Monday, December 24, 2012

Xmas Youle Tea

What better way to relax on Xmas eve than to avoid social responsibilities and ease in with tea.  I brought out the 2004 Jinuoshan Youle sent to me by Jakub of T mostly for the pun but I'm glad I did.  I think I'll officially make Youle teas my Xmas tea from now on.

First brews are enticingly soft in the mouth. This is nothing like my ultra smoky 04 Tailian Youle or most of my other shengs for that matter.  The fruity floral notes are kind of likable and I might be able to convince my girlfriends to drink it.  I've been drinking a lot of oolong lately and have found daily comfort in such approachable teas. I might get a beeng if no one's looking. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2013 Tea Experiments

While I was cleaning out the kitchen in preparation to welcome 2013,  I found a lot of random canisters holding hong cha, stale sencha, oolongs and such.  These teas don't get a lot of play. The husband just said flat out- "You have sooo much tea.  Maybe you shouldn't buy any in 2013." Nice try mister.

If I were to take his challenge seriously, I have exactly one week to order any tea for the rest of next year but I need not panic.  I have several hundred samples sent by generous tea friends along with more than my body weight in tea.    What I need is not consumption limits but a more disciplined approach to tea drinking.  When you have multiple hundreds of teas to select from- you can end up just flitting from tea to tea. When I can drink any number of teas at any time, I tend not to try as hard to find the good points of a tea which doesn't particularly stand out.

I've always been fascinated by behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman's ice cream experiments.  He paid volunteers to eat their favorite ice cream for eight days straight and to predict whether or not they would enjoy the experience the next day and on the last day.  He proved that humans are notoriously bad at predicting even their own future preferences.  Combined with the fact that humans presented with excessive choices tend to be less satisfied than those with limited choices, I'm betting a few constraints would help my situation.  I thought of the following experiments for 2013:
  • Drink the same tea for an entire week.
  • Drink the same tea for a specific weekday for an entire year. 
  • Drink the same region for an entire month - maybe February will be Yiwu month.
  • Drink the same factory for an entire month- Menghai March...
  • Drink through an entire beeng.
I might hate such constraints or I might love it. I won't know till I try.

(My husband and I tried a new neighborhood sushi joint tonight to be outright surprised by something exceedingly fresh and delicious. I had the scallop, aji, hirame, and uni tempura which were most excellent.  Tear almost come to my eye.  I didn't feel this way when I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi but when I encounter such efforts first hand,  I'm inspired to do better in my own life.  )

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of the World Tea

I'm not a serious doomer although I constantly prepare for emergencies of all sorts. Even if the world won't be ending exactly tomorrow as misinterpreted by some poor saps who believe in the end of the Mayan Calendar, I thought it would be fun to pick out a tea I would drink if the world really was ending tomorrow.

First- would I be drinking tea if the end was nigh?

Probably.  Copiously.   Will you?

If the world really was ending, I'd definitely drink the last of MarshalN's aged dong ding wulong but I'm still saving that for a special occasion.  I have hundreds of teas but I just want something I know which has made me feel relaxed and happy.  For a few minutes I just can't decide.  I pick out Ira's 1990 7262 of which I think of fondly.  But after half a cup-  it makes me feel really dizzy- a head rush that takes me by surprise.  I was awake at four in the morning today so probably puerh in an exhausted state may not be wise and I must sleep tonight. Tea blue balls- I have to wait until tomorrow.   I guess if the world really was ending, I'd have to take the strongest stuff so I can stay awake until the end- I might even brave coffee.

Haha- I'd never go over to the dark side.  That black brew is not for me even with apocalypse pending. Today I was at a coffee shop trying to pick out some beans for my husband. I know almost nothing about coffee and I don't like to over-exert my selection muscles unnecessarily so I just took one of everything. Blue Bottle is a hipster approved brand and my husband normally "tut tuts" that sort of thing.   I walk past Blue Bottle headquarters every day which is absolutely overflowing with addicts out the door waiting highly unreasonable times to get their cup of single drip coffee. I was curious if the coffee lives up to the hype but I won't get a judgement until tomorrow.

I'm kind of glad the world really isn't ending tomorrow because well- we have still a lot of tea adventures to enjoy. Good night!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2011 Haiwan LTZ Gold Brick in Three Cups

After a steady diet of bagged tea in NYC, I rummaged through my bag to ease back into puerh. I brought out the Gold Brick sample given to me by Ira as "Mystery Tea A"- the Gold Brick is a pleasant smooth shu tolerant of mis-brewing.  For kicks, I thought I would serve it in my mother's oldest china set. I broke this rose patterned cup as a little girl and I tried to attach back the handle with superglue without my mother knowing.   Of course nothing ever escapes a mother's eagle eyes.
Shu just tastes all wrong in dainty floral bone china so I dug out more appropriate cups.  The tea tastes very different in all three even though these cups are fully glazed.  It's not just feeling and mood. At home my porous unglazed teaware definitely influences taste in a noticeable way but my glazed teaware tends to taste about same.

The shu tastes rather thin in the bone china while the celadon glaze gives the shu the fullest roundest  flavor. In fact I can only taste the noted Haiwan creaminess with these Korean cups.   The shape as in wine glasses is an important determinant in influencing taste in dispersing the tea smells.  However I'm guessing it's the variations in the glazed surfaces that are responsible for the difference.  The cracks in the celadon are somehow ideal for at least this type of shu.  (These green cups are going home with me for further experimentation that is... ) I guess shu benefits from an angular surface to open up the molecules.  

More on the tea which I will need some help from Ira.  Ira told me she was told the Gold Brick was a special edition and I remember seeing it in a fancy box. I vaguely remember that it had some Banzhang(SBZ not LBZ?) leaves as well.  This shu is a gong ting style with tiny leaves and tastes similar to the 2006 Haiwan Peacock Shu and has a light light lingering taste.  Still this shu is a bit too young for my taste as from time to time I get a faintest hint of wodui- not obvious but still present enough to cause a wee bit of consternation from me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New York Tea Roundup

In my 3 day trip to the Big Apple, tea drinking took a backseat to opera and art but even I was taken aback by the pricey subpar tea I kept masochistically ordering at every meal. I'll just keep it short to a trio of the worst disappointments.  Aida and the Museums were indisputably spectacular and I could gush on but this is a tea blog after all.

First and worst tea offender is Lady M Cake Boutique renowned for their exquisite crepe layer cakes. They served the weakest palest Earl Grey I've had the misfortune of imbibing.  Their pastries were delicate and fresh deserving of better tea.  I looked in the teapot to investigate why it was so weak. The server had prematurely removed the tea bag. Since it must be a deliberate practice, why would they hide the tea bag? Is it just a Twining's?  Can you really serve a small pot of bagged tea for $8 with inadequate infusion times? In the Upper East Side, yes you can!

The second offending tea came from a tea house with an extensive tea menu. Alice's Tea Cup maximizes a whimsical Lewis Carrol theme and their 100+ tea menu included various India, Ceylon, and rooibus blends and even one lonely puerh touting health benefits and tryglycerides.  The tea house was a mere four blocks from the Met letting us escape the dreaded museum cafes which are never all that good.

