completely unrelated eye-candy.  Even though for most teas I use I have a teapot that I am willing to use for them, the few times I have used a gaiwan lately, I have notice my technique has been incredibly sloppy, often dangerous.  I mean its always a bad day when you pour near boiling water over your thumb while pouring.   So I will also need to set out to practice brewing in a gaiwan as well.

Sometimes it seems being "with skill/practice" is the number one enemy to acquiring more skill through practice.  That is not to say it will not be hard, often when people hit these plateaus in fitness, weight loss, aptitude, pretty much anything including tea brewing it is because the easy ways to improve become few and far between, and the margin on improvement over effort becomes quite minimal.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How do we explain how we drink tea?

MTR 2011 Three Stamp Shui Xian (1)

As a tea blog written in English, or some close facsimile, yet talking about tea in a way that so few English speakers understand. I have occasionally had to try and explain to others how I drink tea. In a certain sense, even with the cultural changes in East Asia I gather brewing tea in many concentrated steeps over the course of an hour or more is a disappearing art around the world.  It is no shock that so many people give me odd looks like I am crazy when I talk about using 60ml teapots, and call them "two person teapots."  

I oddly think I have realized it is not something you can explain away, you honestly need to feel the people out, and if they are interested enough actually invite them over for tea.  I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I wonder how many words an experience is worth? It takes a lot of words, and in most cases a lot of seconds or minutes of nearly blank stares back to try and convince people that what you do is actually worth while. Often if the person is somewhat receptive, once you get them to sit down to that first sip, it suddenly makes sense.

So I guess this somewhat scatterbrained post, does not offer any guide on giving words to what we do, but rather, hope that if you could convince them to let you show them, you may just happen to expand some horizons.  Tea is more than just a mildly flavored warm beverage (though I have somewhat often enjoyed that aspect of it as well), tea has a cultural and religious history behind it that surpasses any other beverage I can recall.  So as the Zen koan says (loosely paraphrased) no matter who you are "Go in and have a cup of tea."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tea in the Morning

So I could go on for quite some time about how my sleep schedule has been messed up for about 3 weeks now.  Quite often resulting in multiple nights in a row of 6 hours or less of sleep even if that means being awake hours before I would even consider leaving for the office.  So quite a bit of the tea I have been having lately has been in the morning.  This is a bit of a mix up from my normal tea routine.  Why?

Strong tea is brutal on a mostly empty stomach!

Think a good deep steamed sencha is good first thing in the morning, with a little bit of cereal to nibble on?  Think again, it will have you suddenly raiding your pantry and fridge for anything more substantial to help bring your stomach back into a happy place.  Sencha is not alone, pretty much all teas brewed strong have this effect, whether they are the classic black tea, or an Oolong.  ( I am not even sure I would dare try matcha!)

The solution is one of two things, either stick to teas you know that can be pleasant when brewed lighter, Black teas are a classic example of this, while Gaoshan oolongs tend to be light and soothing enough that you can brew them just a hair lighter than normal.

Or simply prepare yourself a nice hearty meal to go with the tea:

Bunch 10272013 (1)

It is Sunday Funday after all!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Mini-Video series on Styles of teaware.

On  Teachat I was given a great suggestion to do videos on styles of teaware.  While I think the intial intention was a single video, the more I tried to wrap my mind around how to set the up the more daunting of a task it seemed to be.  So I decided to break it up into sections, the first part of which is is Korean Teaware has been filmed and released for your viewing pleasure.

In the future look forward to ones on Japanese teaware, likely multiple videos covering teapots and teacups separately.  I also think a general one covering the Chawan/ Teabowl in general is needed as it covers a wide variety of countries and style.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What can tea do for you?

99 Kunming Factory Red in Red (3)

Honestly tea can do lots of things for various people, and it can be all sorts of things to various people, but I am here to talk about one particular effect that is helping me so much right now.  I currently find myself sipping on the first cup of tea from a session of a tea that I had recently gotten in.  This one being a Korean Sejak green tea.  But for the point of this story, the tea is nearly irrelevant, but while still quite tense, I am slowly finding myself sinking into a relaxation state as I really work on enjoying every aspect of this tea.   This relaxation effect is the heart of this post.  But first lets back track about 6 hours.

After an otherwise typical Friday morning in the office, productive but quiet and everything toned down while people are just trying to get their work done before they start the weekend.  Friday afternoon starts, and slowly, but almost surely it was seeming as if the flood gates were breaking.  One thing, then another, then another, then I think things are about to settle down, I return to my desk check my email... and I saw the subject and just from that I said to myself "I should just go home" knowing it was only going to make me upset/ frustrated/ furious/ angry pick one or hell pick all.  But being a good worker, I opened the email, got all of the aforementioned emotions, and looked into the issue some more, only getting more so and more so of all of those emotions.

A quick jaunt over to my boss to explain what I found out about the issue which I am not sure I could adequately put into words how convoluted the set of events happened to be that lead to this horrible series of unfortunate events, I think I may need to write the Project Control Office and give them a thank you card for making parts of my last month a living hell by simply assigning me a simple task, that ended up being broken three... wait -- now four ways to Sunday due to software upgrades getting pushed to employees computers.  So explaining the detailed set of problems to my boss, clearly worked up because in the few minutes after this he said in three different ways "It is late enough, you should just go home." Followed by a few other people I *tried* to have normal conversations with about other work items in the next 10 minutes.

Sticking around long enough to tie up a few lose ends, I realized if I was told by 5 people, including myself the same thing, there must clearly be a reason.  I swear I was on the edge of twitching on the way home, and even getting settled when I got home.  Thankfully my new hotplate arrived today, so broke that in and got started on tea.

