; Cwyn's Death By Tea: January 2015 ;

The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cwyn's Tea Kettle Problem

It's time for a new tea kettle. Or new kettle set-up. Nothing brings out the Tea Ware OCD more than the idea of a new water boiling system. First we have the nightmare of actually shopping for something other than tea. I make my son eat whatever the Thrifty Mart behind the house has for sale because I am NOT getting in the car to actually go to a store. Once I get past the nightmare of shopping for something, I immediately nit pick potential purchases to the point of exhaustion and end up not buying anything.

Here's what happened. I had a Hamilton Beach stainless steel electric kettle which served me well for about 4 years. Last spring it developed a leak around the plastic water level. Now I hate anything plastic on a tea kettle but at the time this kettle was the least offensive of all those I considered. Tried everything in the house to re-seal that leak, but all solutions succumbed to either heat, expansion, or water exposure. So, I was forced to toss the kettle, still working perfectly well mind you.

My old tea kettle
Next, I tried a vintage Japanese ceramic hot pot I bought on Ebay. That kettle went down because of my next problem. Old Cwyn. Ever heard of her?? Right. This is an old lady who forgets she plugged in the tea kettle and lets it fry until the heating element explodes. She falls asleep. Her Hamilton Beach had an automatic shut off. My current tea kettle, just a stovetop enamel, has a perfect quarter-sized round burn with a pin size hole in the middle because this old biddy left it on the stove. She has a Safety Problem.

Current tea kettle replete with burn mark.
Really this is all an issue only because the kitchen is "out there" and I'm "in here" which usually means on or in the bed. I can't see the tea kettle out there and promptly forget I even put the kettle on. Even worse I sometimes dash out into the kitchen thinking I left the kettle on and nope, nothing burning. All this wasted effort and worry. The whole point here is I just can't see any reason why I need to get out of bed to get my tea. Why can't I just lie here and roll over and turn on the kettle any time? I don't need to interrupt my dreaming which lately has been about this guy I read about on Teachat called Henry, who supposedly is Selling his Red Mark. I keep dreaming about what Old Cwyn could be doing to get to Henry and his Red Mark. This sort of productive thinking goes out the window when I have to get out of bed and deal with problems in the kitchen. All I could accomplish will never happen unless I deal with my tea kettle soon.

So, I have these problems:

1. I hate boring shopping.
2. I might burn down the house.
3. I don't like plastic touching the water.
4. I nitpick any potential ideas to the point of death.
5. Older house wiring and non-grounded wall plugs, some of which tend to come out of the wall.
6. Hate spending money on anything except tea.
7. A son who can't be allowed to see Mother's depravity.
8. I'd be fine if I could quit reading tea forums, Influenced by Ideas.

Okay stop at lucky 8. I'm thinking of getting an electric portable burner to keep by the bed so I can use my virgin cast iron tetsubin gathering dust now in the cupboard. The tetsubin would stay hot longer, which might mean less energy spent heating water over and over. I could lower my gas bill by using electric instead and spend more money on tea. The downside to this plan is few burners have an automatic shut off. Here is one I'm thinking about.
Looks like it would play vinyl records too.
Will let you know whether I made any progress or if I've burned down the house in the meantime. I think I left the kettle on the kitchen.

Pacem in incendium domus.





Sunday, January 25, 2015

Puerh Storage is a Crock #2

Old Cwyn has too much tea, no doubt about it. Any more and she will be needing a larger house. In addition to wedging issues with my tea cakes in the storage fridge, I have many cakes and tuos stored in crocks. Now I can add loose maocha to my storage, which takes up even more space. At my age I can afford to experiment because the kid is just going to throw out all my tea anyway when I pass on. Recently I received a quantity of loose maocha from a tea seller for the purposes of storage experimentation, so I came by this tea for free. My understanding is this maocha was originally sample quantities for potential cake pressing, but rejected for unknown reasons. So the bottom line is the tea seller doesn't want this stuff, and thinks sending it to Old Cwyn the Tea Drunk and Professional Tea Hoarder is a good idea. I suspect the tea seller is also a Hoarder who can't throw tea away, and like my other hoarding friends who send me outdated vitamins and old spices, the solution is to send it me.