 I ordered Alice's Blend -a black, green and rose infusion because  I thought my mother would like it.  Again, tea was a tad weak and I wondered if I should say anything to the waitress. But after four solid hours of ogling at antiquities, one is too tired to take issues to a perky smiling waitress. I didn't want to be explained to that this tea has a "fine delicate flavor".   New Yorkers yelped extensively about the deliciousness of these scones but I found them to be just a notch above average.  I've had much flakier worthwhile examples baked by my friend Celeste who is also known as the "scone lady".   

Despite my original intentions to avoid museum food, my sad limp foot forced us to lunch at the MoMA.  I briefly contemplated dining at "the Modern" which is MoMA's upscale formal dining establishment but I've read mixed reviews so we opted for the casual Cafe 2.  I'll never know if the Modern's tea (from Vancouver's T) would have ended up a dud or reversed the tide of sad tea which sank even lower at Cafe 2.

The waiter brought out Mighty Tea Leaf tea bags with hot water in a bonglike glass bottle.  What a bad bad idea- only a non tea drinker could think of something so impractical.  The water brought to the table was so tepid that I'm forced to admit I had better tea at conferences.  Also how do museum kitchens make a perfectly good porkchop taste boring? Perhaps their cooks can turn to the ancient method of brining.

I can imagine no shortage of huffy British customers that might have promptly sent back any of these teas. When traveling in British Isles, I ordered tea multiple times a day which was served reliably piping hot and fortifyingly strong!!!  Was it just pure bad luck to be served teas improperly prepared in five separate establishments?    For $3.50-$8 a cup, I'm just expecting the tea to be brewed properly to say nothing of the underlying leaf quality.  New York- why you disappoint me so.

To reverse the tide of weak ass tepid tea, I opted for hot chocolate and a cardamom bun at Fika - a Scandinavian coffee shop en route to our second night of opera - a five hour production of Berlioz's Le Troyens. Sigh. Neither Fika or Les Troyens were for me.  I'm sure Parisians were yawning and planning their escape even in Berlioz's time. 

One of the conceits of New York City is that if it's the best in New York City, it's pretty much the best in the world.  Living on the West Coast, one always has a twinge that one is missing out.  New York definitely has superior art and opera over the West coast.  But for every day edibles, I think the Bay Area trumps in quality, deliciousness, and availability.   The two delicious New York things I wished I could bring back to my friends were Luke's plump lobster rolls and Two Little Hen's Boston cream pie done up cupcake style. Why did I not fill my suitcase up with them...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Nettle and Mugwort Tea

I've been trying to assess the state of my mother's tea closet today which is crammed with various teas I've left  over the many years.  Since my parents never touch any of my teas, they are liable to go stale for decades unless I do something about it.  Sadly these climes are no place for puerh storage as it can go so bone dry in the winter that I've actually gotten a bloody nose before from a blast of heat from central heating.

These Duchy tea boxes are a recent leftover from when my mother and I were in London together only last summer.  I had a fully equipped flat for two weeks so I confidently picked three teas thinking I'd chug unnatural amounts of tea at breakfast and bedtime British style but these teas went untouched for many reasons.

Nettle tea is considered a restorative tea chock full of minerals and it tastes mildly awful- like wet dried grass until you get used to it.  Long ago, one of our friends used to harvest nettle from the sides of roads to make pasta.  Nettle is stinging and one really has to be careful not to get any of the fresh stinging hairs on you but it's made safe by cooking.  I wouldn't bother drinking nettle tea without the reputed health benefits and my bones do feel a glow of extra mineral fortification with each sip.  I  can't even say if this Duchy tea is a superior or subpar example of nettle tea but the ginger and organic Assam are forgettable teas.  I have a pathological aversion to throwing any tea away and probably I'll drink these on my visit for another five years.

Under a pile of newspapers in the kitchen table, I was shocked to find a flattened unopened bag of mugwort loose leaf tea I had gifted my mother five years ago.  This mountain mugwort was collected by a friend of a friend's mother. Koreans use mugwort as a flavoring and coloring agent for desserts and I love the taste of green mugwort mochi.  I brewed the mugwort tea for my father tonight and found this inadvertently aged tea still soothing.  Back home in Berkeley, mugwort is often my bedtime replacement for chamomile.

Mugwort has some entertaining folk names- "felon herb", "naughty man", "old uncle Henry" and "sailor's tobacco".   While hiking in Richmond, I found a gangly plant which had striking resemblance to "old uncle Henry" but my husband emphatically convinced me not to put this "felon herb" in my mouth to test if it indeed was the "sailor's tobacco".  Wild crafting has it's risks and I guess risking poisoning or a stomach ache might never be worth a wager.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Something New and Pwiggly

November was just a dogpile of mishaps and trials but I'm happy to share that there was at least a small amount of progress in a new direction.   Yesterday I released my first ever interactive e-book for ipad to the App Store- Pwiggles on Pluto.  It's nothing to do with tea I'm afraid but it's chock full of merry amusement:

I was in such a terrible rush to release it before Christmas that I've abandoned most responsibilities.
For any of my tea readers interested in trying it- you are welcome to e-mail me at hster.investigates at gmail to get a promo code to bypass the 99 cent toll.

Although I'm not abandoning my day job any time soon,  I'm ever curious that I could devise a different work life than tech research.  It's definitely not tea vending and to tell you the truth, it was huge fun figuring out which of these pwiggles is going to make a snoring sound or a rude flatulent sound when you tap them. Most of all, I'm trying to see if I can fund my tea hobby entirely from here.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Tea Commemorative Military Style

After a long red eyeflight to the East Coast, I needed a sturdy tea to revive. But at my parent's house, tea pretty much means either boiled roasted barley tea, ginseng extract tea, ginger granule tea, or job's tears tea in a bag. There are literally hundreds of pieces of china in my mother's multiple china cabinets but the only practical brewing option ended up being this Republic of Korea Army tea set.
Growing up in a military family has it's benefits.   My second fondest childhood memory involving such military perks was being taken to inspect one of the secret tunnels (a.k.a. "tunnels of aggression")  North Koreans had excavated near the 38th parallel.  My father used to teach economics at the National Defense University and his students used to bring endless gifts of Castella jelly roll which was my favorite perk.   But even now,  my parents receive a steady supply of army gifts for which I am often the happy recipient. The commemorative ROK Defense Department deluxe gold plated nail clipper kit is my husband's all-time favorite along with a 50-year armistice anniversary leather belt.  

The loose leaf in the strainer is a Vicony Tea's Lapsang Souchong sent via Hobbes. I haven't had LS in such a long time but my palate memory reminded me the initial smokiness is quite light in this tea compared against the tar-smoke LS I used to avoid.  I snuck in a few cookies I found hanging about,  Trader Joe's "Highbrow Chocolate Chip Cookie" to round it all off.

Monday, December 03, 2012

2001 Yiwu 1000 Years Wild Round

On Sunday I leisurely picked out a sample from Ira's box.   The chosen tea was labeled as "2001 Yiwu 1000 Years Wild Round- Jing Pin -  Fu Yuan Chang".  I wonder which claim is true:
  • 2001 - probably true based on taste
  • Yiwu - can't tell
  • 1000 Years -  possibly or probably an exaggeration
  • Wild - can't tell as it didn't provide above average qi
The "round" part is definitely true.  This tea appears to be found nowhere on the internet though you can readily get Fu Yuan Chang's aged 90's sheng from grandtea and generation tea for a reasonable $200.  A "reasonable" price for aged teas often means there's a reason for such a price and I won't bet my $200 lightly.  Fu Yuan Chang/Factory(福元昌) appears to be still making pu-erh in looking at taobao.

