Friday, October 15, 2021

Coffee Drinking PSA for Teaheads

I've been struggling to push off coffee yet again and dear readers, I no longer have the will.  When I last kicked the habit with double strength assams, I perhaps could have stayed clean permanently had I lived alone. Yet I live with another coffee drinker and seeing a loved one constantly and enthusiastically extoll the delicious virtues of coffee every morning makes my abstinence nigh impossible.

It's not that tea vs coffee is some analog to weed vs cocaine. But the higher levels of caffeine combined with the easy delicious taste entices you in such a warm embrace.  I'm a mere mortal buffeted by various whims and desires and I have to utilize my precious and limited will-power on things that are life critical.

I can't seem to resist the bean especially if I have not had proper sleep which is a lot these days.  Why would somebody like me consistently stay up all night for? Well, mostly gaming  but yesterday I tried my hand at choreographing a machinima music dance video.  Making modded characters dance was definitely worth the relapse in coffee.  Enjoy the 3 minutes of pure entertainment!

If you love Skyrim and the Witcher...

Friday, September 17, 2021

Taboo of Reroasting Coffee Beans

Early this year I chanced upon two pounds of "artisanal" coffee beans that my husband had completely forgotten about under his desk.  Often he will be gifted coffee at work which he promptly deposits at my bean bank. But this one being an undesirable light roast somehow languished hidden for about a year.

To a puerh drinker, a year really is a blip in time and the beans grind up to a better than expected highly drinkable brew.  But these Honduran beans are exceedingly lightly roasted barely past first crack giving me the jitters.  It's too old to giveaway to anyone and I can't drink anything this light so I had the notion to just re-roast it to a darker level.

Anytime anybody asks about re-roasting on a forum,  roasting snobs come out of the woodwork to naysay re-roasting, a technique they haven't ever tried.  Given there is precedent for re-roasting in oolongs, a far more delicate brew than coffee, I could see a re-roasting home experiment was in order.  I found mention of a Swiss technique of double roasting for a more low acid smoother brew. Lo and behold a cafe chain in Hong Kong serves double roasted beans:

"the new blend Double Roast are roasted until its first crack, then left to cool down for 48 hours, and thereafter roasted again until the desired roasting level is achieved. The cooling phase in between the 2 roasts causes the sugar in the beans to caramelise without burning, allowing the transformation of the beans to evolve into a sweet, deeply rich finish with low acidity."

I know there is a wide gap between 48 hours and a whole year of resting but where is the fun in life if you don't try.  In the end, it's me and my husband that will be quaffing this suboptimally roasted coffee and only the results down our throats will confirm whether it's a viable technique.  At worst, it would still be leaps better than coffee on an airplane and superior to anything a field solider would have gotten during the Civil War. 

Not having my hands on a more convenient popcorn popper,  I  first opted for the simplest frying pan method, not really ideal with surface heat. I've since tried a closed pot that I shake vigorously at higher heat every 5 seconds that works much better.  In my first attempt with the fry pan, I was timid with the heat and was whisking these beans for over half an hour. Even with the vigorous shakes and thorough whisking, it was an uneven roast with a few burnt beans.
Nobody will lend me their popcorn popper...

How was the end result? Pleasing. The coffee is smooth and drinkable with the taste even nuttier after a few days of curing. I guess it might be an affront to coffee snobs as the more delicate flavors of this Honduran has been burnt out.  The single roasted brew had fruity notes and a light sweetness on the tongue.  Honduran coffee tends to be mild, sweet, and offends no one so it's hard to say what of the unique characteristic it lost during it's year of sleep.  The bag did not specify the varietal and I'm not one to notice the taste difference in taste between the arabica varieties. 

I'm not going to serve this to guests and enjoy it as a breakfast brew.    Given the dramatic price inflation of boutique beans (these would have been $20 for 12 oz which seems steep for a Honduran),  I'm happy at this fortuitous experimentation.  Before when the roast in the bag is lighter than expected. I've often given them away but now I'll just re-roast. 