The Tea

Might as well do something with this lot, there are actually two quantities which I'm not going to bother to weigh. This tea is two different batches I've decided to just mix together. We have a 2013 Zhanglang Gushu, and a 2012 Spring Bada mountain. Both teas arrived very dried out in plastic bags. I don't expect crock storage to improve these very much, if the tea had been fairly fresh with some moisture in it, I might be able to fast-ferment it. But the tea is dried and reconstituted with a bit of water now, at best my goal is to see if I can darken it up a little.

The Crock

This is actually a very large crock bread bowl, an American Watt #14 Ovenware bread bowl to be exact. The finish is crazed from years and years of use.
Old stoneware bread bowl
 I got this bowl from my step mother, and I remember her using this bowl back in my teen years. My stepmother grew up on a Wisconsin farm, the oldest of 5 children and the bread bowl belonged to her mother, that roughly means 80 years of use at least. I remember the batches of caramel pecan rolls my stepmom made using this bowl.
Kinda hard to see the crazing on the glaze.
 She gave the bowl to me specifically to get rid of it. She is a hoarder too and apparently my house has a sign on it "If you're a hoarder, send me your shit." To her, the bowl symbolized years of cooking for a large family and husband, and she hated cooking. The bowl meant servitude. It's hard for me to feel sorry for a housewife of a multimillionaire, but the "gift" of the bowl was to remind me of what she suffered on my behalf, a passive aggressive way of her Scandinavian heritage. Whereas my Polish-Jewish family making the same point would have chucked it out the window into the yard and been done with it. Or sold it on EBay.

But now the bowl will come in handy to see if I can do anything with this tea. My house is currently boasting an RH value of 30% in midwinter, rather desert-like, so I must keep tea in storage with some sort of humidity, either crocks with humidity devices or my puerh fridge with a jar of water. I will use the sauerkraut method of storage which is to use a stoneware crock bowl covered with a wooden lid.

I rinse the maocha and soak it in water for about 5 minutes, turning the tea until it absorbs the water. You can see the after photo of dried, wet tea.
Would you do this with YOUR gushu? Didn't think so.
For the cover I'm using my rosewood tea tray because, well, it fits.

Vintage rosewood.
The bowl is placed on a cast iron radiator which is warm because of winter heating. I plan to turn the tea once a day, adding a bit of water as needed. An hour later the tea smells quite fragrant. My plan is to continue this for a month or two and see what happens.
Rinsed/soaked dried maocha before first brew.
Next I must brew up the tea so I can compare it a month from now. The 2012 Bada already has nearly three years of age on it, and the 2013 Zhanglang almost two years. Ugh, not sure I want to try it.  Bottoms up, old gal.

First steep. Drank two steeps in all.
The tea brews up a dark urine color, and the aroma and flavor is grape-like, tastes rather like Yiwu. I was bracing for a gut bomb of young puerh bitterness, but the tea is actually a bit thin. I can understand why it never made it into tea cakes. The buds and leaves are small and pretty, but the tea has a rather thin body and tastes light on flavor. I get some slight bitterness and tang along with the grape leaf flavor. This is no Bulang, that's for sure. So I can relax and not feel guilty if I mold up the entire batch, however I don't think that will happen in the super dry climate. In fact, I expect the wet tea will have mostly dried out by tonight, even in its microclimate bowl. The challenge will be adding moisture and promoting any change this time of year. Summer would be a better time to get fresh tea to change instead of reconstituting dried tea in the middle of winter, but we'll see what happens. So, let's check back in a month or so with this batch assuming old Cwyn doesn't forget about it and wonder what this bowl is doing on the radiator.