I rinsed the leaves three times but the tea really pricked my throat.  Beyond the wet storage taste, the tea is okay- not terrible, not wonderful, just there.  I tried to push ahead to the 10th brew but still I just can't focus.  Even worse, my mind wandered enough that before I knew it, I had cut a piece of aged cheese to snack on with a buttery pastry and some fig chutney. Once I decide to eat cheese- serious tea tasting is over for the day.

While munching on my impromptu dessert plate, I do a quick post-mortem to figure out why the session fell flat. Maybe the tea needed airing out.   I am still a shallow drinker- I can't enjoy myself if the taste and mouthfeel does not please me.  In fact, if my brain perceives the taste to be too moldy or musty,  I have to constantly fight my natural impulse not to swallow the tea. I retreat back to drinking a simple green tea to clear my palate. I think I'll steer clear of all wet stored puerh's for awhile.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tea Thirst in Vegas

My eighth and final work conference for 2012 came to a tea thirsty close today.  The conference provided hot water was baby bath water warm so I did not want to waste the roasted oolongs which had come such a long way from Malaysia sent with care by Su.  My hotel "suite" had three televisions but nary a way to produce hot water so even the special tea I had packed as an antidote to conference attendance went untouched.

I ended up at an Asian mish-mashed themed club/bistro called Tao with a friend and his co-workers for a late night drink.  The giant billboards on the Venitian proclaimed "Tao- Spiritual Dining" and "Tao - Religious Nightlife".  In Vegas, even the poor Buddha has to peddle (a completely different philosophy to boot).  Tao's interior was filled with massive gold painted Buddhas of all forms. Giant portraits of random Asians adorned the walls including a sumo wrestler and a Chinese communist grandma with a Mao jacket and cap.  There's no point in being offended.  I asked for green tea. Our hostess who was dressed in the most embarrassingly short dress which needed constant pull downs did not even let me know that the Tao even had a special tea menu- a rarest of rare things in Vegas. She just brought me some genmaicha which came in a tetsubin kettle. This ho-hum tea would sadly be the best tea I'll have in Vegas.

Rather than sustain conversation in the loud beat of the Tao, I ended up sorting a giant stack of porn cards for one of the guys who was collecting them as requested by his girlfriend for pranking.  For those of you not learned in these matters, porn cards are business cards for escort services with lurid shots involving one or two girls. Walking on the infamous Vegas strip- you're forced to go through a gauntlet of solicitors trying to pass out such cards out to prospects- namely men.

I sorted the cards to apply some analysis and price seemed the most obvious sorting attribute.   Starting price was at $35 with 10 dollar increments but there is an unexpected price jump  between $99 and $150. I almost wanted to do a histogram. And from the advertising alone, you cannot tell the difference between the $35 service or a $150 service. Obviously the actual escort who shows up when called probably bear no resemblance to the "beauties" on the cards.  Of course there is the high end of the market over 4 figures which doesn't advertise through such grimy means.

One does not venture into Vegas to seek the authentic or true. If such blatant vulgarity of money and sex bothers you, well - Vegas will assault your sensibilities irrevocably.  Incidentally, I saw conference attendees wear their badge deep into the night and even when the conference was over.  I think they wanted to say "See, I'm not the kind of shallow immoral person who would actually vacation here,  I'm just a conference attendee".  I felt constant metaphysical discomfort.  I tried hard not to be beaten down by the crass materialism of Vegas and take it all in for the sake of cultural anthropology.  I could not leave fast enough.

Even the Las Vegas Airport is replete with ever blinking slot machines.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tea On a Plane

After my last tea fiasco on Southwest Airlines, I casually tucked in a green tea bag that my employer provides in the lunch room. Although I normally drink my own loose leaf at work, I thought I might be grateful even to have this Tazo China Green Tips on the plane. The package assures me that it's "a light & lingering tea with a fine fresh flavor" bilingually  no less. I think the French is supposed to make the drinker feel even more refined and cultured to have chosen this tea.   How does  Tazo's claims hold up?  There definitely is an aftertaste of a light cigarette which could vouch for the "lingering" aspect of this tea.  This tea is definitely a notch better than Foojoy and up in the skies, I am grateful for even this much.

This week I'm in Las Vegas to attend the world's largest pole dancing conference.  With my lame left arm that I'm not supposed to bend and a tender left foot which needs rest, I almost canceled. When you have an injury - seeing others freely using their limbs triggers only bitter twinges of jealousy.  But where else to learn the latest back hook spin techniques? The industry is competitive and one needs to keep on top of such innovations.

I vastly miscalculated my hotel accommodations.  While I have a suite almost as large as my house, there is no tea making facility of any kind in the room. I almost bought a $20 coffee maker at Walgreens and surprisingly I read on a forum that's what a poster normally does when they stay here. Tut tut.  Las Vegas is NOT a town for serious tea drinkers I might add.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hario Buono Electric Kettle

UPDATE 2/2013:This is the absolute worst electric kettle I've used. The burnt plastic taste in the water will NOT go away even after months of use. It makes all tea I brew taste terrible. After reading another Amazon review- it appears not to be an isolated problem.

To solve the problem of tepid water at work, my husband bought for me a Hario Buono kettle which arrived this week.  Hario Buono kettles are all the rage among drip coffee drinkers. It has a long gooseneck spout to prevent sputtering.  I know, I shouldn't be lapsing into writing an Amazon review  but the long spout really provides superior control to fill my tiny teapots. 

I brought out one of the roasted oolong Su sent me to have with a quick custard soft bun snack. I was surprised to find that even different electric kettles give a different flavor to the same tea.  I tasted more of a burnt flavor. Then I tasted the plain boiled water to check what was going on. Much to my horror the tea water tasted burnt and rubbery even though I had carefully swished the interior with detergent and ran the kettle five times. I had to get serious with detergent and a scrubby pad and elbow grease to get rid of any remnants of the steel casting.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Almost Tea on a Shark Boat

Certain humans will pay an immoderate sum of money to be put into an underwater steel cage to look at great white sharks in their natural habitat.  In the Bay Area- the stiff premium is $875 per person for the privilege of spending twenty minutes dunked in the frigid waters surrounding the Farallon Islands. Whilst people like me won't spend money that way (that's a lot of tea!), my husband and I found ourselves as volunteer galley slaves on a shark boat through a friend.

I had confidently packed the roasted oolong Su had sent me as my official shark boat tea but alas nothing was meant to be either for the tea or for the thrill seekers. The seas tossed our tiny boat about in 8 to 10 foot swells. I had to hold on with both hands for dear life while trying to keep my breakfast down. The idea of boiling water was simply out of the question. The crew decided to turn back as the risk of capsizing had become not impossible.  Even the crabbers did not take out their boats today even though the price of Dungeness crabs are at an all time high. When the crabbers refuse to make money- you know you're a fool to be in the water at all.

