; Cwyn's Death By Tea: August 2014 ;

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.

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Out Law of Bad Tea

Lately I've been feeling a little cheated.

I drink so darn much good Puerh tea. Did you read about the previous two cakes in my blog? Outstanding. How on earth did I find those cakes? Easily. Using a computer, I went to a website and clicked Add to Cart. Then I hit a Button called Checkout. Two weeks later, the order arrived at my door, with samples of MORE great tea, and even a cute little note. How swell is that?

So where is all the Bad Tea everyone talks about? Everything I drink is awesome. Blog posts, reviews, forums, emails, my Inbox is full of more great tea than I can possibly buy and drink before I pass on. Fabulous tea friends mail me boxes of their best. And yet other people's blogs are full of bad tea, complaining about how awful the tea is nowadays, too expensive, holding the porcelain after a particularly bad session, chewing aspirin for a tea headaches, ruined stomachs, bad kidneys, angry anti-tea spouses and dead cats.

To make things worse, all the Bad Tea is completely unobtainable. Although I've had things easy acquiring all the wonderful teas I now possess, it's been hell trying to track down the really bad cakes. Every time someone writes about a Bad Cake, a Fake Cake, a completely Undrinkable Cake, it is always sold out. What's up with that? Or it's a cake somebody found in a dirty, smelly tea cafe in the impossible and unknown reaches of China. In other words, someplace I can't get to.

Where is all the poop tea? Or how about bug tea? Always at some tea convention I can't possibly attend. Someone just wrote about Chinese rat poison cigarettes. Where is this stuff when I need it? Can't all the Good Tea just go away for 5 minutes, so I can get my hands on a really offensive puerh before it sells out or before I'm dead! Seriously I'm going broke on good tea, there is so much of it, but the Bad Cake just continues to elude me.

Finally, to top it all off, nobody can help me. Scott, Twodog, Garret, Arthur and the rest all have great tea. Tea forums? Well, Allan is occupied with shipping issues. Mrmopar, alas dear fellow, has a funeral to go to. His cat Chairman Meow who helpfully handpicks teas has been particularly sleepy of late, and shipping a cat to my location is a problem. My new friend Y had her credit card hacked on a tea site. Tea Fairy is in the celestial stratosphere of heavenly tea. The Oolong Owls are occupied, perching upon packet after packet of Korean Sejak...I say, these good people are busy. I could ask James at teadb.org, but he has spent months suggesting the best possible teas for me; 'twould be lacking in grace now to ask for advice about godawful bad tea.

Unfortunately, I must blaze my own trail to find a particularly horrible tea. EBay seems like an obvious slam dunk to find a Bad Cake. First, I need to find the most sleazy-sounding seller I can. Luckily I find the scratch I need in the seller "streetshop88" at his store called "Goshopstreet." Hell yeah. Next, I need to find the worst possible tea cake name.

All of a sudden...I Saw Him Standing There.

Immediately I was swayed by the superficial exterior good looks of his wrapper. I swooned at the perfect pattern of his teaHarmony profile. More than 10 of him available too! Other alluring attributes:

Overlord: Finally, a teaking who is a Real Man. Go away young buds. He'll give me what I need.

400 grams for $36.98. He's sooo big and costs so little.

Drunk: Needs no convincing.

Aged Tree: Lie to me. I promise I'll believe...

2011 and Raw: Spank me good young thang.

Organic: Uh huh. Sure. Whatever.

Free Shipping: Sold.

Can he live up to the hype, all this build up? Oh I can't wait to find out.
Velvet Pillows and Oils are always a good idea
 Time to undress, the sticker is all pretentious but doesn't take much to remove it.
I'm attracted to knives made with Stag Horn and Curly Birch
Double wrapped with white boxers, so modest, what is he packing?

So Shy
Or, more to the point, where is he really from? Tiepai me up, tiepai me down. Who is taking more liberties with the language now, me or that wrapper?
To be or not to be, that is the question.
Loose compression, almost a full session's worth has broken off the sides, I use my fingers to massage a little more off the edge.
Buck nekkid
The wrapper has 2008 on it, maocha pressed in early 2012? But I don't believe what I see on the exterior, it's what's on the inside that counts. This looks hardly aged at all. Plus he's loose; he'll go fast so I better be ready. I think I want him in my pot and not in my gaiwan.

8 grams in my overly large Yixing pot. The cup is 125 ml to the top, so between 100-125 ml is fairly normal for me with this teapot. First cup looks smoky and orange, giving credence to the wrapper that this is stored maocha.
Give it to me
One rinse, I brace myself for bitter, smoky and over the top. Lately I've mostly gone in for older ones put up wet, am suddenly feeling a bit gun shy. Age and treachery always win out over youth and vigor, and I'm the aged one so bottoms up, old gal. Surprisingly not too bitter. A bit of buzz on the tongue. Second steep much more bitter. Smokiness confirmed, but not terribly overpowering. Got the leather going now. A bit of astringency but not tooth drying.

