; Cwyn's Death By Tea: The Out Liar of Good Tea, or Your Big Zhong is Not Gay Enough ;

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Out Liar of Good Tea, or Your Big Zhong is Not Gay Enough

I don't play well with others. A delightful email in response to "The Outlaw of Bad Tea" brings out my Bad Behavior. (Identity masked to protect the Wicked).

On Wednesday, August 27, 2014, JM <xxxXXXxxxx01@gmail.com> wrote:

    My dear Cwyn,

    There's a dark allure in having a lover disappoint us. A puerh that always delivers and bend to our every whimsical wish is such a bore.
    Do not fret any longer my dear friend.
    My friends at reddit.com/r/puer and I have noticed your crys for a real puerh. A puerh that will unfurl it self in your little clean gaiwan and then leaves a dirty taste and sediment when it's done.
    There's a cretin puerh that I recently bumped into that I hear is quite a roller coaster of emotions.
    I was given the following description of this naughty sailor, "Well, it tasted like sucking muddy pond water through an old jute sack  that still contained some fish guts. And yet it was thin and had no body."
    This naughty puerh lives near me. If you like I can have him shipped to you for you to try. The cost and shipping will be on me, my friend.

Always yours, Fr0glips

    P.S. See the conversation we are having about you (towards the bottom). http://www.reddit.com/r/puer/comments/2ejjt0/puers_at_my_local_oriental_store/


 Aha, a possible candidate. First we need to make sure you're a Real Man. Send nekkid photos of you and said tea. If you're kosher, that's a plus (especially with rabbinic certification), but the tea doesn't have to be. I'm unable to tell from your note if you're fishy or the tea is fishy. Either or, the advice I got from a Chinese tea master applies, cold rinse followed by hot rinse.

Yours, Cwyn

Now, don't take the above email as an indicator of anything. For I don't want to discourage the Chicks from sending their potential Pic(k)s. I don't have any preferences myself, I will try anything at least once. If it's good I'll keep right on going.

After receiving this email, I couldn't help but think of the time I got booted from a doctoral program. Back then, the offending program was the Theatre Department. The wooden department Chair was one of the forerunners in Gay Theatre. She didn't like my generalist interest in theatre, but waited to tell me until after I defended my thesis, and after the first month of PhD classes. "Oh, I'm sorry nobody told you. But our interests and yours don't intersect. If you had an interest in political theatre, or gay theatre, we could work with you."

I thought I'd been clear that I didn't have preferences. Apparently, I'm not Gay enough. Or Political enough. My incorrect and punishable Fence Sitting eventually got an apology from the department years later, when somebody else facing the same situation in the dissertation phase decided to sue. I got the last word later on when, as a member of the Phi Beta Fraternity for the Professional Performing Arts, I was asked to present a scholarship to a student in that same theatre department. So I told the assembled audience in the auditorium what a unique pleasure it is to present a student cash award in the department that booted me out.

Had better luck years later in the Special Education department, the ultimate field for generalists who can teach anybody anything, with a minor in Quantitative Methods. Kept up my fence sitting applying Individual Differences scaling techniques to large sample data sets, skating the raging debate going on back then between constructivist, relativist paradigms and post-modern objectivism.

But my intellectual egalitarianism didn't keep me entirely out of trouble this time either, especially when I took a Philosophy of Science course with a Famous Professor of Statistics. He believed that nobody, himself included, was qualified enough to read original texts in philosophy, and instead required us to read secondary analytical sources. He didn't take it too well when I brought in Descartes, Spinoza and (gasp!) Hume's treatises on Human Understanding and proceeded to read aloud pertinent tracts during class discussion. The Atheist Famous Professor didn't really want to know that Hume was one of the greatest theologians of all time, but any teacher who tries to add an Eleventh Commandment of "thou shalt not read" will have it rammed down their throat. My bad behavior earned me a barely passing grade from him. But I also scored an appointment from someone else to the Honors Program teaching philosophy to freshman using original texts. I made sure to corner the Famous Professor in the elevator to ram it further and tell him how my students were doing reading Plato's Republic.

"This is why we're Adjuncts," said Kathleen, who'd hired me for the Honors Philosophy class. She had been through convent training too, not Once, but Twice. "We don't want to go through Initiation again."

