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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unexpected Delights!

94 Menghai 8582

I honestly didn't think the weather was that bad today.  So much so that I woke up, and did not even think to check the landing page for campus before heading in for my morning class.  Well while the weather did suck, I have walked through worse, but the best surprise was to learn today was a snow day.  So after warming up in my office a bit, it was time to head back home for a day  of kicking back, turning on the tea kettle, and enjoying a day packed full of tea.

When thinking of what tea to have, I wanted something that would warm me up but was a little extra special.  So it was a foregone conclusion to pull out some '85 8582.  Already 8 infusions in, it is brewing still brewing up nice and black, and I am starting to feel like I slosh when I walk.  But I am happy, nice and relaxed, warm from the tea, and enjoying the nice robust earthy qualities.

While it is not quite the same tea in the picture, it is the same cup I am using, along with a simple gaiwan set up.

What would be the tea you reach for when you have an unexpected but delightful day off?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rye Bread? I'll have it with my Tea

I have been trying to get a little more in touch with my cultural background, the big problem is while I am a mutt, I am half Latvian.  If you haven't heard of it I am not completely surprised, it is a small Baltic country, that was part of the USSR after World War II and did not become independent again until 1991.  Its language is one of I believe two surviving languages in its family, which contains Old Prussian, as such it is very hard to practice speaking it, or even find places to learn the language.

I will say I have been blessed to have had several wonderful Latvian delicacies, I honestly think Pirags should have taken the world by storm. These Latvian traveling biscuits, which consist of a bit of dough wrapped around a cooked and rendered mixture of spices, onions, bacon and ham, wonderful when warm, frozen or basically anywhere in between.  Piparkukas honestly in my opinion put all other gingerbread cookies to shame.

But anyway onto the Rye bread, today I received a shipment of Latvian rye bread from Storye and have gleefully been nibbling on it all afternoon with assorted teas.  The combination is incredible.  The rye flavors offset strong teas just enough to stand out and not be overwhelmed, while the teas can also stand up to the rye.  The biggest difference I have noticed is even drinking a lot of strong tea, when just accompanied by a slice, with maybe a bit of butter, I don't get the horrible hunger pangs that normally come along with a lot of strong tea.

A really odd blend of East meets west, that works wonderfully in my opinion.  But I could be biased as since I discovered Latvian rye, both the Storye and home made Latvian rye from a friend of my grandmothers and mothers, I have really been asking myself why all that other stuff I see in stores can be called rye bread.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is it Spring yet?

Choun and Masanao set up

Nothing like being in the throws of the worst stretch of days days I remember in west Michigan since I have been here, to really wish that it is Spring.  Those bright sunny days, the slow and steady rains,  and air temperatures that allow for shorts and short sleeves with comfort.  Oh wait, did I forget something?  Yes, Shincha, and other fresh spring harvest teas.

Oddly while I have come to believe that Shincha is no better ( though no worse), than its counterpart the rest of the year.  I am not so sure I can say the same about the Chinese or Japanese counterparts.  Every year I say I am going to try more and more, but this year, I have decided I do not want to run into the situation where I am finishing off my last Shincha order in January.

In fact 2012 was  a rather odd year compared to the previous year.  I had rebounded a little from going hog wild over Japanese teas, as such while I have had a decent bit of Japanese tea to try through swaps and tastings set up on Teachat, I haven't placed a Japanese tea order since last Shincha season.  This actually messed things up quite a bit, it means I've gone quite a long time without both Matcha, and have been rationing Gyokuro like I am stranded on an island.

What are my readers plans when it comes to fresh green teas this spring?

I say this every year but this year I honestly hope to place an order for several small packets of Chinese Green Teas.

While I also hope to place a single order for Shincha (the hard part is picking the vendor).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tea just helps you be healthy

To my regular readers, I apologize for the title, which sounds very much like those spam adds involving tea.  But I the past 10 months I have been working on becoming more and more healthy, through quite a few different avenues.  To really try and become serious about this, I am hoping to run quite a few races this spring, ideally working towards a half Marathon in May.

The key here is I have realized tea compliments work outs in so many different fashions, before a work out it can help provide the energy boost to accomplish your task.  I have also found it helps me recover from a workout again with the energy boost.   In the winter it is incredibly nice, as it is a way to help warm up, and calm your body down.

Now it is time for the nearly compulsory facts on why tea is healthy.  I am not sure how many of my regular readers has this apply to them, but if you often drink a lot of very sugary beverages or even Sodas/ Pops then simply working more tea into your diet, by say replacing one or two cans of soda a day each by a cup of tea ( assuming you leave out milk and sugar) reduces calorie intake by roughly 200 calories.  