Hashiri Shincha

Tea being the wonderful beverage that it is, now has me maybe calm is not the right word, but settled enough to start feeling refreshed and realize it is the weekend, and the boss I really had to talk to about the issue had already left so there was not much that can be resolved until Monday.   I am not sure how tea does it, but  it is incredible how tea gives you energy when you are tired, and calms you when you are charged.  As such it is something I drink with passion and vigor.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A speck of optimism

99 Kunming Factory Red in Red (2)

It is a rainy fall day here in Mid-Michigan, and today I finally got around to doing something that will help get my tea sessions back on track.  Somewhat shortly after moving for my new job, my electric hot plate boiled its last kettle full of water.  Throw in the mess of new job, new place, new expenses, new area, new almost everything.  My budget has been horrid nearly all summer, and I kept telling myself, I will replace the hot plate when it is the end of the month and I have the spare room in my budget.

Maybe it is a good thing, but I try and keep my budgets so tight that there was never room in my budget, so come October I decided it is a priority and needed when it gets so cool I just want to keep a warm kettle on all after noon while drinking tea.  So I can look forward to once more being able to use other kettles, especially my Lins Ceramic kettle which I dearly miss using.

Currently in my cup (pictured above) a 1999 Kunming Factory Red and Red sample.  Nice and soothing, but I can't seem to dial it in between too light and too heavy, though bitterness is not really the issue in the too heavy, so maybe this does have some hints of age.

99 Kunming Factory Red in Red

Aged teas seem to do wonderfully in the cooler weather, and I have stockpiled a small selection including some delicious Aged Baozhong that I can not wait to dig into later this fall. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Confessions of an avid Tea Drinker

I am sorry, I realize it has been quite a while since I posted.  So while I try and put it on my list to take new and interesting photos, I decided to put out a somewhat fun and hopefully quick post.  Here are my confessions as an avid tea drinker.
  • I reboil water... often.  
  • This is one hard fast rule I am not completely sure I buy, at least not as far as it is normally sold.  Based on the properties that water has, especially its ability to somewhat quickly take on air when undergoing a turbulent action such as being poured through the air, or splashing slightly while hitting a cup, basically all sorts of actions undertaken while drinking tea, not to mention the subtle slurping from the cup when drinking.  The whole the water has lost all its oxygen and that it will taste worse for that point is dubious to me.  Not to mention in natural processes warmer water has  a harder time holding oxygen than cold water, so in theory any hot water is already losing massive amounts of the dissolved oxygen in the water, so whether you are keeping warm, or reboiling that issue is still there.
  • I give up on bad tea fairly quickly.
  • File this under: life is too short to spend a lot of time drinking bad tea.  
  • I have a hard time talking to most people about tea.
  • To be fair I had this problem with mathematics too. This really comes down to the huge disconnect between how they see tea, and how I see tea.  On a related note, I just smile and nod, and try not to make any comments when ever someone tells me "Oh you must love the great tea selection in _____ grocery store."  Call me a snob if you must, but if it is on a US grocery store shelf, I have a hard time considering it as tea, especially if it is not even loose leaf.  I don't get how people hear tea drinker, and think I would love the revolting display of what flavors could we mix with generic black tea dust. 
  • I drink coffee surprisingly often. This might seem in a bit of a stark contrast to the previous confession, but while I also avoid flavored coffees if at all possible, when I drink coffee it is the caffeinated drink I turn to when I need to get other stuff done, I have a hard time drinking tea, and focusing on something else.  So my coffee selections/ preferences are somewhat scary to those that are as passionate about coffee as I am about tea. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A wonderful day for Gyokuro!

Today I filmed myself trying to remember how to brew Gyokuro.  Thankfully I remembered how to brew Gyokuro incredibly well.  The weather may have helped as well, as it is a cool Fall day, with a persistent drizzle.

I hope you enjoy this video, as my previous Gyokuro video is one of the most viewed, and one comment I get the most is people wanted more explanation on what I am doing, so I am trying to do that by having this video with audio commentary.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

How much leaf is too much?

Private Collection 102K Da Yu Ling (2)

Chances are if your pot looks like above, you used too much leaf.  At the same time this was very close to passable and nearly great, simply because of the type of tea it was, which can be very incredibly forgiving with brewing parameters.   Honestly I have been brewing a large number of rolled balled oolongs lately, yet I am still having a very hard time zeroing in on the right amount.  If this goes on any longer I may need to resort to using a scale, as it seems I either under or over shoot my goal amount.

What are the symptoms of too little leaf?

While of course this is also dependent on your brewing parameters, such as steeping time, and temperature of the water/ temperature maintained during the steep.  Too little leaf can often throughout the first 2-4 steeps seem a little thin, and lack luster.  Often underwhelming in almost all aspects.  The one part that can actually shine better than the rest of the tea is aroma.  This can make the tea seem sweeter, so if that is what you are going for you may want to aim for using less leaf.

What are the symptoms of too much leaf?

Well besides the obvious over powering bitterness.  The tea will feel almost too thick, in a sense that even if it is not bitter, it will seem almost sticky, and leave you wanting water after each cup.  You may suffer from palate fatigue very quickly.  By that I mean after a few infusions you may find yourself feeling like you are no longer able to taste anything well at all.

What do I consider ideal?

I could go with the obvious answer between the above two, but I'll elaborate.  I do want to highlight that this is my own personal preferences, as everyone has their own personal flavor profile and sensitivities to bitterness.   I like my tea to the point that I get a slight sense of bitterness, enough that it lingers in the aftertaste, and turns sweet, but not so bitter as to become overpowering.  I often feel that this has the best mouth feel as well, because it seems at least in my opinion most of the thickness in tea is tied to actually the sense of tannin/ bitterness in the tea, so when it is at that point it is light enough to feel refreshing and thirst quenching, but thick enough to coat everything nicely and stick around just long enough.