When we returned home, I just wanted deep warming tea.  I read Jakub's post on Lapsang Souchong and immediately wanted some. I had received Jakub's box of teas last week which included many interesting puerhs but no LS.  So I brought out the only Lapsang Souchong in the house-  novel looking pressed coins that Emmet sent me from Tea Habitat. This tea while composed of powdered tea holds it's shape during brewing.  With a smoky savoury flavor which is subtle for an LS with an underying sweetness,  this tea has restorative powers after a harrowing day at sea. I'm grateful to be drinking hot tea on stable ground.

I actually thought the icy waters would be therapeutic for my ailing arm and legs so I have to find another opportunity to get wet.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Waiting for Tea

One of my favorite novels is "Waiting" by Ha Jin. I love most his descriptions of the country food the protagonist's wife cooks for him-  pickled turnips, thrice cooked pork and rice porridge.  I must confess my favorite books have some sort of memorably delicious food passage within them, but I remember being quite jealous how Ha Jin's writing talents can handle the human condition so efficiently in such concise prose.  I went to see Ha Jin speak almost a decade ago. He was nothing like I expected- he was likably humble and volubly chatty in contrast to his pithy prose.  The Communist Era Ha Jin and the American immigrant Ha Jin might really be two separate men. I don't want to be a plot spoiler so I'll have to tuck   away my thoughts about "Waiting" for the moment.

For us puerh collectors, the game is all about waiting. Decades after decades. Selecting, second guessing and waiting and more waiting.  Our particular hobby goes straight against our culture of instant gratification. Some may not enjoy the waiting part but there are those of us that relish the waiting just as much as the consummation.   Even as a little girl, I liked saving the Halloween candy in the freezer so I could dole out Snickers bars to the entire family well into the new year.  The notion of waiting a lifetime for tea which seemed at first so novel to me seven years ago is now taking a different form more akin to Ha Jin's lovers.

After my No Buy Pact was over, I only got one bundle of tea which I am patiently waiting for. You are now curious. But you will have to wait with me until the actual bundle arrives.  I've decided definitely no more young sheng buying for me. I'll pick up a few aged cakes if the opportunity presents itself but I am no longer in any hurry at all.

Of the many waitings I treasure - I love waiting for winter.  At the first arrival of Hachiya persimmons, I excitedly stash them about the house.  I'm just like an animal prowling, poking and prodding them until they ripen. The days are much much shorter and darker now and one needs remembrances of the summer to cheer up a meal.  A few years ago, my neighbor Larry borrowed my pickling book.  Now he generously shares pickles made from vegetables he grew himself and he puts a "start eating by" date but the wait is often very short.  Our lives are many cycles of waiting so there's nothing else for it but to to enjoy the wait.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tea Rut

When tea bloggers stop blogging actively, one doesn't always know the reasons why the signal has gone quiet.  Although lack of free time and energy is often at the root-  I've been struck with an unexpected curse.  Mostly due to the duress I've been under recently, my tastebuds have lost a certain sensitivity.  Nuance I used to enjoy not only in tea but all foods has been flickering  for the last two weeks. I find I'm forced to salt my food more than ever before. 

What's a girl to do when those taste receptors are not getting stimulated like they used to. I had various plans to remedy this grievous condition like eating gruel and drinking CTC bagged tea for a month.  I remember reading of a traveler who shared some instant flavored rice in a remote village in Papua New Guinea-  one of the villagers actually got up abruptly and left the hut. The traveler was worried she had somehow offended him culturally  but it turned out he made himself scarce because he had tears in his eyes. Apparently her rice was the most delicious thing he's consumed in his life.  I've never actually cried because something tasted so wonderful but I want to!  Deprivation surely must be the shortest path to taste recovery.

Reduction in taste is known as hypogeusia and can commonly be the side effect of medication or even zinc deficiency and frighteningly is yet another benefit of old age.  As we gray and crumble,  the cells in our taste buds don't regenerate as quickly and so a reduced density inevitably correlates to a declining sensitivity to flavor.  Don't shudder.  If it's going to happen to all of us to a certain degree as we age, it's best to prepare yourself.   I still have many decades to go.  I guess if you drink puerh just for qi- hypogeusia is no barrier.  I should take advantage of this hopefully temporary loss of sensitivity and drink some gross shu tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Tea

Whew. That was a close one! The horror of being represented by the likes of Romney and his doubly dubious sidekick has safely passed.      I'm cheered up when there is some proof that more money can't always buy power.  Politics is still a dirty business for both sides in the U.S. but truly atrocious things have happened when Republicans have their way.

This morning as I was running out of the house to go to the voting booth, I noticed that my husband had his mug of coffee so I ran back inside to grab my own mug of tea to keep me company in the voting line.  As I was rushing about- the only to-go tea I had out on the counter was unfortunately the Mighty Leaves Tea Conference Oolong good for exactly just one brew.  We vote in a church basement and there's plenty of round tables where you scribble out your vote. I actually never thought of having tea while voting but now I'll have to pre-plan it next year.   There's a lot to vote on as a Californian. I was concentrating so hard that I actually don't remember anything except the welcome novelty of drinking tea while voting. 

And yes that mug is a hard-hitting Fisticup adding knuckle action to any drinking experience.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Assymetric Tea Trade

A box of tea arrived yesterday from the doyenne of aged puerh - the ever gracious and generous Su of Malaysia.  Gushu Chen Yuen Hao's, 70's Tuo, 1998 7532.  It's all a bit dizzying.   Can I really just return to buying teas on the internet after this? My two-month No Buy Pact is successfully completed and I'm almost cured.  Almost.  Don't you want to know what's in my e-shopping baskets!

Su also thoughtfully sent me roasted oolongs labeled as "Conference Tea" as well as empty tea bags for filling. Although she also labeled a Tielohan as a "Conference Tea", I think not!  I'm gonna save this TLH for a special day this month when I need a lift.

I brewed up one of the paper bag roasted oolongs yesterday as drinking the other teas seemed too luxurious to do all by myself.  I'm enjoying the same oolong right now which has rested overnight.  Second day brew definitely is mellower with a vanilla profile.  Roasted oolongs definitely are an easy companion.  

Although aged oolong is what makes me lick my chops these days (and I'm happily waiting for some),   I think if I drank aged oolongs regularly, I may be vaulted into a pickiness which is hard to climb out of.   Pu-erh is a commitment of decades and in a lifetime,  our tastes can shift and pivot multiple times.  I think I may tuck in with oolongs for the winter and perhaps return to sheng in the spring.

What did I send in trade?  In my humble collection, what is there to send to someone who has such ready access to interesting aged teas? Nay- I chose to send something which I was supremely confident of their deliciousness and quality that was not readily available in Malasia.  Artisanal chocolates have yet to infiltrate most of Asia or the world for that matter so I was keen to have Su taste something of the complexity and depth of cacao.  I've reached another level in tea trade- I don't have to trade tea at all!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Fire Drill

When I was growing up in Seoul, the city would coordinate all sorts of regular fire drills against a potential North Korean invasion. My favorite drill involved turning off all the lights of Seoul to make it harder for the North Koreans fighter planes to bomb us.

I only saw the emergency raid alarms put into effect once when a lone North Korean fighter pilot flew into the South in a MIG-19.  The South Korean gov't assumed it was the start of "The Invasion" and there was a brief period of mayhem.  My mother and I were at the neighborhood markets and just as I was about to work up the courage to ask my mother if we could maybe try some squid leg tempura, I was unfortunately thwarted by the sirens.  My mother was very strict about the insanitary evils of street food back then and would have most certainly denied my small request.  We quickly ran underground into the evacuation centers.