In North America we know so little about storing fermented tea, any data is at least a start. I really appreciate the emails I'm getting from other tea heads who are using stoneware crocks to store some of their tea. This week I received another one:

"I thought I would drop you a line cause I'm also attempting puerh crock storage in a very dry region. I'm in KY, and right now the humidity in my tea closet is only about 38%!!  I have been having decent luck using crocks, my tea stays pretty okay as long as I keep checking on it regularly and keep the tobacco pouch buttons fresh. Lately I've also been using clay shards from those terra cotta pots which has also been working ok."

Great hearing from all of you!





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wedging

Disaster
Noooooooooo! Horror of horrors, the worst thing to happen to a puerh addict is something amiss with the teacake and it's my treasured 2005 Naka. The psychedelic must-save-for-chemotherapy standby! The tea meant to ease me into the afterlife where I plan to meet Lu Yu and he'll greet me with the hundreds-of-years-old sheng, pouring golden-red-brown elixir down my gullet before the last tea drunk of life wears off. Immortality by Tea on old Cwyn, for tea is religion two cups in. Something has happened to my Wrapper and I'm frozen in Tea OCD-ness of what do I do...

The wrapper got torn. Wedging.

For those of you not familiar with this American slang, it's an old school joke of seeing someone's underwear band sticking out, grabbing it and pulling upwards quickly into the poor victim's butt crack and forcing him to stick his fingers in there and dig it out. In the case of my teacake, the cause is stuffing Too Many Teacakes into a stack in the tea fridge. Pulling my Naka out of the too-tight stack tore the wrapper. My tea cake has wedged its undies and I'm not sure what to do. What was I thinking??

Awhile back I asked TwoDog to send me some spare tea wrappers in case something like this happened, and he obliged with enclosing some extra spare wrappers he had lying around, but none of them happen to be the same as the one on this tea. I didn't ask him for specific tea wrappers, but just something in case of disaster. But now I'm stuck because I want the ORIGINAL wrapper. I wouldn't care about putting a non-descript tea wrapper onto something like a 2009 Jingmai or a 2005 shou beeng I plan to break up anyway. But dear god, not my Naka.

Thankfully I have two 2005 Naka cakes from white2tea. The One That Got Wedged is the cake I'm drinking from. Occasionally. In a panic, with precious loose tea starting to fall out from the cake onto the floor, I stuff the cake into a plastic bag and seal it up quick. I begin to wonder how many other Tea Drunks are in the same situation. I'm probably the only one with an overstuffed tea fridge, cakes waiting for crocks. Everybody else is probably far more sensible with a manageable stash. Rational tea drinkers have built shelves and stack their cakes appropriately. They care about their wrappers and my behavior is negligence at best.

Now we have a case for an all-Dayi collection, Taetea has the good sense to manufacture sturdy wrappers. And no Dayi collector in his right mind is going to remove the holographic sticker, much less the actual wrapper. Maybe a Taiwan Businessman with a hundred Dayi cakes and 30 tongs goes ahead and breaks up his tea and jars it, he doesn't care. He throws away his wrappers. He can always buy more. He plans to live forever and probably already has, with so much money at hand these guys are capable of anything.

But I'm a poor old lady living in the Midwest USA where nobody cares about tea and I can't even complain at the Kwik Trip because they'll just hand me a tea bag to try and fix me up, and then usher me out of the store as quickly as possible out of worries I might head to the toilet next, and they'll have to argue over who will get to check on me when I don't come out. Not even the alkies down at the bar are going to sympathize, they have a sensible habit and throw away the bottle when it is empty and by that point they have already picked off the damp label with their fingernails out of boredom because, let's face it, drunks don't have anything to say. Their habit is about silent communion and acceptance. The tea drunk, by contrast, is still fighting. Tea is the drink of the ninja and the samurai and the nun and the white mage and Hobbes' Leviathan.