To now ask my readers, what do each of you find ideal?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Just what I needed

Private Collection 102K Da Yu Ling

Alright August is almost over, and I have never been happier to say that.  Before I get too far, I would like to congratulate my brother and his new bride on their wonderful wedding, I can not imagine how tired you two are, but I am exhausted from just being the best man during the wedding week maddness.   So once I finally got home today I decided to have a great tea to celebrate.

Origin Tea Private collection 102K Da Yu Ling.  What a great tea, just what I needed in so many ways, a massive dose of energy, yet a relaxing effect.  Honestly I think I just needed time to myself, to listen to good music, and breath deeply.  After this whole month I really think I need to look into meditating again, holy smokes.

Private Collection 102K Da Yu Ling (1)

That is the first infusion above.  Incredible tea, might just crack my top 5 teas of all time, and yes all those leaves are sticking out of the pot a good inch or so after just the first infusion.  I know there is a method for brewing Gyokuro jokingly referred to as drip tea, I think that is honestly how I am brewing this Da Yu Ling and loving it.  Now somewhere past infusion number 8, there is no pour when I pour, only a stream of drips for a few minutes until even those stop. Though it is still going very strong with no sign of stopping in sight.

I hope to be back to updating more often now.  Congratulations Erik and Jackie, enjoy your honeymoon!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why to brew gong fu

shan lin shi in hong ni (1)

I have had quite a few friends look at me in amazement when I tell them that when I drink tea it can easily be an hour long event if not an afternoon long event (when I have an afternoon to spare).  They get this look in their eyes, and I feel they are all thinking the same thing though usually a bit too polite to ask it: "Doesn't your tea get cold before you finish it?"  This comes from the fact that a lot of people in the United States have no clue what gong fu is, and while some of them have heard about re-steeping tea they have written it off as impractical or not worth it due to how they brew their tea.  Honestly it does take some getting used to brewing in a gong fu-esque way as in the Western mind set a drink is a 12oz or greater container of liquid that we just keep next to us and sip when ever out hand happens to wander over to pick it up.

(start minor rant)
I mean honestly think about the beverages you see most people in the America's drinking, Beer, Wine, water, soda/ pop, coffee, tea, everything they pour it is almost how big of a cup can I get it in?  I think the only drink I see routinely served in small cups that people order somewhat frequently is a Shot of alcohol... but almost never does someone sit there and sip and savor a shot of alcohol, they down it in one gulp as if that amount of liquid can only be consumed in an instant.
(end minor rant)

It takes time to learn how to appreciate what is in your cup when you only have an ounce or so of that particular steep.  All too often when I was new, I threw them back in a hurry, only to then ask myself, wait what did I just experience?  Each and every single time that happened the answer was I don't have the faintest idea.  Not only is gong fu good to practice brewing precisely to try and get the very best possible series of brews out of a tea, it is also a practice in awareness the entire way through the session.  How long since the kettle has boiled, does it need to be brought back up to a boil?  If it doesn't need to be brought back up to a boil, how much should it have cooled off, should I add a little more time to the steep?  How did the last steep taste, and what did that tell me about how I should treat this next steep?  Do I even enjoy this tea?

All those questions can only properly be addressed when you sit down and put a concerted effort into each and every brew the whole way through the process.  I also feels it gives you a far more complete picture of what the tea is and is not than brewing in any other variety of ways.

What Gong Fu is not....

I have seen some references lately in which people think gong fu has more to do with the teaware than the actual brewing of the tea.  While I understand the mistake in my opinion that could not be farther from the truth.  It is hard and gets messy, but if you work on it you could gong fu with an infuser basket and a cup  ( likely small cup).   I know in the past I have mentioned both Grandpa Style and a style of brewing that I have seen referred to as stacking infusions, in which you steep a tea multiple times and decant them one after another into a larger cup, then walk off and absentmindedly sip while distracted not really tasting anything besides the boldest flavors in that tea.  

Grandpa Style Sencha Complete

So please at least once a week if you do not already try and sit down and work a tea through a series of small but more intense steeps paying full attention to each and every single one and note everything you notice about the tea.  Also this does not apply to just Chinese teas, while yes the term gong fu has Chinese origins, I feel the same practice applies even if slightly modified to most other teas.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ramblings over a pot of Shan Lin Xi

An absolutely delicious Gaoshan!  Like I say in the video if you are a tea drinker and have not gotten into Gaoshan yet-- WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Lie Every Tea Person Keeps Spewing!

I am really not sure why this hit me so hard today of all days, though it has always slightly nagged me, almost since the time I started drinking tea.   Yet there is a lie so deeply spread throughout all of tea culture, we have all probably heard it dozens if not more times.  While the lie is rooted in *mostly* good intentions, the honest truth is the lie is a lie because it is really impossible.    So without much further ado, the lie that we all keep spewing is:

When pouring from your [gaiwan/ teapot, what ever you use to brew] make sure you get out every last drop of water.

If you want to really think about why this is impossible, take any teapot you own, or heck even take a gaiwan.  Fill it with water then empty it, I mean try really good to empty it.  Look in side, can you see any water residue?  ( If it is a clay pot does the clay look damp?  Is there some tiny pool of water form when you tilt it slightly?  If you used a gaiwan and it passed the previous two, rub your finger in the gaiwan, does your finger come out wet?)  Guess what yes to any of those questions means there is water left in the pot.  Guess what, that is done without any tea leaves in the vessel!  Now imagine having tea leaves in the vessel, which offer all sorts of additional surfaces for water to cling to or hide, heck if it is a balled oolong it can even have pockets inside the unfurling leaves that can hold on to some water that you will never get out of the teapot even if you try and pour from it continuously for several hours. 

