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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?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gaiwan Instructional Video.

Warning I actually narrate this video, so if you ever wondered what I sound like you now get to hear what I sound like through a fairly bad microphone on a point and shoot camera, either way I am taking the cover off of my voice in this video, as I felt it was by far the best way to attempt to explain how I use a Gaiwan when brewing tea.

If I were to go back in time and tell myself how natural it would feel to use a gaiwan when I got my very first gaiwan I would not believe it. Even in this video while concentrating on filming, and honestly looking at what I was doing through a little screen as opposed to real life, the handling of the gaiwan really seemed so second nature to me, I wouldn't be shocked if I really could brew tea in a gaiwan when half asleep.

I hope you enjoy the video, and there are no "crotch shots" In this one, which I do apologize for my last video, I did not realize it was that bad.  The problem is as you can see in this video that table is up against a wall, so I have to do a weird move to check what it is in frame, and last video I did not realize it was pointing as far up as it was.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aged Puerh Brewing video!

As promised, I decided to show off my new yixing, by brewing up some aged puerh and filming it as well.   This is an incredibly delicious tea, and I hope to write up a review of this tea soon.  But for now enjoy me brewing up some 80s loose leaf sheng puerh.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Revisting Aged Puerh

80s Wild Arbor Loose Sheng

Do not get your hopes up, I am still more or less hopeless feeling on a lot of Young Sheng Puerh.  I do not think it is horrible, I do actually enjoy it occasionally, but sadly that occasionally is once or twice a month, which at this rate means my young sheng currently on hand will last likely over 5 more years.

Aged sheng is very very nice, and while everyone has a different idea of what qualifies aged sheng, I start to like it when its been stored in somewhat traditional setting for a little over 10 years.  Yet the only puerh I have had older than mid 90's has come in the form of loose puerh, it is still very enjoyable. It doesn't hurt that I caved and got that lovely little yixing pictured above which seems to be working wonderfully with aged sheng, so sadly for my pocket book, it looks like I will need to keep some aged sheng on hand so I can occasionally feed this wonderful teapot.

I am also considering getting back into Tea Reviews, but only make it a once or twice a week post so my blog doesn't get over run with tea reviews. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Yixing Red during a snowy March day

Was cruelly tempted with the weather I love so much on Sunday, and today I am quite annoyed that here in West Michigan we are back to cold and snowy.  Well I dragged myself onto campus this morning only to find out that my morning class was cancelled, and seeing as how I had some errands to run in the middle of the day between classes, why not head straight home and brew up some tea this morning.

Well a nice warming hong cha sounded great, as it always does on these snowy days. Seeing as how I have not filmed a hong cha yet, I decided why not, and set up the camera so all my viewers can see how I brew my red teas.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Casual Sunday Tea

There is not much better than kicking back and  relaxing on a Sunday with a nice strong cup of good quality tea.  Of course good quality teaware doesn't hurt either.  Feeling inspired lately, I decided to shoot another video.

So now you get to take a peak at the first infusion of a wonderful session of Sunday sencha.  Not really apparent in the video but this session I made it extra special by sitting cross legged while brewing, something I feel helps in a meditative sense more than just sitting and brewing tea like normal.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dealing with Stress

Mid Day Hong Cha

So I do not share a lot of my personal life on the blog, although avid readers will have picked up a few details here or there.  Well yesterday morning I had an incredibly important exam, and I was a huge ball of stress leading up to the exam, but I almost felt worse once the rush from the exam was completely over a few hours after the exam was over.  I think I might have finally shaken the horrible headache I've had nearly non stop for 24 hours.

Several things I took away from this experience is while I usually consider myself fairly capable of handling caffeine, when I am under extreme stress situations, while tea helps distract me and keep me focused, it just serves to make me even more tense in the long run.  Once the source of the stress is removed or dealt with I suddenly realize tea is absolutely the best way to regroup and recover from that stress.