My sister who was home alone at the time heard the dreadful sirens and didn't know what to do. She said she was anxiously looking for us from the veranda and she saw distinctly that the hot sweet potato vendor had hunkered down continuing to sell sweet potatoes as everyone else were scurrying around him.  Some rich people actually fled south with their hoard of gold.

The pilot was only a defector.  His story begins with finding a fancy South Korean ramen wrapper washed up on the banks of a river. When he read the satisfaction guarantee on the back of the wrapper, the concept of consumer satisfaction so shocked him that he knew the North Korean propaganda to be all lies.  My sister heard this tale first hand from the defector who did a national school tour. You can only imagine the unspeakable hardship which must have befallen his family back North.

It's been 63 years without the dreaded North Korean invasion but everywhere I go there's been plenty other emergencies to plan against.  I hope those of you in the East Coast are faring well in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.   I remember stocking up on beef jerky and such necessities as part of preparing for yearly hurricane season back East- always feeling lucky to get away with nothing more serious than power outages.  Emergencies in life are inevitable and when things are only half as bad as you were fearing, you realize fate gave you a gift of an unexpected fire drill. You had better get ready for the real thing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This Week in Tea - Last October Roundup

Yes- a whole group of people drank tea and had opinions, but this week saw way more tea blogging excitement than usual.  I think I'll do a weekly round up for historic humor purposes.  Without further ado,  I present to you this week in tea:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sheng Spa Therapy

One of my favorites coolers is the "Nutty Carrot" which I make with a blend of  carrot juice and almond milk. But this weekend I needed a bit of extra cheer and splashed in a teensy bit of Bärenjäger honey liquor to make a "Naughty Carrot".  Even a thimbleful makes all the difference in mouth-feel elevating this healthful beverage into something else entirely.

So when I brewed up the most boring sheng in the world - 2005 Haiwan Remote Mountain Ancient Tree, this is the first time I even contemplated adding booze to my sheng.  I was sick last week and had to nurse myself to health with a few hot toddies.  I like my hot toddies with chamomile tea, honey, lime juice and a slug of brandy.   But even a good measure of the Bärenjäger  did little for this lost brew.

Probably for such boring sheng, a life of humidity and heat would make all the difference in giving it some nuance and depth.  Sometimes to revive dried out sheng, I'll put it under a glass dome with a bowl of water for a few days to a week.  The sheng that Israel sent me barely held any scent indicating a dry life in Montana. I tried to give a few chunks some spa therapy but even after a few days the sheng scent refused to return.  Alas the lid smashed into a thousand pieces due to my butter fingers and now I have to find another replacement.   

It's time to go back to the drawing board and rethink my puerh storage.  There is only one known warm spot in my house- the attic.  It is currently difficult to access, dusty, and is no place for sheng.  My attic would require serious serious renovation to make it a reasonable place to store and access tea.  The gears in my head are cranking as I sneak a few looks at my innocent husband enjoying his evening.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hoffman's 1999 Xiaguan Raw and the Nature of Desire

I don't like it too wet, I don't like it too dry.  I've come to the conclusion that some natural or humid storage early in a tea's life with dry storage afterwards is the happy medium for me.  My stated preference would indicate that I should do well to buy youngish beengs which were stored in South Asia then I can dry it up in Berkeley to my heart's content.
I brewed up the Hoffman 1999 Xiaguan Raw Beeng sent to me by Emmett which has undergone some early stage of humid storage.   This cake is leaps more interesting than Puerhshop's 1998 7542, but still I'm not running for my credit card to get this beeng for a budget friendly $60.

The mouth feel of this tea is still too drying for me.  There's storage conditions but there's also the inherent characteristics of the underlying leaf- this beeng definitely has that noted XG power of tongue desertification.  What am I even looking for? 

The examples of aged puerh I've thus far enjoyed really held my attention through a series of transformations during brews with repercussions of the tea session throughout the day.  Some have short circuited my logical brain and just made me just relax and enjoy the moment.   The aged cakes that I would buy again given the chance- I've probably made my mind up about it in the first few brews.  It takes puerh numerous brewings to really reveal itself and no other tea could overturn first impressions as much as puerh.  But somehow I have to admit my preferences have more closely followed Malcolm Gladwell's pop theories of rapid cognition.  

It's easier to know what one doesn't want more than what one does want if you don't know already.  A concrete tea is easy to reject but a fantasy tea is hard to construct if you don't have models.  I've somehow fallen into a cycle of one of the following 9 states with aged puerh-

1. You don't know what you want, hence fill your time with interim tea.
2. You know what you want, and are in pursuit.
3. You know what you want, but can't get it, and hence must make do.
4. You thought you knew what you wanted, but it's not it at all so you are back to 1.
5. A weak variation on 3 - you think you know what you want but since you can't get it, you really can't know- can you?
6. The perversion of 2 & 3- because you can't have what you want, you convince yourself  you really want what you already have or what you can readily get.
7. You know you only want the wanting of something hence purposely deny yourself the fulfillment of the want.
8. Negation state. Advanced stages of 3 and 6, you reject the very thing you want because you know you can't have it or attempting to get it leads only to frustration.
9. Confusion state. You want it, you don't want it, you don't know any more.

Despite variations, 2 is ever the desired state- like being in love. 

(Those of you who grow apples know the above photo represents a real no-no. Every manual commands the fruit grower to pinch blossoms and early fruit to hold only one or two fruits per cluster. I've followed this commandment faithfully for years.  Because Berkeley grocery stores carry an excellent and dizzying array of heirloom apples,  the primary purpose of my apples is not to be eaten but to welcome guests with a feeling of abundance. )

Thursday, October 25, 2012


It's for real.  With such promises such as "Increases intestinal fortitude", who doesn't want a canister of small batch artisan-grade Negativitea. I took a screenshot in case their business doesn't pan out since they only sell one green tea.

My husband and I were trying to come up with the most groan worthy tea puns during dinner and almost all of them are actually taken. We lack of imagination I guess.

Not Taken Yet!  
  • Tea-kwondo - with Cha Ninja, Cha Kungfu, Cha Samurai on the scene, better act now to grab almost the last available martial arts e-name. Kara-tea just sounds like a lady who likes tea. 
  • NeferTeaTea - There must be an egyptologist or a mummy nut out there who is also a tea lover.
  • Wet tea-shirt - Random and racy! (Or Titteas... clearly attributable to my husband. )
  • Positivetea - obviously to balance out the force of Negativitea. They really missed their chance to push a Rasta theme.
  • Nuditea - of course it's taken but only in tumblr. I wonder if you can get by the censors on teachat with this name. Someone needs to sex that site up a bit. It's just all tea tea tea...
  • R2Tea2 - Star War fans are everywhere...
Okay okay, back to negativitea-  I've been quite grumpy lately at work for all sorts of reasons. This here HLF "Italian Design" espresso dispenser has forced me to drink dianhong all month.  The temperature goes barely above 160F and so even really good shu comes out tasting disgusting.  All the snooty coffee drinkers have rejected it as it makes insipid espresso as well. I'm gonna do something about this sad situation this weekend or else! (Does anyone have a Hario Buono Power Kettle? Do I dare buy something with out a single Amazon review...)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2005 Jingmai Golden Puerh

From yesterday's receipt, I was reminded of this loose shu that had been missing in action for 6 years.   About two months ago, my husband found this tea in a canister next to the brown sugar when he was looking for the buckwheat flour.  I'm always amazed when long lost teas show up especially since my eyes glance at these ceramic canisters dozens of times a day if not more.

