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.)

Tea at an Obligatory Conference

The tea situation is far worse at my first conference than I expected and hot water is only available in the afternoon after my badge is scanned in.  This is at a $1995 four day conference- you can only imagine the quality tea one could purchase for this amount but I can't exactly convince my company that such funds are better spent on aged oolong.

If you snooze in public- you are fair game for a prankster like me. To be fair, these sessions were not all that compelling and probably the sleepers spent their time wisely.  I drank double bagged insipid Earl Grey. Tomorrow I'll go for triple bagged.