*Yes, from this post you may garner that I am back on the coffee train after weaning off.  I was drinking Assams daily and puerh occasionally during 2020 but it was the fraught elections that sent me seeking something more robust and non-complicated to carry me through. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Garden Tea Party, agedness of '04 Yiwu Purple Changtai

For the first time in a long while, I invited a tea guest to my back yard, a dear friend I had not seen face to face for more than a year. Being way past mandated isolations, vaccinations should have ushered in a more joyous return to gatherings. However I find it harder to loosen my grip on my hermit ways.  

I brought out a '04 Changtai Hao Yiwu Purple remembering it to be a pretty tea worthy to serve.   Whether it's purple leaf that doesn't age well or bad aging in the arid confines of my Berkeley home even with a decade in Guangdong, I'd wager it's a combination of both.  August is Fogust in the bay area but somehow the dry zone inside my tea closet doesn't relent holding tight to 45% humidity. I didn't have the foresight to condition the leaves beforehand in a ceramic jar.  But the occasion being friendship and company, any tea might have done.

After party for 1
Even though the teapot was crammed full of leaves, the taste was indistinctly mild with a huigan so imperceptible to declare this brew was definitely not to pleasure our senses.   Yet the brew exerted enough potency to knock down my coffee loving husband.   

It didn't seem right to take pictures during our tea session so the above photo is  after the party, I soldier on past the 8th brew trying to recapture some of my earlier fonder memories of this cake from 6 years past but my mind is too preoccupied by my first tea party of the decade and news of friends.

I brew up this Yiwu again this afternoon having left a chunk in a ceramic jar for a few days.  Due to the caution of the times, I had refrained myself at the party from sniffing deeply the leaves and the teapot lid which is one of the great pleasures of a good Yiwu. So brewing solo now, my nose happily sniffed away at the brown sugar scent.  The signature Yiwu huigan is definitely there, light and pretty but... but accompanied by a mouth drying astringency which wasn't so prominent before.  

I half-heartedly vow never to waste money on aging purple cakes again and to serve purple teas young and lively.   For the curious, I sent away an entire hundo for a 200g mini beeng 7 years ago for the vain hope that purples age well enough to justify the steep cost.  The personal answer for me in Berkeley is sadly nay nay. I wish I had spent that sum for a terabyte of SSD instead.  Sigh.  How have I gotten so sensible to prefer NAND disk over leaf disk but one really can never have enough solid state storage even if one's m.2 slots are full up.  

But an hour past my first sip, a pretty lingering sweetness gets stronger in my tongue and left throat making me smile, but not enough to reverse my last sentiment. The best Yiwus can tingle obscure parts of the mouth. I've had dormant tastebuds in the undersides of my tongue sparkle. I should have listened to Jakub and gotten that 2010 Hai Lang Hao Chawang Yiwu. 

Did the conditioning of the tea chunk in a ceramic canister improve this tea or is this Yiwu too delicate to be appreciated as a back seat tea where there is too much other stimulation? I'll put this Changtai Yiwu down as being a finicky shy tea needing full attention to enjoy.  More than half the Changtai beengs and bricks I have tend to be a rugged lot asserting their shengness in mouth punching ways although no where near as brawny as the mouth kicking Menghai newborns.  

It's been almost a year since I've brewed a Yiwu.  Truth be told, I've fallen back to drinking coffee midway through as the pandemic which demanded something more robust and less complicated.  But now as I'm sipping this Yiwu, I feel entirely ready for a change back to checking out aging of my other beengs.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Off the Curb Nilgiri Shiva: Opening the 3rd Eye

Knowing how much I enjoy a good cup of Nilgiri, my husband picked this perfectly good bag of Nilgiri tea off a free box on the curb in front of the bougie brick lofts facing his workshop. Why anyone would throw away a perfectly good bag of tea? I sniffed and it smelled fragrant and most assuredly tealike. I looked it up on the internet and this tea boasted "Appropriate for opening the third eye".