Where does this lie come from?  Well I will be the first to admit I have ruined several pots of Sencha because of a spout clog made me mistakenly believe the kyusu was empty when in reality there was about 10-15 ml of water left in the pot, only to be revealed when I lift the lid to add the water for the next steep.  Basically any time you are not brewing in a style that you are intentionally leaving a root to give a little more kick to the next infusion, if you accidentally leave a substantial amount of water in there things will turn out different than expected.  I imagine instead of trying to quantify "substantial amount" they decided to just go with "every last drop" as a nice and simple way to make their point.  

Lets face it water will always be left inside the pot after pouring, because water is water, it likes to cling to many substances at least until it finds something better to cling to or evaporates.   Trying to pour a teapot full of tea and having it be bone dry at the end of the pour is up there in impossible things with tea as: breaking up a puerh cake without breaking any leaves, or brewing tea for many years and never having burnt yourself.  Honestly I wouldn't trust a person to brew me tea in a gaiwan that has not burnt their fingers several times while using it.   Bonus points if you burn yourself while serving other people ;) . ( Reminds me of one time I brewed for my college roommate, I was using a rather poorly constructed gaiwan, because it was my largest, and I left basically no time between discarding the rinse and doing the first rather short infusion. I picked it up and started to pour, and wow did that hurt, my hand started to tremble from the pain, still clinched the gaiwan for dear life, once it was emptied I set it down as quick as I could, and got up and walked around waving my hand around.  A few minutes later I had a giant long and thin blister going across my thumb). 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Mindset of a Western Tea Drinker

Sometimes it is good to have conversations with Tea Vendors, and this post is inspired from a discussion with a Tea vendor who is worried about orders, and the lack of repeat customers he has had even with mostly positive feed back on his offerings.   So I tried to explain to him the mind of a western tea drinker when they set out to explore teas.  It is quite difficult to put into words because it does not seem to make sense, because to put it into words you need to presuppose some judgement about the quality that the drinker themselves does not know.  So in part you can say the lack of teachers/ mentors for drinking tea in the west is the real cause.  But I finally was able to convey the mindset of a western tea drinker with a little anecdote.

*Disclaimer this story is made up, the health claim in the story is used to illustrate a point and completely fictitious.*
Suppose you and everyone you knew were blind, though people knew about the concept of sight.  Then you are told that drinking tea will allow you to see, but only as well as the quality of the tea that you have had.  Feeling daring, you seek out some tea, and buy some bagged tea from the grocery store.  The tea is of very poor quality, but you notice you can suddenly have a very vague sense of shapes and shadows, ( though probably still legally blind in the laws eyes).

Encouraged by this experience you then decide to pick up some loose leaf tea, that you are told is higher quality than the bagged tea.  Suddenly shapes are more clear and you have a better understanding of light and shadows, though you are still completely colorblind. Really encouraged by this you suddenly buying up all sorts of teas, from all sorts of different vendors, hoping for a really great one.  Over time you have tried a huge variety of teas of various qualities and your vision manages to improve, where suddenly you start seeing colors, and things are more or less in focus.

Aside:  This is where a lot of Western tea drinkers are, in this search and drink stage hoping for a really great tea.  To help explain the vendors particular question there is this additional part to the anecdote.
One day you have an amazing tea, and suddenly you have eyesight just about as good as it can get.  Now here is the thing, you were blind, everyone you know and talk to is or was blind.  There is no person that knows all about eyesight to be able to let you know exactly how good your vision is now.  So you are left wondering "Does it get better?"

So instead of drinking that amazing tea all the time, which you can afford, and only branching out occasionally to try and find others that you like just as good or hopefully better.  You instead go back to what you were doing, trying nearly every tea you can get your hands on hoping one will make your eyesight even better.


This is the part that really had the vendor confused, if people found something they really liked, why did they not keep on reordering?  It all has to do with the fact that there is no teacher to guide them and actually let them know, yes this is a very good tea, and you should buy this as long as you can get it.  But rather not knowing how good that tea was on a relative scale, return to seek and drink mode hoping to find a better one.

This is really not helped by the internet, while the internet is a consumers best friend, it might just be a vendors worst nightmare.  Whereas when everything you had to buy had to be done by walking into a physical store, how easy that store to get to for you often played a role in how often you frequented the store.  The internet today suddenly puts thousands of stores all on the same city block, heck one could say they even all share the exact same storefront.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Finally! Another Tea Video.

It is hot out side, but that doesn't stop me from filming myself brewing up some lovely Shincha!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer Doldrums

Shan lin xi in hong ni

The older I get the more and more budget conscious I seem to get.  Thankfully on the plus side I have graduated over the years to better and more secure jobs allowing me to not quite reduce my tea spending, while reducing the percentage of money spent on tea.  This post is a twist of a post on something I seem to mention every fall.

I have mentioned several times before that I like cool weather for tea drinking not just because it is more comfortable to drink a warm/ hot beverage when you feel the need to warm up, but rather because when it is cold outside, we run our heaters.   I have realized that quite a few of my hobbies such as tea drinking and running technology for the purpose of crunching BOINC ( Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) projects generate heat, and a lot of heat.   When it is cold out that heat is a "useful" way to help heat my place.  By useful I mean it is not just running the heater for the purpose of generating heat, but rather the generation of heat serves another purpose.