Meaning tenure. Meaning your colleagues must like you and your very same exact thesis rewritten six times and published in six different journals purportedly as All-Original. And even better if you can spend $5 million of federal grant money from hard working tax payers in the process. Kathleen eschewed the rewrites and got herself hired in Administration, being rather more Gay where I am rather more Jewish. Even though she'd been through the Aquinas/Dominican grist mill of self-flaggelation, and I had been through the no-underwear Franciscan program, we still had things in common. In other words, she meant we are Out Liers, statistically speaking, or Out Liars, if you prefer a more literary and academic (hah!) point of view.

By now I've flummoxed a few of my readers, but perhaps not. Puerh tea attracts really, really smart people. Outliers. My own academic field is entirely about Outliers. I bothered with all of the above because I don't want you miss anything in my Satire. Because you're probably an Outlier yourself, and you already know that drinking puerh tea is an entirely relativist, and solipsistic experience. If you don't know that by now, you haven't read enough tea blogs. I'll hedge a bet though, and guess that you all probably remember the most important fact of Statistics: the Tea (T) Test of a Normal distribution was invented in a Guinness beer factory.

Nevertheless, allow me to proceed with an example, just to make my Satire a bit more clear...at the expense of resorting to the more teacherly side of things. I mentioned the pains of Tenure and Initiation. So imagine that someone like me is sitting in a tea committee with academic colleagues, professors, post-docs, other adjuncts and post-post docs. We are going to be reviewing the progress of the hottest topic/tea-pic at the moment. Coming off a tea drunk I almost miss the meeting, but my colleague James emails me "you'd better get over there quick to Tea Classico." I stub out my cigar in the car ashtray and head on in.

Tea Classico's 2003 CNNP 7542 Big Zhong. How can I resist a Big Zhong?
A Promising Bulge
I keep my mouth shut for now and let my colleagues weigh in with the usual epithets "traditionally stored," "slightly wet," "expertly aged," and "I'd better pick up a few of these." Actually, I'm distracted because my sample resembles something else entirely.

You can't make this up
Nobody knows what I mean when I say the strangely figurative chunk takes me back to my childhood.
So proceeding onward to the tea budget-ry portion of the department meeting, I summarize all of my previous impressions and the Reason We Need Special Education with one parking lot photo.
You can buy this from samir23239 on Ebay
No argument from the committee because we are all in agreement that drinking puerh tea is entirely relative. Everyone exists completely in their own universe. Every single sample differs from every other, every palate is unique, every steep and every sip unlike none before. The truth of this rarely sinks in, even among the most brilliant of us. While we may all fully grasp the notion that a Bad Tea to one person may be a perfectly good tea to someone else, and a Good Tea to you may be another man's mucky pond water, none of us jump to the real Truth which is that in a relativist universe, no one can recommend anything to anybody else. And yes, this means that tea blogs are complete fucking rubbish.

Still, we all need to shop. We all need tea. So we mentally commit the Fallacy of Large Numbers by saying "Okay, these people think the 2003 CNNP 7542 from Tea Classico is good and worth buying." And we use this reasoning to go ahead and buy ourselves a cake or two, even though by the standards of complete and utter relativism in addition to the standards of logical objectivist reasoning, such a decision is totally baseless. Only the cry of agony from the tea jones of a hoarder puerh addict justifies the idea of thinking "well Cwyn thinks this tea is a good one, so I might as well buy it." Because we have to start someplace. Even though that Some Place is really No Place at all. Tea blogs are creative and fun, and yes we need a starting point for shopping, but the truth of an opinion is really a lie. Thus, we are out and Out Liars.

The only objective statement we can make, aside from a Tea Table being a tea table, is 8 grams in the Gaiwan and 125 ml boiling water with Two Rinses. In literary terms, I break the head off a Godzilla Big Zhong, and add my Mucky Pond Water which is not the same as your mucky pond water.
Ass portion
Some char in the strainer, and I find a strange looking pod as the very compressed sample opens up. The pod resembles a lentil on a stem, seems to have some kind of shell on it that started to open when the teacake was made.
I dig around in the gaiwan after finding the pod to make sure there is nothing else in the sample I might not want to consume. This opens up the sample prematurely, saturating steeps 2-5 and a red ring appears around the outside of my Oslo glass. This tea is so close already to turning over into aged tea, the darker red hue shows at the edges of the orange soup. Not terribly bitter behind the bit of smoke and slightly musty storage, but my throat is a little dry.
First Steep
Think I'll tiptoe out of the meeting of the tea academics for the moment and save the remaining steeps, and tea drunkenness, for a session back out in my car. I don't wanna go too far in turning a fine tea session into a typically "college" boxed wine drama by trying to make a young, cloudy tea Satire more clear, and less pithy, than it actually is. Hopefully you guys get the point and don't trouble yourself too much in trying to find me some Bad Tea. A taste of a Big Zhong with my fictional colleagues is enough to prove I'm still not Gay Enough already. So I'll sneak out now before I get myself into more trouble.