Who would throw away such a bag?


What else to do but brew up a tea with such a lofty claim. I've only taken lemons off free boxes on curbs but there's nothing like adding some excitement to your tea session. It wasn't a suspicious baggy of illicit substances for which purity cannot be guaranteed. It was most definitely 99% tea with some twigs. My suspicion would be that it be weak and stale.  This Nilgiri was packed 3/27/20 but definitely last year's tea.  

The tea brews up definitely more refined than grocery store bulk tea and sometimes  you need  a weakass and mild tea to just barely prop up an afternoon. For the retail price of $7 per ounce, it definitely would have been a disappointment but who buys teas at that price without knowing the tea estate or proper tea leaf grade?  I'm assuming something not too much above FOP. 

Still for free, I'm happy as a clam. The original owner barely cracked into the bag which is more than full so it was rejected early.  Friends, there is nothing wrong with weak teas as they have their time and place. The problem with the single estate teas is that they are way too potent leaving me wide eyed until 2am.  So weak teas are welcome. 

Yes the third eye is definitely all marketing drivel.   

 (I've gone from tea hoarding to digital game hoarding which definitely is easier on the wallet and household clutter.)




Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Overcoming Tea Greed

Many years ago one November, I got certified for basic first aid/CPR training and completed a driving school contrition course.  Our excellent first aid trainer was a retired Marin firefighter who spouted tales of life and death at every turn- the most noteworthy of which involved a man who miraculously survived a bullet to his throat only to die years later choking on a blueberry.  Most of us hope for a peaceful end but the cold hard CDC statistics and the scare tactics from my driving course indicate otherwise. But before you feel too down about the eventually pending medical emergency that will cut our ropes, let us take cheer in our present circumstances that we are not dead yet. (Can ghosts access the internet is a metaphysical debate for another time.)

In my youth, I used to be quite contemptuous of Seneca's pat wisdom when forced to translate them in Latin class. But after a few decades of living, despite Seneca's apparent hypocrisy, his words ring true.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. ”

Kayak full of crabs. Crab hoarding is not a thing...
Hoarding puerh tea at the core is motivated by a not unreasonable fear of scarcity that is confirmed each passing year by the puerh tea market.  If I could readily procure desired tea at a decent price at any time like supermarket tea bags, I would not have compulsively crammed our china cabinet full of beengs.  The DIY fuzzy warm feeling from aging one's own tea or having enough to share, they are all secondary supporting rationalizations. 

Barring global nuclear fallout or a super volcanic eruption, some type of tea will always be available to consumers at an affordable price range. From a stoic point of view,  there is no reason one could not happily drink grocery store teabags as billions do every day.  Or I could be even perfectly contented drinking merely potable water. But mentally acknowledging such truths is different thing altogether from controlling one's rabid impulses.

Less than through emotional maturity and disciplined will, a collusion of factors has progressively detached me from the need hoard more puerh for the last few years.  The first big hit of a sledge hammer came from periodic fasting, my compulsive connection to food got crushed.   But already the deeply unfavorable economics of  buying newborn sheng compared to my existing hoard had dampened and killed purchasing for many years now.  The beengs I bought nearer to $100 range were really not that much better than my $10 beengs from 2005, and definitely inferior to my $20 beengs.   The smug hoarder devil sits on my left shoulder and says "See, your early hoarding saved you money so you can sit back."  Maybe so.

The home aging experiment while not a definitive failure has not been entirely a success either as the two moving targets-the aging tea and my desire for their particular taste at a specific point in time rarely overlap.  Still I'm grateful for the tea I have regardless of the collection's mediocrity.    There's nothing wrong with mediocrity as that's where most things lie.

If I learned anything from covid times,  it's to be constantly grateful.   I am grateful I can brew tea everyday while knowing when one is truly thirsty, the humblest cup of tap water sparkles in one's mouth.
 “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing."