Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brewing On Your Feet

This is the anti-thesis of a slow measured tea session sitting on a tatami mat. But with any practice, simple variations can more readily dislodge long standing rituals and rules.

I started brewing in the kitchen when I need to boil water in my two cup stone pot- the pot is so hard to control that going back and forth between the kitchen and dining room disrupts the flow of a seated session.  But standing up has kicked off a different chain reaction of sorts.

The kitchen is the most experimental space in the house which eggs on my unruly kitchen persona.  I'll trespass and transgress in a way that I would not dream of in other areas of my life- just like Brits when they are on holiday in Spain or Greece.  I'll add more leaves, remove excess leaves, blend the leaves, fry up the leaves, switch pots, salt the tea,  liquor up the tea, boil up the leaves- whatever strikes my whim.  I've been having more fun with these spontaneous free wheeling brews because when anything goes- you can concentrate on only pleasing yourself.  When you don't enjoy your tea session,  it's only you that suffers and I'm all for trying anything to turn it back into my favor.   Gongfu style still does not feel inherently natural to me and such restrictions feel a bit like a corset. (Actually I've never tried a corset so this might be an unwarranted hyperbole. )

This fast brewing style is also better suited to functional sessions where you have to evaluate a lot of teas. I have all my budget ten year olds that need re-tasting to see how they are getting on.  I find I become much more ruthless in dumping out brews that don't perform while standing. When I do commit to sit down for a serious brew, I save the older more special teas for such sessions. Is it good to have such a tiered system? Can I easily miss the charm of a finicky tea without giving it the tortured round of 15 brews sitting down at full attention?  I prefer quality that is so obvious that I cannot miss. The more you pay attention, more you will discern a tea's qualities which can go both ways.  That $9 Haiwan LTZ, you might like a lot less if you were to notice all it's taidicha ways.


Long ago in another lifetime it seems, I ended up in Wadi Rum solo to scout a location for an anniversary surprise.  I rarely do this type of trip alone but when you are all by yourself in a country where no-one knows you, all your identity and ways of thinking loosen up.  Our Bedouin guide served seriously sugared up bagged black tea in tiny glass cups which I drank most gratefully.

Sometimes I long for the days when I had less than a five finger count of teas to choose from which included Earl Grey,  random "green" tea, and Sleepy Time.  I fondly remember being quite contented to drink those teas much more than I am to drink mediocre pu-erh now which is by far leaps more interesting than those bagged grocery store specimens.    If given a choice, I might swallow Morpheus's blue pill to forget everything I know about the taste of tea.


  1. I rarely brew teas seriously. I generally just brew at the time needed (flash brew? few seconds? long brew?) at my computer desk while working/writing (blogs)/just relaxing. It's completely fine, tea doesn't have to be a precise thing. Just enjoyable.

  2. Really Jake? From your blog I see that you drink mostly aged oolongs. Don't they yield more of their silky notes with some loving attention?


    1. I do high ratios and then I do a couple of flash brews, then a few 10 to 30 second long or so brews, and then a few longer (1m+) brews. I get lots of smooth, silky notes using this method, the trick is high ratios. I used to use 6g/100ml but I've moved up to about 7-7.5g/100ml. I think if you try to hard to taste a tea it sucks all of the enjoyment out of the tea.