That is all fine and dandy when it is cold outside, and you are trying to keep your place inside.  It makes no sense however when it is hot outside, and hot inside, and you are actively paying to run your AC to keep it cold inside.  I have not looked at the actually electricity consumption numbers for each appliance, but it seems really strange that I would pay to generate all sorts of heat in a computer constantly running or to bring a teapot to a boil, and at the same time pay for the electricity to run an air conditioner to cool the very same rooms that that heat is being generated in.  It gets even more screwy when you suddenly realize that you need to reboil more often the more often your AC is running! It really is enough to make your head spin!

So I am actually working on reducing my tea drinking this summer, and when possible brewing teas that can be brewed nicely with minimal reboils of the kettle.  Gaoshans as mentioned in my last post need heat, but if resteeping often enough can go 3-5 steeps without a reboil.  While the real ideal candidates are Sencha, Gyokuro, and Shincha which I have seemed to prefect  a system of brewing an entire session while only boiling the kettle once at the very beginning.  So these are the teas I am going to stick to this summer!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Summer of Gaoshan?

shan lin shi in hong ni (1)

Like a kid that doesn't want to eat his vegetables I struggled to get to know Taiwanese High Mountain oolongs.  Not quite sure why it seemed like such a challenge, I have always liked them when I brew them right, and I brew them right nearly as often as any other tea with similar experience.  Yet, they apparently fell victim to a budget and a routine of enjoying many other teas.  By that I mean when I had the money for an order, they never quite seemed to be in contention for said money.

This summer though I am making a concerted effort to brew and enjoy Gaoshan, and it is going far better than I ever imagined, in fact I think I have been made a convert to the Taiwanese ways.   I can only imagine where this is going to be leading me.  I wonder how long until I start to look up where all the tea mountains are, and perhaps start to get a better understanding of cultivars and growing regions.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Wall" of My Dining/ Tea Room

To anyone that wanders into my dining room, there is really no hiding the fact that I am an avid tea drinker, and teaware collector.  I am borderline calling it a shrine to teaware related pottery.   I honestly think I have spent too much time discussing something that photos can easily show, so 5000 words coming up shortly.

Teaware display

Teaware display (1)

Teaware display (2)

Teaware display (3)

Teaware display (4)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gyokuro with a touch of Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell Gyokuro theme

Now there is no denying that I am a Teaware addict.  I have found that when people start to collect enough pieces of teaware they start to come up with themes.  While I don't have any definite themes when it comes to Sencha yet, my gyokuro set ups are getting rather poetic names, which I think are easily understandable when you view them.  Above is a somewhat new set up, which I honestly can not help but call Heaven and Hell.    From the volcanic, ultra rough near black guinomi, to the soft and fluffy cloud looking white Houhin, they stand out against each other as stark opposites.

Now the houhin makes an appearance in my other named Gyokuro setup, which I know has been seen many times before on this blog.  It is named White out, and is a favorite set up of mine to use on a winter day during or shortly after a decent sized snowstorm.
Dreaming of a White Christmas

In my understanding it is not unusual for teaware to be given nicknames.  In fact I know of several people that like to give English nicknames to their pieces because they have a very loose understanding of the Japanese name given to the piece by the artist, or sometimes the artist gives a name that is so literal it loses its fun.  I mean "Blue yunomi" or "Three Colored Glaze Yunomi"  while it tells you the glaze and the type of cup, it seems to lack character.

But these themed tea set ups I find rather interesting.  Like the artisan teaware I use, I help they feel you enjoy the tea, even if they do not make the tea better in a literal sense.  Simply put by stimulating other senses in the mind with pleasing images and thoughts they help transfer those thoughts over into the experience of the tea you are drinking.  This while not making the tea literally taste better, does at least give the appearance of the tea tasting better.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Orwellian Baozhong

1984 Baozhong (2)
What else would you call a baozhong from 1984, if not Orwellian?   I honestly wish I had made up that terminology myself, though before I heard it called that, I was thinking along the lines of a "Baozhong so famous, they named a book after it!"  Honestly I think quite of the tea vendors I frequent must be upset, because it seems like there has been a plethora of organised tea tastings that use up my tea budget for each month.  While it keeps me stocked with tea, it certainly is far from a dedicated order from a specific vendor.

These Baozhongs were put together as part of an educational tasting on aged Baozhong.  There were 5 packs with approximate ages ~10 years old, ~20 years old, 1984, ~30 years old, and 1967.  I have had the first three already. I am rather interested in digging into the last two, mostly because part of the educational part is examining how does going "green" in style alter how well it ages.  While I have been told by the host of this tasting Tony over at Origin Tea, that roughly 20 years ago Baozhong started being created in greener and greener styles.  So lower and lower oxidation.  A trend that has been happening in many oolongs  to this day.  (How many times have you heard people reference Nuclear Green (Insert balled oolong here?)

From my experience with the three Baozhongs I have already tried, the ~10 year old one is actually very nice to drink, but it dies practically instantly.  The ~20 year old I have a hard time getting the hang of, I just can't seem to brew it right, and it seems to disappoint all around. I am going to write up a note on the 1984 below.

1984 Baozhong(3)

First infusion is very nice, soft, subtle but lots of nice aged flavors.  Prunes, raisins, and plum dominate both the nose and the taste.  Honestly not as heavy as I remember it being, it is sweeter and softer than I remember, but very enjoyable.  Maybe it really did need some exposure to air.

The second infusion is a lot more like I remember it being, a lot of similar flavors as the first but heavier and this time more sour notes come through.  Reducing the time on the third infusion slightly gets an infusion now much more like the first.  Slightly more earthy, no longer as sweet.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sencha and Allergies?

