Friday, February 20, 2015

Lifting Shu with Sheng

Last Sunday to soothe a stomach ache, I chose the shu route and ended up brewing four different shus.  I also wanted to try some unloved shus in yixing before I finally give them up for adoption.  I was a tad hopeful as some wet stored aged sheng do perform better in yixing. But, but brewing shus you don't care for in a yixing pot really does not make it any better. White Tuo- I'm gonna find you a new loving home.

If yixing is not going to improve a shu, well- we will have to resort to more direct means.  I'm a big fan of sheng/shu blends like the Dayi 7452 and the uber-cheap Dehong that TeaDB James had fun with.  But if you've got lots of shu which didn't get pressed with some token sheng, you can still do your own blending either in the teapot or even in the cup.  In the above photo, you will spot one lonely cup of sheng. Actually blog photos can be quite misleading- there's two more supporting teapots and many cups besides this tidy fish plate to get four brews going simultaneously. (Also that yixing gaiwan ended up being a fake yixing but it's a decent gaiwan so I won't start a fight.)

I sometimes keep a sheng brew around to lighten up a shu.   Ever since I get my kicks blending hongcha and oolong for my own Russian Caravan I've been more keen to experiment.  For me, it's more about enjoying the process rather than unlocking some magic combo.  Mostly, a smidgeon of sheng dynamism will make your shu a little lighter and tastier.    Just as you won't use the best oolong for Russian Caravan,  you can employ so-so shengs into good use.

The sheng pictured above is a Changtai 2006 65th Anniversary Beeng- a pretty decent beeng deserving of being brewed on it's own and no means a beeng which should be relegated to just shu lifting duty. I tend to use whatever sheng I brewed up earlier instead of overthinking the sheng selection as the sheng tends to get drowned out by shu.  I've tried mixing the tea leaves but you don't have as much control or flexibility to see how a shu will improve and to determine a working proportion.  Also you don't have to have a separate pot for the control brew without the sheng.  
Sometimes one can down more tea than intended and in some cases you don't know the potency of a tea until it's much too late.  I ended up loading on so much caffeine that running was the only viable way not to pop out of the roof.  There's reliable research that caffeine in-take(here and here) an hour before workout is beneficial and leads to decreased muscle fatigue.  The caffeine helped noticeably enough that I'm going to schedule running sessions after tea and drink to my hearts content without worrying about over doing it.

One of my favorite runs is on the Berkeley Marina where you have ready views to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Early in the year we get green grasses and a profusion of invasive oxalis blooming yellow. But for most of the year, the grass is golden.

When one runs with the bay wind,  you can taste the momentary freedom from one's sorrows and burdens. Sometimes when tea does not carry you to the clouds, you have to carry the tea.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Happy belated Valentines dear reader. I hope that you enjoyed a few sparks mandated by such a holiday. If not, take solace that joyous moments of love tend to happen at un-appointed hours and such love need not be limited between mere romantic partners. I have a great many secret and not so secret loves and to love I've found to be altogether a fine human endeavor.

Of the more healthier and wholesome loves in the light side of my heart lives pears right next to hongchas and blue cheese.  Today while fruit shopping, I happily came upon a luscious pile of late late harvest Comice.  Out of the dozen pear varieties one often gets in California,  my heart literally races when I see Taylor's Gold- a variety so finicky to grow that you scarcely find this russeted brown beauty in the markets. Taylor's Gold's floral aromatics are utterly intoxicating and anyone whose had the pleasure of a ripe and juicy specimen are prone to senseless gushing. However there are some stoics like my husband who are strangely immune or even against such sensuous fruit and will go running back to their Bartletts and Boscs.  When you can't get a hold of this most magical variety,  your next best option is Doyenne du Comice which unsurprisingly gave mutation to Taylor's Gold.  

In deconstructing my love of pears,  I tried to brew up sheng today which matches closest to a Comice. The best Comice can exude a heady wine-like fragrance of complex fermentation. Peter Blackburne-Maze writes that the Doyenne du Comice is "most deliciously flavored and juicy to the point of indecency".   Such sensuality belongs more in the realm of oolongs than old man puerh but I try.

The 2006 Changtai 65th anniversary is all sugar and juice but no underlying complexity - more like a simple Anjou.  The 2004 Changtai Ancient teapot is more complex but tad too aged to conjure up ripe white flesh. It was a vain exercise then to connect two disparate loves.

I had meant to brew up the 1930's liu bao all week but was thwarted by a series of unfortunate events. First two of my tastebuds became simultaneously enflamed,  then my husband and I got stomach flu, and now it's allergies kicking up in high gear in the unseasonably warm weather.  I've been awaiting ideal conditions but I may just have to go for it.