Search the Sip Tip

Looking for something on this site? Use this search to find it.

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.

Bottom Banner