I've given up trying to explain all this to the neighbors and the ladies down at the library where I used to work. At some point, every old lady sounds whiny or ranting or creakily croaking no matter what we say, even when it all makes perfect sense. They just wonder if I've had my meds today or whether they need to call my son and say come get your mother. The only place this all makes sense is online where I know I will meet up with a 20-something tea drunk who knows for a fact I'm not senile and she's worried about her tea wrappers too. Only then will I gain some rational perspective because on top of all that she's dealing with diapers. She has her own worries about Wedging.

Okay I think I'm calmer now. Really the only rational thing to do is just break up this cake and crock it. It's still a cake though. Once I get out the knife it's all over, forever, and the beeng will never again be a beeng. It's just tea.

Yes. It's just tea.

It's just tea.
It's just tea.
It's just tea.

Drink it now, I'll be a goner tomorrow for sure and my contingency plan has just been halved.




Requiescat in Pace.









Monday, January 19, 2015

A Tin of Tieguanyin


Everyone needs an oolong. Especially sheng drinkers, something to balance out all that yin and gut-wrenching bitterness. Sure, we have shou, but even a dedicated shou drinker needs a change. But oolong tea just isn't all that exciting, even in top form it doesn't have that...shuzz. None of that monkey picked, fresh from the emperor's tribute table excitement. A bit lacking in the musty dusty, dirt packed, twig infested mold we love so much in puerh. Oolong ends up as the tea pulled out of the cupboard for the people who don't drink puerh, the "We must serve them Something" kind of tea. No wonder oolong ends up on the bottom of every restaurant menu, even the foodies don't waste their energy trying to find a decent one to serve with the sushi.

Now, I recognize I'm reflecting here the typical western opinion, because I'm under no illusions whatsoever that outside of China or Taiwan I can expect to find decent oolong unless I know someone who knows someone who got it from someone else lucky enough to have traveled. Because of this, I cannot be expected to identify anything aside from mediocre oolong. Unless, again, I know someone who knows someone. In fact, the few rather okay oolong teas I've had are from someone who knows someone, and those people are even more secretive about their tea pimps than the puerh junkies.

So I'm on my own here. My decades tasting oolong tea left me with a strong distaste for electric roasting and I usually don't believe the tea will actually BE charcoal roasted unless I'm getting the tea from someone who got it someplace else. And then we have the common practice of undisclosed re-roasting. In fact I'd rather not taste much of the roast at all, at this juncture. The other problem I have with oolong tea is the cotton mouth astringency enhanced by my medications, for some reason oolong tea dries the mouth out worse than any other kind of tea. Nevertheless, I find myself thirsting for that tea to balance out my sheng habit, rather like my dad who balanced his boozing with buttermilk and saltines.

My Tin of Tieguanyin is more of a dump than a stash. I order samples of dark Anxi roasted Tieguanyin from wherever, open and sniff, maybe I'll try it or maybe not, and then dump it in the tin. At this point I'm not even entirely sure how many samples are in the tin. I remember one I dumped in came in a vacuum packed foil bag and smelled like paint thinner. Yikes. Into the tin it went, untasted. Several others smelled okay, but not enough to entice me to try them. Threw those in too.

I can remember the source of at least three in the tin. One is from Simple Loose Leaf tea, another from Whispering Pines, and one from American Tea Room. I think I tried the American Tea Room once, wanted to love it because even with ignoring the fact that American Tea Room is located in Beverly Hills, California, the prices from this company are actually on the low end for most of their teas. They seem to have tea coupons nearly every day. I got their Tieguanyin as a sample when I ordered their Sencha Ashikubo hoping it would compare with the same from Camellia Sinensis at a third of the price (it didn't). The "Tie Kwan Yin" from Beverly Hills smelled oddly of scented bath salts. Yes.