This tea is a variety marketed in the West as "Wang Puerh" supposedly fermented 120 days instead of the normal 60 days for loose shu.  Is this "king puerh" which languished in my kitchen corner amongst humble ground grains for 6 years now an aged treasure to be savored?

I brewed it up immediately the day I was reunited with this tea.  Neither here nor there, it's a lighter shu almost like a liu bao. Of course I've only had one liu bao in my life sent to me by Wilson.  I drink a lot of delicious imperial dianhong so I'm surprised this tea is so ho-hum.   I remember it tasting a bit more lively and maltier back in 2006 but I was very sniffy about shu in general and did not really appreciate it back then.  This tea is almost begging to be blended with something else.  I think I'll use a few sprinklings of this tea to lighten up other shu's.  What about tea being of Jingmai origin? I'm not sure I can tell.

Today I was staying home from work as I caught a cold in the winter chill. I wanted something warm and toasty.  Of course when one has a head cold, all your senses are muffled with your olfactory system barely registering.  This tea didn't have enough punch.  I guess I should figure out what teas are good for such days.

Those with sharp eyes will notice that a few yabao buds had made it into the teapot and the teacup.   The yabao kept brewing and brewing since last Sunday.  It needed progressively longer steepings but it still gave a good show. I didn't want to pitch it in case something interesting developed but it only kept getting slightly weaker and slightly sweeter.  Ira wrote me to say you can add a few yabao buds to "improve the soup".  The cha wang soup definitely needed improving and it does make the brew lighter almost citrusy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

2005 Changtai Yi Chang Hao Yiwu Mini

Tonight I had a different post about the investment growth of my collection but again my husband sabotaged the topic by casually mentioning, "I've been brewing this sheng since Friday and it's good as sh**." Then seeing my speechless expression he showed me the box and said quite sincerely, "I thought it was just some random cheap little beeng nobody cared about."  Nobody?

When you live with one other person, the terms nobody, somebody, everybody refers singularly to you.  I'm just sad I've been so distracted that I don't even know what's brewing right under my nose so I missed on out the early brews. No matter how many times I've shown my husband the special box with the LBZ's and Yiwu's,  he'll never remember.

This one is not considered special in my collection but was stuck in my prized box because there was a tiny spot to cram it in. I want him to avail himself to my sheng, I just want advance notice so I can interrogate him on the tasting.  To be fair, it really is a cheap little beeng I got for $6 from Yunnan Sourcing.  Since my husband drank it for four days running,  you can say this tea is definitely enduring and potent even though  it's not the best blue label grade of zhengpin.  I brew up new leaves in my thumb pot to get a better impression. It's still slightly smoky and astringent for an 8 year old but you get a nice Yiwu huigan fairly quickly.  Not the greatest Yiwu I've had but I'm still stoked I got it for $6 back in the day, wish I bought few more for gifting.  That big chunk taken out was recently mailed away.

My husband also assured me, "Don't worry. I only took the already broken off leaves." His brewed leaves definitely don't look like fannings to me. I'm glad he really enjoyed it and I dutifully update the "Husband Rating" on my inventory program.

Just for kicks, I've put my original recipt so you can see what $100 could buy you back in May 4th 2006.  The Yiwu mini was labeled "Chang Tai Pure Ancient Tree" but it probably isn't gushu or it doesn't exactly feel like other ancient trees I've had.  Despite the terrible Berkeley aging conditions,  I actually don't regret buying any of it except the DeHong Wild Arbor - I cannot think of a better way I could have spent a Benjamin back in 2006. 

Item TitleQuantityPriceSubtotal

Premium Big Red Robe * Da Hong Pao * Red Oolong Tea 4oz1$9.99 USD$9.99 USD

2001 Feng Qing Factory * Ripe Aged Pu-erh Tea Cake1$24.95 USD$24.95 USD

Premium Jingmai Golden Pu-erh Tea * Loose Leaf * 100g1$8.50 USD$8.50 USD

2006 Menghai Factory * Pu-erh Caravan Yunnan to Tibet1$14.89 USD$14.89 USD

2005 Chang Tai * Pure Ancient Tree Yi Wu Mountain cake1$6.00 USD$6.00 USD

2005 Mengku Banzhang Ancient Tree Pu-erh Tea Brick 100g1$6.50 USD$6.50 USD

2006 Menghai Factory * Pu-erh Caravan Yunnan to Tibet1$14.99 USD$14.99 USD

Wild Arbor Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake from Dehong * 250 grams2$8.40 USD$16.80 USD
Subtotal:$102.62 USD
Shipping & Handling via Standard Delivery (includes any seller handling fees)$22.00 USD

Total:$124.62 USD

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2011 Ya Bao Sun Dried Buds

Although I have drunk various pu-erh in the last few days,  I thought I would stick with an innocuous review of something nobody can dislike, not even me.  Behold the Ya Bao(芽宝).  This "bud treasure" comes from the same tea varietal for puerh grown in Western Yunnan.  Mine were simply sold as Sun-Dried Buds in the White Tea section of YS.  I tried peeling away the leaves to see if these were flower buds since tea leaf buds don't usually look like this but there was only a tiny sliver of a curled up leaf inside each one.

The smell and taste is quite peppery and lively.  Given the taste alone which is closer to white tea than sheng, I would not have guessed it came from the same tea varietal as puerh.  The brew is extremely clear and pale and infusions last to 6+ brews which progressively get slightly sweeter.  Because it's processed like a white tea, I'm not sure how it will age. I guess I can buy Scott's 2007 version to see if they mellow out or fade out.

This tea I would put to the category of guest tea- non-offensive likable pretty teas that can be enjoyed by just about anybody.   I'm surprised the Koreans or the Japanese haven't vacuumed up all these bud treasures from China.  As you can see, the furry silver buds are extremely visually pleasing and I can imagine a lovely light green silk print based on their form.  This is one of the few teas I will buy lots more of after my No Buy Pact is over. Not for myself but as X-mas gift tea.

Last week I really wanted to try Ya Bao and couldn't because of the No Buy Pact. But then lo and behold, I saw a puffy little unopened bag in one of my boxes.  I have no recollection of buying Ya Bao and even Ira says she didn't give it to me? I think I'll go shopping in my own tea closet this weekend.

After a month and a half of my No Buy Pact, strangely enough I have no desire to buy puerh off the internet.  I think my sheng buying days are greatly reduced if not entirely over.  The teas I do want to buy immediately are just dianhongs that I ran out of.  I guess I don't even think of getting dianhongs as "buying tea"- it's just a daily staple like salt, peppercorns, nuts, and such. The special teas I want to look for are the unroasted aged oolongs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chinatown Sightings

 "We move through the world in a narrow groove, preoccupied with the petty things we see and hear, brooding over our prejudices, passing by the joys of life without even knowing that we have missed anything. Never for a moment do we taste the heady wine of freedom. "
This oft cited quote from Yang Chu, a philosopher dating to the 4th century BC, struck me on the head fifteen years ago. To think such wisdom was uttered two millenia ago.  I'm wise enough to observe that knowledge rarely equals action, but I like to think I'm freed from my shackles now and then.
This morning I walked along a street at a time I normally don't and was richly rewarded with the sight of a Chinatown pork delivery. And as if that was not treat enough, I also spotted the live fish delivery truck for which I wasn't quick enough to snap a photo of the fishmongers netting flopping fish into a gray plastic trash-can.  Truly I was at the right place at the right time this morning!

