; Cwyn's Death By Tea: The New Soft Shou ;

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The New Soft Shou

Around the time Johnny Cash died, I was serving a stint as artistic director of a theatre company that performed original works. I'd written a play about Gram Parsons for the company as a potential play for the 2003 season. Then I got invited to perform in a Gram Parsons tribute concert at the Old Towne School of Folk Music in Chicago. By coincidence, I also knew a guy B who had met Gram Parsons one time at a party back in the early 1970s, and B too had been a hippie country singer in California. I asked B if he'd be interested in playing the tribute, and I also invited another hippie friend DW to video the whole thing.

So my friends and I worked up a few songs for the concert, which ended up not one of our better shows. We made the mistake of being under-rehearsed, and the concert hall made the mistake of providing us with Jack Daniels. On the trip home we followed up with some weed, which birthed one of my bright ideas for a short cut, "hey, let's avoid the tolls!" We ended up lost and peeing in an abandoned warehouse parking lot. I don't think about Gram Parsons much anymore if I can help it.

But lately Gram's song keeps playing in my head uninvited when drinking shou puerh. For in the very same year of 1973-74 when Gram recorded his "GP" album, the Menghai and Kunming tea factories were humming away inventing the Wo Dui process of "cooking" tea, to shorten the time needed to simulate "aged" puerh.

"It was forty or fifty years ago
A big shot played played with time.
Mister Walker held the door
And kept both cord and line.
Watched and checked on every single day
Building his own special cars
His very special way,
Ooo the new soft shoe.
Ooh the new soft shoe."

Got this song on my brain even more now, ever since a friend on Steepster asked me to check out a seller called "dzpuer" on Taobao. He likes to call himself Dr. Pu'ertea. Dr. Purty? Now this particular seller can been found on a list of Bad Guys who sell fake factory plantation cakes. Whoops. Well, I don't have any interest in buying plantation cakes, although I'm reminded that Gram Parsons grew up on a plantation, and his mother's family grew wealthy growing oranges on Florida plantation groves. Ain't nothing wrong with plantation goods so long as everybody gets paid what they should. Can't really fake an orange after all. Fake tea cakes though, now that's real soft shoe selling. 

Still I rather admire the logo dzpuer has created for his business, a dzpuer/dizzy puerh tea-drunk nerd with tea leaves coming out of his head, and woozy eyeballs that look like glasses.
Here's looking at you, kid
Dizzy makes no special claims about his own house label tea, and in fact describes some of his cakes as third grade leaf geared toward working people who need inexpensive tea. In other words, daily drinker tea, not collector's tea. Maybe ole Dizzy is indeed a sleazy seller of factory cakes, but an honest one about his own label.

"And then walking down a southern road
I saw a shoeshine stand.
A man was talking to a crowd
Holding slippers in his hands
Don't you know the same thing happens
Each and every day?
Did you ever hear a song
That's hard to even play.
Ooo the new soft shoe."
Ooo the new soft shou
This is a whopping 1 kilo brick of Dr. Purty's 2013 shou puerh tea which I bought for $21.75 plus shipping. I drink a lot of ripe but only have one cake at a time. I don't care if my shou is aged or made with nice leaves. In fact, my preferred way to take shou is grandpa style in a large, covered Yixing mug. Mostly I drink shou as a digestif, or to rebalance my body out if I've been trying young sheng.
Dizzy sounds like a used car salesman when talking about his 1 kilo bricks. He says you'll be sure to get attention from your colleagues when such a big brick of leaf arrives in the post at your workplace. You can justify it to them by dividing the brick up into daily drinking amounts and claim you'll go through it in six months. Plus, the brick has multiple uses. You can use it to knock out burglars. Dr. Purty guarantees the brick will dish out significant damage. 

"Then a color TV broadcast
Snuck in from New Orleans,
Showed me one more man who spoke
And wore bright blue and green.
When you saw him talk this way
Was when he showed his claws.
And spoke to people every day
Just to get applause.
Oooh the new soft shoe."
Ooo the new soft shou
Surprised to see the brick has a neifei in it, wasn't expecting anything near as nice as this. I'm not prejudiced against twigs in my tea. One of the decent teas I could find in the 1980s happened to be Japanese kukicha, drank that for years. Twigs need to be boiled, though. The brown wrapper on the cake is kept together with a genu-wine flour and water paste. I eschew the fannings and grandpa style and go for a chunk 'n gaiwan instead so you people can see. Didn't bother to weigh the tea. Got my usual 125 ml double walled Oslo glass.
Yep, two mesh strainers. Well, wouldn't you?
As you can see, very nice amber color. No fishy odors, but I can taste the wo dui just a bit like a wet canvas mail bag. I expect this; the tea is only a year old, and I didn't even bother to rest this brick after receiving it. What I notice immediately is how much more lively on the tongue this is compared to what I've been drinking. My one shou cake is a 2009 CNNP 7572, which has been mostly stored under the bed in a cardboard box for the past five years. While I baby my sheng teas far more than my felines, my one shou cake gets a treatment like a stray cat fed outdoors but never allowed in the house. Consequently, my usual shou cake is a bit flat now. Got a nice sweat and ear buzz going after 4 cups of the new soft shou.

Would I recommend this? Fantastic doorstop. To be honest, I think this is a good daily drinker, but for me coffee and shou are about the same and I don't put a lot of thought into either. This brick needs to be broken up and put in a crock for awhile to bring forth that sweet southern promise. I feel really good after this session, and that's all I need. For $21 and change, this is the Folgers of Shou. Go for it if you dare. But be careful of Dr. Purty's Plantation Dayis. Just sayin'...

Along with the New Soft Shou of your choice, have a listen to Gram and Emmylou Harris on the "GP" album. In case the song lyrics left you puzzled, E. L. Cord was a car builder. "Soft shoe" is a smooth, slickster dance shuffle by Mister "Walker," a lawyer who stole all of Cord's money. Gram said, "The song is basically about people getting ripped off."

Requiescat in pace, Gram


  1. Great post! And I loved reading about this tea brick you previously talked about on Steepster. I am glad it made it to your door, and that it has some value (even if as a weapon used in self-defense, or as a doorstop).

    I went ahead and just today bought these two teas from him:

    It will be interesting to see how they turn out!

  2. I tried a while ago to find the funny description about the brick but the website gave some kind of error. Today I found the dzpuer shop is back, with a new dodgy but not-as-funny sales pitch for the bricks.

    btw I noticed the label reads 2 kg (2 thousand grams literally)