Every few months I open the tin and give it a sniff. Still smells like a toolshed. Somehow I want the tea to smell muted, dried out and dead so I can stand to drink it, but instead it smells all too lively. I can feel the cotton mouth coming on and shut the lid quick before oolong ghosts enter my body and refuse to leave. My Tin of Tieguanyin is where oolong goes to die. Or ferment. Or whatever it is doing in there. But just for you, brave readers, I'll brew up something from this thing and see how it's getting along. This is a case where the tea probably looks better than it really is.

Hm. The tea really looks greener than in real life.
I can only be glad I'm not in China over the New Year, when perhaps some of you get Oolong gift boxes. This is a situation where the "thought" is probably all that counts and the real question is not, "is this tea any good?" but rather "where will I put this?" all the while hoping the gift-ee doesn't show up for tea. Maybe in this case people simply label the gifts with the name and prop them up on a specially-designed tea display when the person visits. Despite all logic to the contrary, a gift of tea to the tea addict is an occasion for fear and trepidation. With all our efforts at quelling our obsessive-compulsive ritualistic behavior and hoarding, there is nothing like a gift tea to overwhelm us with a full force body slam of symptoms ranging from large-scale awareness of our already oversized stash, the fear of what to do with it all, and the nagging sensation "I know I'm gonna hate this and can't throw it out no matter what" new addition to the Stash.

Back to the Tieguanyin. One rinse because two ain't gonna help it any, and I'm well past childbearing. Actually it's not that bad. I expected more paint thinner and less fruit, so it makes the category of "in the Concentration Camp I'd definitely drink this."

First steep.
You can see that from only one steeping the leaves have already defined themselves. All of the samples in here carried the label "dark" or "heavy" roast, or else they didn't make it into the Tin of Tieguanyin. Yet we can now see the tea with its pants down, which of these are really not all that heavily roasted, the many green leaves in here. Some are very dark, old and twisted looking (rather like oneself) and I'm guessing these are going to be the long steeping sort (again, rather like oneself) whereas the young green things have given it all up at the get-go (rather not like oneself). An hour later the dry mouth is in full force. The fruit is a banana and not a peach. Oh well.

I have another sample to dump into the tin, which is why I got out this tin today. Back it goes on the shelf for a few more months. I have at least a pound of tea here. The tin, by the way, is stainless steel. Not a very good quality but perfect for the Mausoleum. Yes, I plan to take it with me.

Requiescat in Pace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Day in the Life of an Old Tea Whore

Le Blow.co.uk
8:00 a.m. Turn on phone.

8:05 Start kettle for morning pot of oolong.

8:10 Turn off phone.

Tea Time

9:00  Empty oolong pot.

9:05  Examine last night's tea leaves, decide whether to throw out.

Hster's "hiking" oolong. Rather good.
9:05:30. Nope.

9:30 Turn on phone.

10:00 Read Steepster.

11:00 Cold feet. Brew shou.

11:15 Turn off phone.

11:30 Discover plate of unbrewed sheng leaves. I have no idea what these are.


 Also, no idea why there is a micro sim on the plate too.

11:35 Turn on phone to see if it has a sim card.

11:45 Hungry after the shou, might as well have lunch.

11:46 Turn off phone.

12:30 Answer t-mails and check for tea coupons.

1:00 Turn on phone.

1:30 Transferring whole cloves from baggie found in cupboard into spice jars using tea presentation dish. Cloves were gift from boyfriend of Indian extraction, two (three?) boyfriends ago. Found out years later he never told his family we stopped seeing each other. He was a packrat, gave me things to avoid needing to throw anything away. Date on cloves baggie 1999.

2:30 Starting to snore, need sheng to wake up.

2:35 Notice a sheng sample in one of my Yixing pots, don't know what it is or how long it has been there.

2:36 Decide to go ahead and drink it.

2:45 Unknown sheng is aged, brown soup with mild traditional storage. Which means expensive. Oops.

3:00 Gonna nap anyway.
3:02 Turn off phone.

5:05 Ugh.

5:15 Brew black tea.
Last of the Big Tree Red by white2tea
5:45 I think I can eat now.

6:40 Resume sheng session.