For Chinatown regulars, this is probably just another day in the market. But I've also been walking these blocks every week for over ten years without such sitings. Once I saw a piglet in the back of a station wagon. Even in the narrow grooves of my own life, I've been missing out it seems. What else am I missing?

Is it possible that there is something as fantastic as tea drinking that I'm just not aware of.  I'm constantly on the prowl, but I also want to leave myself something for in my old age.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conference Tea Grandpa Style

My third and last conference for this month is at the historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco.  They appear to keep the water hotter than other venues with a canned flame underneath so I was encouraged to bring leaf tea on my second day for a bit of grandpa style.

I chose Hoffman's 1995 Large Leaf Maocha from Emmett as large leaf tea tends to be more tolerant of overbrewing. I also wanted a little bit of novelty. I rinsed the leaves at home and tested the initial brew which was surprisingly smoky and astringent.  Even taking into account extra-dry storage, 1995 is a stretch for me.

I took the wet leaves in a stainless canister to the hotel and brewed three cups or until the leaves gave out. The Sterno flame under the hot water dispenser apparently only gave the illusion of water being kept hotter as I didn't get a piping hot brew in all cases.  

Was it worth the effort? The initial two speakers were so stimulating that I was really too distracted to notice anything but a vague youngish sheng taste. In a slower afternoon session, I thoughtfully savored two cups of a delicious roasted oolong that Wilson sent me. Roasted oolong definitely performs better in conference conditions than pu-erh. I'm a serious introvert so all the people milling about plain wore me out. My taste buds tend to be desensitized in such settings.

I brought the spent leaves home to do a full inspection - it's hard to do this sort of leaf shot at the conference site. The teas look darker than they did early this morning as they have oxidized a bit.  Maocha tends to age much faster than compressed sheng so I'm still dubious these here green leaves were sprouted in 1995 but there's just no point calling shenanigans on Hoffman. Life is short my friends. Life is short.

The Palace Hotel incidentally has a famous afternoon tea service which is more for tourists and ladies who lunch than for serious tea lovers; puerh is definitely not on the menu nor will it ever be.  I've only tried their service once during Christmas season long ago.  I'd rather enjoy the simpler pleasures of having a scrumptious Tropezienne at the neighboring La Boulange. A Tropezienne is sliced brioche with cream inside and is my latest dessert fad.  Scones can be pretty good but can never compete with a well done french pastry involving cream filling.  I enjoyed a delicious Tropezienne two days in a row and now don't know how I'll cope tomorrow!

(Those are just some random rich people who happened to be caught in my photo.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sheng Speed Dating

Saturday mornings are for getting my sheng fix on. But it's been a gamble- sheng roulette.  I have a sweet potato and a bucket of coconut ice cream waiting in the wings just in case things go awry.  This morning I tried to figure out the smallest amount of tea I can brew where I can make a quick decision whether or not I want to spend the rest of the day and even tomorrow with a tea. Even if a tea is highly bothersome, I've been pathologically continuing on. I can't change that behavior but I can change how much of it I drink.

Behold the thumb pot. I can barely fit my thumb in there and I've put the teapot on a tablespoon so you can see how tiny it is. Probably if my blog readers were to make fun of me for which there is ample material, I won't fault anyone for laughing at my ridiculously tiny tea pots and the 12 leaf brew.  Note it takes real gongfu to pour hot water from the kettle into such a teapot. I'm positively grateful no one's about to giggle at my sloshing. One brew provides three dainty sips(or 1.5 man sized sips) and is perfect for a solo quickie session. I really cannot go any smaller than this pot.

Can you really evaluate a tea seriously in this way? Not really. This process is more for weeding out tea that is still to astringent to drink on an empty stomach. You can get to the 10th brew rather quickly and register flavor profile, mouth feel or lack thereof. Does it matter that the leaves can't really stretch their legs out? I'd have to experiment a bit more.

The main problem with my recent drinking has been that I try a lot of good teas but for whatever reason- there's just no chemistry between the tea and me. But since a certain amount has been brewed, I have to prolong the session for the entire day because I rarely ever pitch sheng.  I tried two of Israel's samples this new way and right away I know I enjoyed the 2004 He Shihua Jingmai more than the Nannuo but the Jingmai is a little bit too conventional for this weekend. I want something wild or old or both!

You can see from the sizes above that the thumb pot contains less than a fifth of Emmett's teapot which is my regular session pot.  With a teensy weensy pot like this-  2 oz sample bag will now last aeons.

Friday, October 12, 2012


(Warning- if you are easily offended you can skip this post.)

When camping last month with my friends, I found myself in the strange position of explaining the term "Girlfriend Experience" to 5 fully grown adults.  In the world of sex workers, GFE refers to a high-end service where an escort acts more like a fantasy girlfriend whereby downplaying the ugly commercial nature of the exchange.  I know such things not because I'm a patron but because I read regularly.

Particularly in the high-end market, businesses that personalize what is essentially a cash exchange for goods tend to be more successful.  People prefer patronizing businesses where they are treated as a regular or feel they have a special bond with the seller.  My friends once they learned this term applied it immediately to restaurants they frequent; GFE- though it comes from an unpalatable source- works as an analogy at so many different levels. Top art dealers often excel at providing GFE.

In the world of tea shops- the owner brewing a "special" tea for you not on the menu can easily make a loyal patron. In the world of on-line tea vendors, something as simple as a hand-written note and extra samples can make the transaction feel special even if it might be standard practice.  I write cynically but vendors could be quite sincere and want to make a human connection with their customers.

Consumers at the high end want such GFE whether or not they admit it. I certainly do. Ebay on the other spectrum can be impersonal- the thrill is most often based on price and outbidding someone else.

Really- you know something's not GFE and a real human connection because the relationship continues in the absence of financial transactions. Most of us have to make a living one way or another and this post is not meant to denigrate anyone who has to sell goods for a living. I'm a daughter of an economist so I tend to look at things in a flatter way than is socially acceptable.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Consolidated Blogger Comments Tea Crank

In the name of saving a few mouse clicks, I've consolidated the recent comments feed of the blogs I read here on Tea Crank.

You can potentially use an RSS reader like Google Reader and while they are good for browsing full posts, they are not that convenient for comments reading.  I  also thought I would provide this brutally simple page for those technologically uninclined. Even though I have a handful of RSS readers on my tablet and on the desktop -  it's just not convenient to read all comments in one simple page with one swipe. Also when browsing with a mobile device- it takes a lot to bandwidth to download the main site just to look at a few comments.

