Monday, October 12, 2015

Yan Qing Hao Gushu Shroom

Autumn is a season that is often tinged with regret especially more so in years when the first half of the year you struggled and struggled against life's forces without reprieve.  One's sorrows can be even harder to bear in the long days of winter.  But I pump both my fists up in the air and vow to enjoy the last warm days of fall and to regret nothing.

This Friday, I was the happy and grateful recipient of a tea box from Cha Kung Fu's Emmett. His wife recently gave birth to a lovely daughter so I feel even more grateful and surprised he could squeeze me in.  I've only done auntie duty but I know how precious even one free minute can be when you are taking care of newborn.  Congratulations Emmett!

Emmett procured some quality Yanqing Hao with a group purchase from a Taiwanese supplier last fall.  Not sure what I was doing that I would miss out on such a plum opportunity but through Emmett's generosity I still get to try.  I brewed the '07 Gushu Jincha this morning.    The more believable gushus I've had tended to be gentle on the body and yet potent - like a really good acupressure massage.  And so it was partly so with this YQH.

Every genre has it's cliches and sorry I had to pull a "gentle yet powerful" on you dear reader.  Those words are applied more commonly to colon cleansers than it is to puerh although some sheng can boast both applications.  But what do I mean exactly? Because the "gentle" adjective on puerh rides a fine line between pleasantly mellow and outright weak, the tea needs to manifest some energy on your body not to be dismissed simply as feeble.  My husband's friend had swung by to help with some physical labor and even with the few thimblefuls of this YQH I served them- they told me they were able to power through thanks to the tea.

As far as the decade old taste goes, this jincha was a tasty brew that made me regret not having tried it when it was a youngish sheng-  it must have been a sparkle in the mouth as a newborn.  From Yan Qing Hao's facebook page, I found their album for this '07 Jincha but not much description:
As any useful Yanqing Hao data on the web was scarce, I ended up clicking through Mr. Yan's Yunnan trip photos on houde.  I'm surprised how young and plump-faced he looked a decade ago. I'm also surprised how similar vendor photos of Yunnan maocha buying trips tend to be. You can check a box for the following types of photos all with the tea vendor looking sweaty:

  • shot holding a sack of precious maocha
  • shot of bamboo pan with sun dried macha
  • shot in front of the wok full of dry-fried maocha
  • shots with native tea picking grandmas or better yet maidens
  • shots with village kids...
(I was too lazy to make a photo collage...)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Autumnal Brew

To properly celebrate the autumnal equinox in Berkeley, I rely on pumpkins to signal the end of summer.  Because the seasons can be ambiguous and inconsistent in the Bay Area, we have to make a special effort to denote the seasons. 
Warty squashes thankfully have their admirers and if I had my way, I would fill up my house with dozens of misshapen varieties. Once I had a tower of blue triambles as our Christmas tree.  This year I settled on the blue Marina di Chioggia being more mindful of their culinary ends while my husband chose the peachy Galeuse d'Eysines.  Supposedly sugars leaching through the skin is what causes these peanut skin like protrusions so this beauty must be quite the sweet bomb. We have about six months to keep it so I may not split it open until next year.

In cooler weather, I find the darker roasted brews more appealing- roasted oolongs and yanchas fitting the bill. I find I've become less finicky and I tend to brew what's within easy reach. I've been going through leftover Wuyi Star yanchas from my rock bottom yancha phase.  While I would not bother to buy their De Hong Pao again, it's quite alright on a autumn Sunday afternoon for some warm cozy feels.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Tea Haiku

This clever haiku by a nine year old and made the twitter rounds a while back.

So naturally my mind started syllable counting numbers I know.

Nineteen ninety nine
Seven out of ten

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2010 Douji Feng Huang You

Here in Shulandia, we plod on taking joy even in the minutest difference in the shus of this earth. While some might think life is too short to drink shu, I'm in the camp that life is too long not to drink shu.  I still have quite a few random unopened beengs waiting to underwhelm me and I finally gave this 2010 Douji Phoenix Tour a whirl.

Douji's foray into shu must not have been a wild success as the Feng Huang You(Phoenix Tour) beengs boast no tea expo awards of any kind.  Douji appear to have had only a brief stint with making shu (2009 to 2013).  My records show I bought this beeng for $12.99 now to be had for $74.99 from the same vendor making it my best investment from 2012.  After the buckets of ducats I lost last week in the market crash, it's half an ounce of comfort.

The beeng itself isn't the highest quality of leaf with a smattering of token golden buds on top. As with most Douji beengs, the compression is loose and the edges are starting to fray already. I can't imagine they bothered with stone pressing shu and the pneumatic presser was probably adjusted.  The scent of the brewed leaves was a tad more enticing and softly sweet than the actual brewed tea. I've already forgotten the particulars as it left such a non-impression.  When I can't get into a tea, I aways do a test brew alongside with a tea I know well so I know my tastebuds are not at fault. With shu, I normally brew up either the '06 Menghais or the YS 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yuas the comparison. I brewed up the Lao Cha Tou today and immediately the reference tea is leaps more livelier in the mouth leaving a licorice mouthfeel. I regret having torn open that prim pleated Douji wrapping.

What to do with such a snoozer of a shu- inoffensive and mild.  Shu cola?

I mixed it for kicks but even the pep of CO2 cannot revive this genteel tea.  The tea is decent enough to chill out and relax my mind with my current favorite app- a 3D jellyfish simulator.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Matcha Snow Two Ways

I took a brief break in Los Angeles to visit a dear friend. L.A. for a food loving Korean is a giant candy store.  I am particularly fond of a red bean iced treat called ppatbingsu.  Koreans enjoy this concoction of shaved ice, red bean, milk and mochi in the heat of summer with friends and family. The serving size is such that one never eats a bowl by oneself and indeed I have never eaten ppatbingsu solo.  You can enjoy the usual variations ranging from coffee to roast grain but I had a hankering for matcha this trip.
The version above is from Sul and Beans- a chain from Korea producing the most advanced bingsu I have enjoyed. They produce a special milk snow which is rich but so light in the mouth, it's magical. If you can try only one dessert in L.A., go for it.   The generous dusting of matcha is good but nothing special- it's a nice food grade matcha. I preferred their injulmi bingsu more which had a unique nuttiness. Injulmi is a roasted grain rice cake and their house specialty.

The second matcha version I enjoyed is at Okrumong famous for their red beans which they roast in the old fashion way in giant cast iron pots. They mixed the matcha into the ice so the ice was quite green all the way through and was a tad bitter.

What Okrumong excel in is not ppatbingsu- the ice lumped in the usual way slushies do- but a red bean cake called chapsalltuk. If you are a kpop Big Bang fan, this is the cake they are singing about in Bae Bae. Their version is really the best I've ever enjoyed- it's a novel variation with a breaded cover. The chewiness was perfect and the above photo does not do justice to it's deliciousness. I could eat these all day long and kick myself for only buying 10 of these.