7:02 Two more cups and I'll be good.

7:30 Finally feeling Normal for the first time today.

7:40 Browse Tea Porn.

Wilson's Tea Porn dot Com
I'm fairly certain wilson would be mildly offended at his blog referred to as Tea Porn. No offense intended, quite the opposite. But it is his fault for taking gorgeous photos of the finest tea ware and accessories to be had. He does this, not just once in awhile, but repeatedly. His new stone tea table last year set me back six months in my Recovery from Tea Ware Shopping. Now he puts up this article on vintage Yixing. With the original stickers, people. And he just bought a Petr Nowak tea table too. It's teaware Ecstasy and he well knows it, because I can't help looking.

8:50 Resume shou session.

9:00 Read Steepster. You can say what you want, but I have friends on Steepster who drink more tea than I do. Don't believe me, try Following Ost or KS. Just try. Good luck with that.

9:20 Browse institutional heavy-duty flush toilets on the net. Did you know that you can be moved from an assisted-living facility to a nursing home just because you clog the toilet? A good argument for an Oolong-only Old Age.

9:30 They are gonna take away my sheng. I know it. They will sneak into my room and take away my cakes after giving me Olanzapine. Those nurses will write "Not Sleeping" on my chart, and "Probably drinks too much tea." They will cite mold even though I tell them I just brush it off and the tea is fine. Same thing with the fungus.

9:49 Mental Note to draft medical directives to include unlimited access to 2005 Naka. Update phone contact info for MD tea heads.

10:50 Do not wash my tea ware. Ever.

3:07 a.m. SLeepY

Requiescat in Pace
























Wednesday, January 7, 2015

$1000 Wedding

Disclaimer: I do not, repeat do not, go through life looking to reference Gram Parsons songs. Not on purpose anyway. In fact, I look to avoid any songs with potential to infiltrate my head aside from deliberately self-flagellatory tunes like the Kyrie from Bruckner's Mass in E minor No. 2 (all four parts plus horn "the saints who sung out loud"). But here I am, twice in one year, dredging (not channeling) Gram Parsons as I did in The New Soft Shou. This time, the $1000 Wedding comes up, and not too untimely since Rolling Stone magazine named it #40 top country songs of all time in July 2014. Not untimely either because my retired bipolar country western singer roommate continues to live out this lyrical material, "he took some friends out drinking and it's lucky they survived" in -20C weather sleeping at the Kwik Trip truck stop where he is now in a prelude to becoming famous. And also timely because White2Tea starts selling a $1000 1998 CNNP 7542 Qingbing (Liming). Did you just swallow all this? Actually the teacake is $1100, to be completely correct. And I've had the opportunity to sample this twice and been told not to write about it. Well, this ain't cheap shit.

1998 CNNP 7542 Qingbing Liming by white2tea
People have debated the meaning of the $1000 Wedding song written by Gram in 1974, but the most oft-told story is that Gram proposed to marry his girlfriend Barbara, or Gretchen or some such, and she went and picked out a $1000 wedding dress which is more like $10,000 by today's standards. Gram backed out of the wedding and she never picked up the dress. Or maybe she did pick up the dress and like an albatross it sat around the house and Gram looked at it and wrote the song. I have a dishtowel with a picture of Gram's face on it. The 1998 CNNP Qingbing is sold by the Gram unless you want to spring for the entire wedding dress.

Actual dishtowel.
Yes this is all crazier than usual. "(S)he felt so bad when (s)he saw the traces of old lies still on their faces," we see many cakes online and attempts by vendors to convince us that every single one of them is excellent, so how will we ever know? How will we know unless a tea drunk says something? I didn't buy an entire cake myself. But somebody has to write about this shit and I'm almost dead anyway so might as well be me. I'm hoping that people do Get Gram for no better reason than to add to the conversation. If you're putting in an order with White2Tea, consider adding on an extra $15 or so to get 5 Grams of this Qingbing so you can at least try it. So I don't have be talking to myself with nothing else to do. I think $15 is a low enough price for the conversation.