Comments are where most of the action is these days as new posts don't come as often as one wishes.  Also some blog sites don't provide recent comments so I'm forcing them to have one here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Conference Orchid Oolong

Our company's conference this week was at the very same Intercontinental hotel that Obama chose for his SF visit so we had to suffer a bit of extra nuisance security.  No presidential sightings but I really wasn't looking.  On the tea front- I was a bit surprised to find bagged leaf oolong available as an option. Of course on my own I would never choose such tea but I'm always grateful when there's more than substandard orange pekoe at such events.

Even with the hotel water being less than piping hot- this oolong brewed decently with a toasty vanilla aroma.  This tea was pretty good considering the circumstances but it was a tad weak. Out of curiosity I snagged a few extra bags to see if it would brew up better at home with hotter water.  Strangely enough- it brewed up about the same even with perfectly hot water.  Of course at home without conference distractions,  I noticed it's flaws much more. 

I went to the to check prices. $14 for 4oz. $60 a pound- not cheap.  Mighty Leaf is yet another socially responsible SF tea outfit trying to bring artisanally crafted tea from field to cup.  I checked their puerh selections for giggles. I encountered yet another Cha Wang
"Elevate your tea drinking experience with this hand harvested and reserve batch of rare Tea King Pu-erh tea. Consisting only of delicate, golden leaf buds, this loose-leaf pu-erh produces an exquisitely smooth and savory cup with notes of chocolate and a creamy finish. Fit for a king, it is also known as "Cha Wang."
Royalty is not what it used to be and even a humble commoner like me can enjoy kingly tea at a sale price of $19 for 3oz.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Gushu and the Sheng Handicap

Who wants to drink young sheng on a Saturday morning on an empty belly? Your truly!  I prefer to have a session first thing in the morning so my palate isn't clouded.  Recently Su wrote to tell me to that drinking gushu or old tree/ancient arbor bothered her much less which matches what I've experienced. Plantation or taidi cha is definitely rougher on the system even when aged 10+ years whereas new-born sheng from gushu tends to bother my system much less.   Of course there are teas labeled gushu that still bother me for which I can only suspect taidi cha has creeped in.(I'm looking at you Douji 06 Bada!)

From the reader survey- I was surprised to see a good quarter of the respondents had a sheng handicap.  For those of you who cannot take much sheng,  I would love to hear if you have found gushu being easier to drink or maybe there's other factors besides gushu/taidiness.  Is gushu really a guarantee for safe drinking? Are certain mountains easier than others? Maybe even gushu from Bulang might be troublesome.

What is the cutoff age for considering a tree gushu- older than 50 years? 75 years? I guess it doesn't matter since those sheng-sensitive would have to determine drink safety empirically for each tea.

I'll strive to make a new list of young sheng's known not to burn a hole in one's stomach but please feel free to comment.  High end Yiwu's on the whole have been safe-  2010 HLH Yiwu Cha Wang and  2012 YS Gao Shan Zhai.  The only odd man out was the 2001 Jin Chang Hao Yiwu from EoT - the astringency still burned by gullet and I was surprised to see that it's "100% Old Growth Tree".  I don't know if my system was particularly sensitive that day and I will give it a second go this month.

For this morning,  I took out the 2010 YS Nannuo Kou Ya that I purchased 3 months ago which is purportedly from 80-240 year old trees. I remember reading somewhere that Nannuo had more gushu than any other mountain but now can't seem to verify this claim.  I happily drank this tea without too much complaint.  Too bad this tea wasn't as much to my taste as the YS Yiwu Purple which I enjoyed more- the Yiwu Purple comes from 20-30 year old trees. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Tea Junkies

I have been just called an "incurable junkie" by the king of incurable junkies. My mouth opened in protest when I read his e-mail. I was about to mount a vigorous defense, but something in me knew it's probably not untrue.  I've gone clean for years but now it's worse than ever.  So now I reflect on how it is I came to this sad spot where I'm constantly thinking of the next hit.  Even though I've got a crazy conference week ahead- my presentation is Monday and we're trying to do five different live demos- I'm really planning which teas I'll have next.  Since the no-buy pact,  I can't even surf tea vendor sites as it is too tempting so I constantly look through the photos of my samples collection during precious spare moments. 

Israel recently sent me an entire EoT library plus two chocolate bars. I almost cried when I received his box.  One because of his utter generosity but two because I really really want to taste all of them now but physically can't.  He gave me helpful hints like "Proceed w/ Caution" on the 09 Nadacha Bulang and again "Go Easy" on the 2010 Bulang.  I timidly tried a little of the 2001 Jin Chang Hao Yiwu but it still burned my gullet.  My sheng intolerance is just getting worse making me sad so I'm left with sniffing and fondling tea chunks. And who wants to read about that. 

Israel and I are both in a strange quandary. We can't really take too much young sheng. Montana is really no place to age tea and neither is Berkeley. So we just have lot's of tea on our hands that we really can't drink and it will take decades if ever for our sheng to age enough for comfortable drinking. So there really is no point for either of us to continue buying young sheng. When I cognitively recognized this sad fact six years ago, I stopped being a junkie cold.  The second time around,  I know I really have no other place to turn except to aged pu-erh. Shu only took me so far. 

With aged sheng,  I really have no good alternatives but to go direct to Asia since there are no consistently good suppliers.  But that would turn me into even a bigger junkie. How can one cure oneself?  By exhausting oneself through excess?  Any ideas appreciated. (Eeks- already past midnight! Good night!)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

04 Tong Chang Huang Ji Yiwu

I had planned to hunker down tonight with silver tips sent to me by Wilson when my husband casually mentioned that he had dipped into my samples box earlier today.  He said the tea he had "was some strong stuff".  You can only imagine  the expression on my face.. "What tea! What tea!" I demanded to know.

My husband can't figure out why I'm constantly forcing him to drink tea against his will but will get mad when he does so out of his own free will.  There's certain boxes which are strictly hands-off but the sheer proliferation of boxes recently has introduced some household confusion.  Puerh spouses and partners suffer much from our ways but tea addiction I remind those concerned is leaps better than being a meth addict.

 I've been saving this 04 Yiwu Chun Jian(同昌黄记) from Ira for a big Yiwu tasting party but now am forced to enjoy leftover brews tonight.  My husband wagered that he could probably brew this tea all tomorrow; to his credit, he will drink a sheng for days until the water runs clear.  Since I'm enjoying the nth end of the day brew- the taste is rather quiet- the leaves brew up quite dark.

Ira procured this Tong Chang Huang Ji from Yunnan Sourcing after reading MarshalN's Confessions of a white paper cake hunter.  It's rare he ever recommends something you can order so easily on-line, so I can imagine how swiftly Ira took action.  This tea is long sold out so I'm happy to have an in with this tea.  Wilson sent two lovely hand painted tea cups which I was planning to save for drinking his teas alone but they looked empty and lonely tonight. 

This tea is probably one of the few shengs I prefer to sip cold- I can only taste the Yiwu as it cools- strangely enough the soup also has a thicker mouthfeel when cold.   When hot, the tea still has the faintest barest hint of wet/humid storage from a life in JingHong at the southern tip of Yunnan.   

After a long long day of conference going, it's positively a joy to sit and fiddle with leaves. The leaves are plump and respectable- you can see some of the leaves are blistering and have aged quite a bit for a nine year old.  Early wet storage in childhood then a dry adulthood I've found to be a good combo for aging sheng. (I barely have one eye propped open as I tap this post out tonight.)