Summer Tea Set Up

To help fight the headache and the allergies, I am turning to Shincha.  I am not sure why that connection sticks in my mind, the whole allergies and Japanese green tea thing.  I believe it stems back to a discussion about a type of sencha called Benefuki, which was supposed to be ultra deep steamed and had a touted health benefit of being great at fighting allergies.   The connection has just stuck ever since, and I do not know if it is placebo or something more, but I honestly do believe it helps.

Zencha Shincha (1)

Thankfully I am in the middle of working through a Shincha Tasting Initiative put on by the moderator of Teachat, so I have plenty of Japanese greens on hand. Not to mention I am of the opinion the one of the reasons why people say green teas are for late spring and during the summer as opposed to late fall or winter is because they are brewed at a cooler temperature.  I think they are great all year round, even if there are less allergies to contend with during the winter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pictures (as Promised)

Maiko Kinari Shincha 2013

I am starting to think there is not much better (at least not in the world of tea) than an early summer Sunday afternoon Shincha after cooling off from a 4 mile run/walk. So today I did another grab from the bag of Shincha samples and came up with Maiko Kinari, a Shincha I enjoyed very much last year, and this year seems to be far far better!

Lean in close I will give you a whiff of this tea.
Maiko Kinari Shincha 2013 (2)

Also some things to look out for on the Love of Ceramics Blog.  One item is the Kyusu above, while the other is this lovely yunomi.

Mukuhara Kashun Tsuchinohana Yunomi (2)

Oh, and something else-- a rather looker of a guinomi, but a teaser picture would just ruin the surprise!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shincha has Cometh!

I am sorry for the lack of photos, I have finally dug my camera out of its hiding spot after the move, so hopefully more quality photos comes soon.  Wait, this post is not about photos, lets look at the title again!  Yes, that is right I finally have received some Shincha, and I feel like I am rolling in it, I have 240 grams of it split among 12 different samples thanks to a tasting from Tea Chat organized by the Moderator Chip.   In another tasting I placed an order for 200 more grams of Shincha, which I am unsure when it will be shipped out, but it comes from a source I know to be of top notch quality.

Since I got the shincha I have been enjoying it immensely, I do not know if it was due to the rationing of Japanese greens I have had lately, going from five sessions a week, to one maybe two.  Heck today alone I brewed two top notch Shinchas.  Thes du Japon which is quickly climbing my list of preferred Japanese tea vendors.   The other one is a perennial classic, that this is honestly the first year I did not order a bag of Yutaka Midori from O-Cha in the Shincha Season. 

I honestly do not normally hear reports like this, but based on my first 3 teas of this Shincha season, I think this might be a very good year for quite a few Japanese Senchas, maybe Japanese Tea's all around.

Back to talking about Photos... I really can not wait to dig up my camera and snap some shots.  I have a brand new tea cup and teapot that are just begging to be shown off in something better than a cell phone snap.   Not to mention I think the lighting in my new place is worlds better than the lighting in the one room cave I used to live in.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What happens when you mix a Camera, Tea, and a tired mind...

A video gets made that turns into a ramble about things that have been going on in my tea life while I brew up a delicious pot of Balhyocha tea from Korea.  Honestly I knew I was rambling while filming the video I was just nervous making my first video in the new setting, and as the tea was an unknown tea I could not talk too much about the tea itself, leaving way for the lips to flap incessantly because I was too tired to realize Silence can be acceptable at times.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I do not often bring up the topic of water on my blog or even really in my tea drinking.  Although recent events have really made me understand it really does mater, more than I think I ever really thought.  I just have never quite gotten into digging into the down and dirty chemistry of drinking water, this despite my summer and winter job throughout my Undergraduate studies was actually working for the water (and waste water) provider for the small community where my parents lived.  So I oddly know a lot about what the water providers in the US do to their water, and I know certain things like that the water out of any tap from a municipal water provider is more highly regulated than what is in any bottled water from the store.

Though all this knowledge has never let me dig into what makes good or bad water for tea.  When I went to Lehigh University, and lived in Bethlehem, I thought tea tasted pretty darn good, even with just water from the tap, just simply filtered.  Then I moved out to Kalamazoo, and for the longest time I thought "tea just doesn't taste right"  I thought it had to be in my head, maybe pressure from grad school was distracting me and making me just think things were that way.

Cut to three years later.   I have now moved to Lansing and suddenly tea seems so much more alive again, more flavors, more body, better aroma.  I changed nothing from what I was doing to treat my water in Kalamazoo, but suddenly my tea tastes so much better.  Oddly it seems to be with almost every single tea, almost to the point that I feel I need to step back and relearn how to brew each and every single one of my teas, I am enjoying the challenge, and I love the great results I am getting.

I may just need to look up difference in mineral results from the water providers, and start getting into the "geeking" out about water for the purpose of brewing tea.  So in short, while I still do not think it is wise to go out and buy all of your water for tea, water certainly is a very important part of how your tea tastes in the end.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Out of the Tea Zone

Well I have been in my place a week, and I have really only had stuff in some semblance of an order long enough to only have tea a few times this past week.  I am not sure which of these are messing with my tea drinking it could be all or just some proper subset, but between the new schedule, new location,  change in tea routine (in a video I hope to do sometime soon you will see I am on a new table, and in part my entire tea routine seems to be messed up from what it was), or something I haven't quite put my finger on yet.

Needless to say I have felt incredibly out of the tea zone, but at the same time I seem to be enjoying my tea sessions far far more. I do not know if it has just been some special teas ( possible given that this is part of an Aged Baozhong tasting a tea friend put together), but when I do get to have tea it almost seems to have regained a lot of its magic that had seem to be fading while I was in grad school.