Actual tea.
Supposedly this teacake is big right now in buying circles in China, mainly because it is CNNP and 7542 and dry stored. Dry stored as in Hong Kong definition, a very slight humidity which I consider "well integrated" in that the musty blends with whatever smokiness and woody or leather fragrance in the tea. I can smell it because I'm the Daughter of the Woman Who Vacuumed Sealed clothing against mildew. But I wonder about the cultural capital this tea represents, if the cultural value plays a big part in the price factor going on in China over this tea.

10 gram sample shown here, a promising brown.
I measured out 5 grams from the 10 g sample in my 60 ml Yixing. You can see the first steep here (3 rinses) is very clear. Most of the 7542 recipes I've tried are still fairly punchy even at 20 years old, but this one doesn't have that kick in the teeth green bitterness but maybe this isn't all Menghai material. I'm choosing to use Yixing because I brewed the first sample of this tea in a gaiwan and so now I want to use a pot that I would normally use with a tea of some age and value. Besides, I have at least 3 pots of tea leaves sitting around the house most of the time, a downside to buying good tea is how long it takes to steep it out. We're talking days. A 30+ steeper sheng is gonna sit and I hate to do that to such expensive leaves.

First steep following 3 rinses.
What I notice about this tea is the spicy start, the pepper and almost cinnamon along with the wood and leather. Must be my medication, all teas seem to taste minerally to me lately. Second steep is a bit thicker and red in the cup. I wonder how this 1998 has got so far along with the aging without being soaked to death in humidity. Not sure how they got a 7542 aged this quickly really. I've had early 1990s 7542 that tasted years younger than this, that had years to go and still green left in it. The cup is getting thicker after the first couple of steeps, always a good sign. Huigan is pretty much a non starter after the brownie I just ate. Yes, I just ate a 65 cent pan brownie along with $1000 tea but Dear Son is at fault for walking by me and sticking the plate under my nose. I increase steep time after the 4th steep when I took this photo.

Second steeping.
Sorry to disappoint the readers looking for an Objective review. Are you of the belief that if you taste one of those "fantastic" older puerhs of excellent storage that you'll never go back to anything else? Can anyone really come up with such an Objective opinion with any certainty? If so, I hope you trot off and go read what that person has to say. In my Relativist universe of tea, a few facts are in play.

1. I am a Tea Drunk.

This means that I can take the alcoholic equivalent of gin with a splash of Listerine and say Hey, it's all Good and You Too, baby.

2. I don't believe that outside of China I can get any of the fantastic teas that will make me never go back to anything else.

This is because I don't live in China, or Malaysia, and yes I lied about dating the Taiwanese Businessman. Sorry, I apologize to the readers who emailed me thinking I was serious and looking to hook me up on a date with a Taiwanese Businessman. I'm still deleting spam on a daily basis from people posting on my blog about Green Supplements.

3. I'm an Old Lady who farts and takes fish pills.

Listen. You wouldn't want to be in an elevator with me. Is this the sort of person you rely on for tea advice?
Third steep plus leaves.
Somebody had to write about this tea, my writing is flawed but all I have to give. This tea tastes pretty good. I think it is worth it, for the sake of trying something we normally don't get, to add 5 Grams of it to your White2Tea order and spend the $15 to at least be able to talk about the cultural capital behind the tea, is it the same as buying a commemorative 1998 Packers Coca Cola bottle? Let's find out.

Finally, I think tea vendors need to add a Bridal Registry to their websites. The Coffee People have them, why not us? People spring for $1000 cappuccino machines as wedding gifts every single day. Give some happy Tea Drunk the $1000 Wedding of his 357 Gram Dreams. She wants Petr Nowak more than you know, and instead she gets Corningware, dear jesus, five steeps and I think I'm tea drunk now, god I love tea. "Supposed to be a funeral, it's been a bad, bad day."