Besides, my cigars are out in the car.

Requiescat in pace.


  1. this post is incredible. my blog posts are horrible in comparison.

    I'd like to talk about objectivity in tea actually. Tea will never be objective. It will always be affected by your taste, uncontrollable brewing variations, etc. I personally LOVE "herbal" profiles in a tea, but others don't. James (TeaDB) and I have been comparing a lot of tasting notes, as we swapped recently, and there have been some obvious disagreements, either due to our tastes, brewing parameters, etc. etc.

    Also, I'd like to let you know that you're really Gay. In fact, I'd consider you Gay as Hell. How do I know that? Because you didn't take the opportunity to make a "Big Dong" joke in there somewhere. Let alone a Godzilla-sized dong.

  2. Well, I did say I couldn't resist a Big Zhong. Actually, I can. A post-doc in Math surprised me with one on one occasion, but as you noted with regard to tea, what you do with it is what counts. I think we all agree preferences are relative to the individual.

    If you and James have differing tastes in tea, I am guessing the difference is in storage technique. I can be far more clear about my preferences in this regard. The best example of very wet storage we've tasted is the 1990s HK Raw by White2Tea. Using this as a comparison point, the above Godzilla is less humid, but it is also younger and may not have as fine base material. I prefer some traditional storage flavor, but well integrated with other flavors. So, this 7542 suits me fine, storage-wise.

    1. James and I were mainly comparing aged oolongs, which are 99% of the time stored in super-similar climates. Regarding storage, I don't have enough experience with humid storage to say, but I think I just don't really like humid-stored stuff, especially Shou. I had an aged Taiwanese black tea that had humid storage and I hated it, while others (James) loved it. I haven't tried any HK stored teas, but I fear that I may dislike it for the same reason. I really just can't stand the smell of Shou, makes me sick for some reason. However, I still need to try HK storage stuff.

    2. Hey guys,

      Thanks for the post Cwyn, glad you liked the Big Zhong!

      Jake, I wouldn't rule out humid stored stuff or pu'erh. For many, it can be acquired taste and it can often take getting the right examples at the right time. I enjoy a good humid stored tea, but I definitely still have some unpleasant sessions with teas that need some airing out.

      With aged oolongs it's a bit different. Also storage and climate matter alot here too. While you are correct that the vast majority of aged oolongs have been stored in Taiwan, there have definitely been comparatively dryer-stored aged oolongs and wetter-stored stuff.

      While that 1990s HK-Style tea definitely had some humid storage in it's day, I don't find it to have much of the nasty humidity in it. I found it to be extremely smooth and quite enjoyable without much off-flavor at all.


    3. Hey James!

      Yeah, I haven't ruled it out just yet. Giving it a couple of more shots until I decide. 90's HK style might be my thing, it definitely is aired out by now.

      It's true that the humidity level does vary in aged oolong storage, but not nearly as much as pu'erh. I'm wondering if there's a certain point where aged oolong dries out, as overly-humid stored oolongs are sadly too easy to find. I need to try that '76 Baozhong, maybe I'll do that tomorrow. This is only really speaking for Taiwanese stored aged oolongs, Chinese aged oolongs aren't nearly as common as Taiwanese stuff, and what you find is usually just high-fire Yancha aged for a while, which isn't in the same league as Taiwanese oolongs.

    4. HK Style should be a worthy enough example. Sometimes it will just take a few attempts too.

      I haven't heard of aged oolongs drying out, although I suspect you'd achieve very slow aging under a high-grade vacuum seal.

  3. Gold.
    Glad I have an awesome new tea blog to read. Keep it up!

  4. This post (and your blog in general) are amazing. I don't care what you write next, but just don't stop.