I think the thing that is going to disappoint me the most is tea in the office seems almost completely out of the question.  Besides what I can make from the water cooler with the hot water spigot (which is woefully inadequate for a black tea, teabag but might do decently with Japanese greens).  I think an adventure next week would be to take on of my Kyusu's to work and start brewing up some Sencha... wait, that needs me to have Sencha.  I guess that will be put on hold for the time being.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to incorporate tea into the office?

Monday, May 20, 2013


Wow I am really not sure where the past few weeks went, somewhere in there I hit the Quarter of a Century Club, but was so busy getting things ready for the new job, and the move to a new place that I didn't really get to sit back and enjoy it.  In fact I have a sample of The Mandarins Tearoom 1960s Shui Xian that I had hoped to crack open and enjoy on my birthday.  Needless to say that did not happen.

Possibly making it even more hectic is one of those days was the unbricking of the woodfire kiln for the pottery class I took this past winter/spring.   There are a few I really look forward to using and getting to know better than I already do.  For instance I think this rather volcanic/ earthy monster might be a great tall sided Chawan.

Pinchwork teabowl(1)

While I am just itching to take this little hand carved guy for a run with some Sencha.

Carved Yunomi (1)

For my birthday I also did purchase some teaware, which will be finding its way into photos, two of the three can be seen in this crappy cell phone picture on the patio of my new place.

Morning tea

My place is still a bit of  a construction zone, I have not fully set up where I will be displaying my teaware, ( I think that is on the agenda tonight).  So my tea sessions have been kept simple, and outside when I feel it is cool enough.   Good news that means the pair above has been getting a lot of testing and seasoning, the bad news is that means I am quickly running out of Sencha, and that has left all these baozhongs to try sitting and waiting their turn.

So that is a bit of an update, I hope to get back to more thoughtful posts soon once life seems to settle down slightly.  Happy sipping!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Sip Tip Moves to Lansing!

Michigan Capitol building

Assuming the background check and what not passes, I will walk past this site multiple times a day, on my way in and out of where I will be working.  This is because I got offered a job working in Lansing Michigan, and I hope to move up there rather soon, as they want me to start as soon as possible. All that being said posts might be fewer and farther apart for  a bit until I get situated.

If there are any tea drinkers that read my blog in the Lansing area, I am more than willing to get together for a few meet ups and possibly into starting  a "tea club."  But for the next few days I am finishing things up in Kalamazoo along with an anagama Kiln firing for a Ceramics class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art.

Kalamazoo institute of arts Anagama kiln

In fact my first shift starts at midnight and goes to 6 am.  It is going to be a long night, but I hope I get some beautiful pieces out of it.

Kalamazoo institute of arts Anagama kiln

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pouring a Kyusu to avoid clogging

This question comes up far more than I have expected, and I have myself struggled with this problem several times, but when pouring a kyusu it is not uncommon, for the filter to clog.  This happens most with kyusu with ceramic filters, which true teaware addicts seem to love because the entire piece is made by the ceramic artist and there is no additional metal filter.   Which ever way your mood leans, this tip for pouring can be very useful.  Here I walk through my interpretation of a description given by the Teachat Moderator Chips method for pouring a kyusu to help prevent clogging.

Enjoy watching me brew up two steeps, talking through and illustrating the pour.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The State of my Tea State!

While I sip on some very good sencha, realizing I am down to nearly 100grams of the Japanese goodness, I can not help but think that Shincha Season is in full force but due to life I am forcing myself to step to the sidelines for the most part this year.  Life happens, and because it happens I am stockpiling cash as much as I possibly can while I eagerly search for employment.

It is the uncertain future for employment, coupled with a few all too certain things, such as a move is inevitable, but to where remains unknown. This has me working extra hard to conserve cash, and make sure I move as little surplus stock as possible.  I have already begun the process of selling/ giving away teaware I rarely use to friends in the area that enjoy tea, and I am working diligently to finish off as much tea as possible, starting with the low hanging fruit of samples but trying to work my way up to other items I have had open for awhile.

Hopefully in a few weeks I have some good news, and I can catch the tail end of Shincha season.  But for now it is simply enjoy the spring as we head into summer, and wish for the best in my tea journey.  I hope all my readers are well, and enjoying any spring teas they decide to order.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So out of the box, the leaves don't fit in!

So any of us that have been around the block a few times realize we have our own preferred brewing styles for nearly every single tea we come across.  Having heard good things about Da Yu Ling, I picked some up from a newly started vendor.  Initial impressions were lack luster, they seemed to fall quite flat.  Turns out I brewed it incredibly too light.  Even though that is how I usually approach brewing Taiwanese oolongs. 

Through talking with the vendor, I pulled out the stops and brewed it his style, and cameras were rolling while I talked through my impressions for the first three infusions.  ( I am currently on infusion 10, and I've heard it can go for far far more).

So without much more ado,  I present to you this video.   (The title of this post will make sense when you see it).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Not old, but Not Young Puerh

I used to really enjoy 10-14 year old puerh, back when I thought it was the definition of aged puerh.  Lately I have realized even at that age it can still taste quite young, and lack the deep and wonderful qualities I have since come to associate with aged puerh.   This was seen in a 2002 Haiwan HOP puerh today.  Claiming to have leaves from both Yiwu and Menghai regions, even though it is quite brown in color, and brews up a reddish liquor, it is far from aged.

I worked really hard at attempting to describe this tea, all I can say is I enjoyed it through and through so descriptions are somewhat meaningless in this instance.  At this age the teas I feel show off what qualities they have that will persist with age, but most of the flavors that are present when young have mostly faded into the background, while the aged flavors are still in their infancy and have not really developed.  You are left with something that is indescribable, but based on the feelings you can tell if it should be good or bad.