The other fact which should be mentioned, though I have only read this about green tea, but tea apparently boosts your metabolism helping you burn calories quicker. As all teas have nearly identical compounds present, just in slightly different quantities depending on type, so it makes sense that what is true for green tea, is also true for oolong, red, white, etc. to some degree. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Office Tea and Teaware

Barely could believe it myself, but I followed through with an idea that had been lurking in my head, but seemed wrong on so many levels.  Last time I was at the grocery store, I bought tea that came in teabags.  The reason being, while I like drinking tea in my office, the hardest thing is the layout of the building and the offices are so inconvenient for basically anything besides teabags.  Even with an electric kettle at my desk, the kitchen area is located next to the seminar room, so for several hours at a time, almost every day, there is no way to access the kitchen (unless you want to barge through a seminar in progress which is quite frowned upon).

So the teabags are part of an attempt to be able to drink tea in the office.  As I am confronted with a weird situation of liking tea enough that I would rather have mediocre to poor quality tea, than no tea at all.

Suzuki Yunomi

This is also the Yunomi I mentioned in my last post, which will be brought to the office, as the cup to go with my office tea.  I figure if I am drinking mediocre tea, I do not need mediocre teaware.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cold Days, Bigger Cups

Park Jong Il Teacup

I have slowly been moving away from the tiny little porcelain thimbles, that are often used for Gong fu cha, unless I am brewing for multiple people.  While a small part of that has to do with the fact that more often then not I am multitasking at least on some level these days, and the bigger cups mean less pouring, and are less likely to turn cold when forgotten about for a few minutes.

It is that heat retention that the larger mass of hot tea has, that has really lead me to think about the cups I have been grabbing this winter.  The colder the day it is outside, the more I find myself reaching for quite large cups.  Even if it requires pouring several infusions into the cup to fill it more than half way, the large cups are incredibly nice to hold and use on a cold day.

This past Sunday, which honestly seemed like the first real winter day I have seen for almost a year in this part of Michigan, where the cold honestly seemed to penetrate deep into everything, causing a deep mistrust of what my thermostat was actually telling me.  I finally think I found a really good use for a Yunomi I have. But the yunomi which is far too dark on the inside to work well with sencha ( impossible to tell the color of the brew), I realized I can use on these cold days to brew up massive amounts of Red tea, and just sip somewhat slowly while getting work done.

I am sure when the temperatures start warming up the small porcelain cups will once again find use, as while tea fosters patience, the hardest part to wait through is when the tea is brewed, and in a cup, but still to hot to drink!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Signs you might be an addict

Dueling 65ml Shui Pings(1)

Pardon the mess around the edges, but yes, today when brewing this morning I duel wielded ( pardon the video game reference).   The pot on the left contains the second day of 2011 Mandarins Tea Room Tie Lou Han, which while longer steeps, was offering up a lovely woody spice, and dried fruit profile.  The tea on the right, might raise a few eyebrows.

It was The Tea Galleries High Fire TGY.   Yes I know they have been closed for several years, I just happened to have two 50g bags of the stuff in my possession that I have somehow always been overlooking when going for me High Fire Tie Guan Yin fix. 

TTG Highfire TGY

When I opened it I shot for the moon, using over 10 grams, possibly close to 15, smashing quite a bit in the bottom of the pot.  It yielded an interesting brew, though the first 2-3 infusions were overly sour, a sign that it did not like to age well.  But after those it turned into a rather interesting though mild brew.

Though after quite a few infusions, I had to eat a large chunk of Latvian rye bread to get my stomach to stop demanding food.  Either way incredibly enjoyable, and I should attempt this more often.

Friday, January 11, 2013

It's Winter, time for Gyokuro

Charaku Yame Gyokuro

It must have been the abnormally warm November and December in Michigan, but I had not thought of breaking out the gyokuro until rather recently.  Coupled with a Testubin that is starting to develop the white frost and a few specks of rust, created a wonderfully candy like beverage.

I do not know if it is gyokuro from Yame that often has the candy like profile, but gyokuro is rather unlike so many different teas in the sense that it can have a near candy like taste.  ( Not as sugary sweet, but when you can start to taste sweetness in most teas, these gyokuro-s are candy like like a good apple has a very nicely defined sweetness.)  Oddly the iron from the Testubin really seems to bring out the sweetness far more than anything else.

Starting tomorrow, and this weekend I hope to really hit the roasted teas, another wonderful winter time treat.  Though in my experience roasted teas like Yancha and High Fire TGY while great in the cold, need a good amount of humidity to really shine.  Without a rainy day or a good bit of humidity outside, they can seem a little lacklustre in comparison.

What is your favorite winter tea or teas?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Park Jong Il Teapot Staining

Another year begins in the Gregorian calender, may we all show our age as gracefully as these pieces of teaware.

Karatsu Crackles

I myself am hoping to make today a day full of tea, in hopes that it will carry through and be prominent the rest of the year.  Sort of carries through with an old superstition I have heard many times, though the superstition is one involving money, saying if you buy stuff on New Years Day, money will easily flow from your pockets the rest of the year.

Celadon Teabowl (1) cropped

Happy New Year Everyone!

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