Requiescat in Pace.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Who Drinks This Stuff?

Many tea drinkers are busily setting up their tea budget for 2015. How much are you gonna spend? And how much over that amount will you go this year? Maybe a reality check is in order. A few working principles:

1. You have too much tea.

2. You'll never drink it all.

3. Despite the above, you'll buy more this year.

4. You have one or more loved ones who disapprove.

By now I'm accustomed to the loved ones who don't approve. One can develop powerful barriers with an Ignore button over time with those we see every day. But it's the normal people who really can put a tea drunk into perspective. These are the friends or relatives who don't drink tea but we go ahead and drag out the tea table and gaiwan anyway. I did just that at my New Year's dinner. And I had big plans.

Drinking fermented tea cakes is not a normal activity in the west, so consequently we develop a kind of hive mentality with other tea addicts, a hive in which our behavior becomes normal and we don't realize how far away from social drinking our habits truly are. For my New Year's Day dinner, I prepared a spicy soup served with hot rolls, corn bread crackers, goat cheese, grapes and tea. I spent more time on the tea than in preparing the rest of the meal. That's a warning flag right there.

Now, for non-tea drinkers, the first sips of any beverage must be amazing. Who in their right mind would even consider a beverage when told "the first four cups aren't so good, you have to wait for the fifth one." An alcoholic who drinks bourbon or moonshine or even mouthwash in a pinch might understand this idea, but he wouldn't consider a cup of tea to save his life. So let's face it, most normal people expect an amazing beverage to taste amazing at the start, but we are drinking something that doesn't even begin to taste its best until four or five cups in.

And I'm spending how much, exactly, on a beverage that doesn't taste good for five cups?

Next I'm asking my relatives to consider said aged puerh tea with traditional storage. As in musty, as in something that is going to have at least a very slight flavor of a cardboard box that sat in the garage for two years. "Please enjoy the fine odor of basement." And perhaps,"this will start to go away after you drink about 5 cups, I can rinse it again if you like." To sound more sophisticated, "this tastes better because I'm using a teapot which imparts a slight mineral flavor, don't you think it downplays that cigar smoke as well as the mildew in the tea?" Or,  "people usually drink this with yak butter and salt."

Now, how many of your relatives are still sipping? Or have they made a beeline for the keg they brought because they know you'll serve tea that smells like gym socks? I was nice to my relatives and didn't even serve the musty stuff. No, I took out my Chawangshop 2014 Ban Payasi, the light Yiwu-tasting green leaves with a grape-y scent that I thought would be mild and go well with the goat cheese. And to accompany the brownie dessert, I pre-soaked one of the "chocolate" shu squares from White2Tea. Everyone politely drank a small cup of the Ban Payasi, and then "No thanks, I'm good" when offered a refill. Fine, I know the score. Come brownie time I know what to ask. "Who wants coffee?" Yep, takers all around.

I'm still steeping out all those teas now two days later. Wait. Three days later.

Setting aside the relatives into the category of People Who Don't Understand, next consider tea drinking friends. How many tea drunks do you know who are able to sit still and let somebody else brew the tea? What if somebody lets the leaves sit too long? Can you focus on the conversation or are you watching that tea pot cringing at the astringency and contemplating ruined tea leaves, burnt tea leaves, unrinsed tea leaves, too much or too little leaf? Wouldn't you rather have your own gaiwan? Aren't you a happier tea drunk when left alone with your own brewing apparatus, choosing the correct amount of leaf and steep time? Also, do you slurp your tea? The tea drunks understand the reasoning behind slurping, but is your wife embarrassed?

Point being, we're alone here. And spending lots of money on a solitary habit. "Tea porn" is right on. Does your tea habit take time away from loved ones? If you are online even reading this post the answer is probably yes.

How's that budget looking now, my friend? Perhaps to the chagrin of the tea vendors you've shaved off a few dollars. Or, well, perhaps you've settled for free shipping.

Requiescat in Pace.