Sit cross-legged at the tea table, listen to the kettle rumble, while going about your tea routine turns into a wonderful way to just let everything reset.  This mornings Yixing Red tea seemed to be the first thing that let me settle down for seemingly a week.   Though I wish I could say I am completely calm, but the test is ultimately in the Committee's hands now, and all I am left doing in critiquing my responses.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Balhyocha Brewing!

It is spring break, and while its filled with a massive amount of studying, I am taking breaks when possible to attempt to film a video.  I received a request for a Balhyocha brewing video, and I was more than happy to oblige with one of my favorite Balhyocha's.

I really should have calmed down a bit when filming this video as movements are rushed, and the teapot likes to drip excessively when you rush its pour.  But I think its a great video showing off how I brew Balhyocha, and use my Park Jong Il tea set.   Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

High Fire Tie Guan Yin Caught on Video!

I should note this is the Casual variant of this tea, while still packing a mighty punch is less aggressive and likes to show off all of its features throughout a long encounter.  This is not the Chouzhou style variant which is often like a tornado, short lived and devastating.

Again I showed a rinse and two brews, also a delicious method for ensuring you get the most out of your tea, by catching the drips in a fair cup to drink at the end of the session, though it is usually quite hard to do without a teapot that can safely be perched in your fair cup to drip while you work on other things, drink your next infusion. 

Now for the video:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sencha Steaming Levels

Sencha steaming levels -- they are more what you would call guidelines.  I am sure most Japanese tea drinkers that order from multiple sources share similar frustrations as myself.  But before I get too far, lets recall what the steaming levels of sencha are, and how the leaf looks for each one.

  • Asamushi - Light steamed sencha.  Personally my favorite style, maybe because it requires the least fuss to brew.  That is because it was steamed for a shorter time, the leaves rolled into tiny "needles" are more intact, often creating beautiful picturesque looking leaves.   (An asamushi sencha is pictured below).
Nichi Getsu Sencha
  •  Fukumushi- Deep steamed, jumping to the other side of the steaming level, is a tea that produces a very rich broth like brew.  Often it is jam packed with a plethora of flavors.  The leaves are often not much to look at, while there are some of the longer "needles" the amount of steaming the leaves took broke them up quite a bit.  It is not uncommon to get fukumushi sencha that looks like it has a fair bit of tea particles that belong in a teabag.
  • Chumushi- Mid steamed, lies in the middle, some may say the perfect balance, but this is actually the steaming level I avoid the most. As you can see (below) the "needles" are a bit more broken up than with asamushi, and there are some smaller particles in the mix.

Going back to the very first Sentence of this article, that is the heart of why I avoid Chumushi, but why you should know the tea, and if the vendor posts them, look at pictures of the leaves.  These steaming levels, while I have heard it broken down to specific time frames ( I am not sure it is that simple), are really just guidelines, and sometimes you never really know what you are going to get.

Most Japanese tea drinkers, especially those that drink quite a bit of sencha, have seen fukumushi sencha that other would call chumushi, the other way around too.  Heck sometimes you can order a fukumushi and have something that looks like it got locked in the sauna.  ( I had one of those recently, clogged any pot I used almost instantly, but what I got out was delicious).

So what ever mushi (steam) you prefer, know it might not be the same when you switch vendors. Either way we all just love to drink tea right?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Koicha-- I believe I can fly!

Let me preface this and the video I post below as saying that I have never been to Japan, or had a tea master (in some sense of the word) make me koicha.  As such its mostly a self taught technique based on reading, viewing pictures posted online, and discussions with a few people that have had such experiences.  I have been told that mine looks a little thin for koicha ( if you can believe it), which should be remedied by using less water, because I can certainly tell you, unless you are inhuman in your ability to handle the chemical cocktail that is strongly brewed tea, I definitely would not use any more tea than what was pictured.

That being said, enjoy a video of me making Koicha (thick matcha tea), then using the scraps in the bowl to whip up some Usacha (thin matcha tea). 

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