Verdict on this one is good for me, but then again, I am far from a puerh expert, heck I am not even sure I qualify as more than just a puerh dabbler.  Either way I filmed the first few infusions, enjoy!

For Those With Large Hands

I have long since known that I have larger hands than most people, it fits as I am a larger person than most people.  It did not occur to me though that it would be a good idea to post a blog about using teaware with larger hands, as quite a bit of the smaller, and more reasonable single person teaware items are designed for people with very small hands. 

Japanese kyusu's are oddly not a problem at all, although my very small one is best handled with a  grip in which the handle sits between your fingers, and your palm rests upon the open end of the handle, and the pour is done with a twist of the forearm. For the most part kyusus are easy to use no matter your hand size.  And example of this kyusu grip:

It is teapots similar to those  you see on western style teapots, except in much smaller sizes on Japanese and Korean teaware. In this instance to avoid awkward proportioned teapots they make the handles smaller also.  Well this can make it nearly impossible to use these teapots in the same fashion you would a larger teapot of that size.  In fact even though it may seem insecure, the best way I have found to handle small teapots with small handles, is to pinch the handles instead of hook the handles with one or more fingers.  Even if your finger can fit in the smaller handle it either feels awkward or places the back of your finger far to close to the teapot containing near boiling water risking burns. An example of this teapot grip ( with my smallest teapot 60ml):

Although the biggest advantage to having big hands I believe comes with the use of Gaiwans.  With gaiwans you have the most versatility possible to use it what ever way you want.  I prefer the three finger method, which allows me to even with massive gaiwans to keep most of my hand a decent distance away from the hot, hot water inside the gaiwan. As shown below:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lets brew some Jade Tie Guan Yin

A new video, in which I brew some Jade Tie Guan Yin.  A very nice Tie Guan Yin which honestly didn't shine until the second infusion and later.  I of course in my own fashion stumble to talk about what I am tasting and feeling about the tea while brewing the first few infusions.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Teaware Choices

EOT 80s Wang Zhi loose leaf in antique cup

I feel one of the things people associate with me and tea is my teaware, and while I have spent more than I probably should have, I feel it makes the sessions better in an almost intangible way.  If you are into eastern mysticism they can often try and explain that away using energies and what not of the various pieces.  What I am about to say does not conflict with that it is more of just an alternate way to view that principle.

I have found that when making tea, and drinking tea, that so many of our senses are occupied it is hard to give each one all the time it deserves.  Yet they are all busy sending all sorts of information to our brains which it then interprets.  As such the senses that are often over looked such as feel, and to a certain extent sight (on the teaware itself, not the tea), contribute far more than we imagine to the tea session. This is my explanation when people say simply having a nicer item sitting beneath the teapot or the teacup makes the tea taste better, when it has no contact with the tea itself.

I recently bought the "antique" porcelain cup pictured above, and while I am not 100% sure of its provenance, it feels nice both in hand and on the lips, and looks nice with tea in it, when the tea is bright enough you can just make out the detail of the piece beneath the tea. In the first session tea did not taste quite right, I think because I was mentally worried I did not thoroughly clean it even though when I forced myself to just consider water poured in and consumed the water itself didn't taste bad.  Hopefully that goes away with time, but that is another interesting thing to consider, how your mental shift towards a particular piece alters how tea tastes in it.

If you are worried you are going to break the piece, worried that the piece is dirty, you just plain are not fond of the piece, etc. Then tea will likely not taste that great when you use that piece. Might actually be a weird backwards way of why some of the most rustic tea bowls in ancient times were the most prized because "they made good tea" the tea makers did not really worry about their heads if the bowl happened to be damaged.

On the other side if there are things you absolutely love about the piece tea may taste better in them. Weather it is how the piece fits into your hand and is so easy to cradle, or if its as simple as the wonderful feeling of the clay foot, that while you hold the cup pondering the tea you are drinking,  you graze your pinky across the foot and enjoy the feeling.  Our relationship with our teaware is easily just as complicated, if not more complicated as our relationship with our tea, and then of course you need to consider their relationship with each other.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Approaching a new (to you) Tea

New video is up on how I approach a tea that is completely new to myself.  The main idea is a a more neutral leaf to water ratio ( not light, but not packed either) and then brew it similar to how you would brew most teas of that style.    Its a great way to get an idea of how you should brew the tea in the future. Namely does it seem like it can really be pushed, or should it be brewed at a far lighter ratio.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Cleaning ( of sorts)

Matcha Kotobuki (1)

Spring is coming!  (Or at least I sincerely hope so).  It has been a wild March, which at least in all but the first week of March here in West Michigan our Average high temps are usually decently above freezing, and in the latter part of the month our average temps are usually 50F if not slightly warmer.

In reality this month, this is the first stretch of days nearly all month that we are not hovering basically at freezing. While each week this march has felt like a record on repeat. Sunday is a mild somewhat sunny day, then come Monday through Thursday, a snow storm blows in, Friday it starts to clear up again and get sunny through Saturday and Sunday.  (Lather, rinse, repeat).

So I have been in a wishy washy tea camp, this weird weather, has had me confused tea wise. I've mostly been making my tea choices by what I know must go, with a bit of spring cleaning feel to it.  Work on the perishable green teas, and work on pairing down the number of samples I have sitting around.

Samples! I think all tea drinkers learn to love and hate samples.  We all love trying new teas, and look forward to samples being added to orders if the place has a history of doing such things.  But wow can they add up.  I currently have a plastic bag full to the brim of samples that I am really trying to work down to a certain point.  Part of the problem is some of those are samples I bought because I want to enjoy that tea on a special occasion while other samples are were given of types of teas I do not drink often. 

What teas are you working on clearing out in preparation for the new harvests which are getting ever closer?

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