Six steeps in and the smokiness is gone now and the liquor turns more yellow. He's fairly full in the mouth and he tastes a bit citrusy. Ten steeps and my water is getting cool. He wants to quit before I do. Might let him rest a few hours, and then wake him up again with boiling water to find out what else he has in him. Anything more to this mix of chop, a few leaves and buds?
Live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory
Those early cups remind me of my 2005 Menghai tuos. I own a 2008 Menghai tuo I bought from chawangshop, and could do a direct comparison. But even without doing that, based on my 2005 Menghai, the loose compression of this maocha won't hold up as long as the tightly wound tuos shaped young. My Menghai tuos leave me completely tea drunk and draped over the bar with my tongue hanging out. Right now I'm satisfied but not sated. A few more years of age on this loose plantation guy will improve him a little if he quits smoking, but I expect he'll fade out early.

Wait. This really isn't the truly Bad Cake I was searching for. I paid what, $36 and change? Seriously, I can do worse for a one-nighter with a guy who is or isn't what he says he is. And I can do better, and feel more grateful on my next date with a real Menghai man.

Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Giant Steps 2012, or Do you have a Plan for Your Stash?

Giant Steps 2012 by White2Tea
Just like Last Thoughts 2014, White2Tea's Giant Steps 2012 cake is part of my overall "Death by Tea" plan. I also chose it for the wrapper. For a very good reason.

Not long ago, MarshalN wrote "Drink Your Tea Now" on 4 April 2014, after he was asked to evaluate a man's stash for estate purposes (scroll down his blog to see Part 1 first).  Turns out the dead dude left a rather sizable number of puerh cakes, many of which had never even been cracked open. MarshalN took time to reflect upon the care with which the collector had gathered and stored all this tea that the recently departed fellow never tasted. This dead guy blog posting put me on pause. Time to face facts. For unless I want to become this dude, leaving a tea closet full of cakes I've never tasted to relatives who know nothing about tea, then I need a plan.

First Plank of the Plan: anyone looking at my stash after my official demise will know right now, with absolute certainty, that I will be gazing upon you in full-on tea jones and you will be haunted from the grave if you toss my tea. Yes, I plan to rise on the last day, and when I do I will first have lunch at Wisconsin River Meats, and then I will be looking for my stash. Count on it.

Second Plank of the Plan: don't buy any tea for the purposes of aging. Everything must be drinkable now. With the one exception of Giant Steps. Well, and possibly Amerykah 2014, but that's another story. For I will be drinking up my stash until it kills me.

Third Plank of the Plan: get an insurance policy. In the event of leftover tea, make sure those who will be getting their hands on my stash have reason to to keep it. This is wise advice, because anything stashed away in America with paper wrappings covered in Chinese kanji brings images to mind of Walmart and BPA plastics. Any Badger of good moral character who gets whiff of my stash is likely to don a hazmat suit and order a dumpster immediately. Are you thinking "this will never be my situation?" If you haven't read MarshalN's post by now, go read it.

In my case, the insurance policy involves currently unemployed Dear Son, posted on my last entry behind his computer. He is an only child, and unless he goes first then he will be the one to deal with my tea stash. How am I to make sure he doesn't just toss the whole lot? This is when Giant Steps becomes brilliant. Giant Steps has a wrapper that is covered with Saxophones. Dear Son doesn't play a saxophone, but he does play a Bassoon. That would be one of these:

Bassoon, at art.philipmartin.info
He even plays one that looks like bathroom plumbing.

Contrabassoon, photo by wikimedia.org
A saxophone and bassoon have one thing in common: they both require reed cane taken from a plant that looks like bamboo.
Arundo Donax, source wikipedia.org
Now, dear Son is a professional bassoonist and loves his Arundo Donax. Surely if he sees a tea cake with a reed cane instrument on it, he will keep at least that ONE cake and possibly think twice or thrice about the rest of the stash. I also have another idea in mind. Reed cane can be purchased in tubes.

Bassoon Tube Cane by gonzalezreeds.com
Do these remind you puerh drinkers of anything? How about tea stored in bamboo...

Ripe shoo in bamboo, photo by internetove-stranky.com
Now if I can get my hands on some tube reed cane, and stuff some loose mao cha therein, surely this along with Giant Steps is a sufficient insurance policy.

Only one caveat remains, and that is having to keep this cake intact. I cannot drink it. Except maybe a teensy, weensy lil sip is righteous, a way to taste myself into the afterlife, similar to Last Thoughts. It's a young tea. Here goes hurtling into the abyss.

Giant Steps in mummy wrapping, carefully now...
5 grams into the gaiwan, a bit less than half my 125 ml tea cup, so maybe 60 ml water. After all I'm just doing a tasting, not a full on tea drunk.
Tea 'Gator gets him some Arundo Donax reed cane
I get a little of that apricot smell and taste on the first steep, but the liquor is yellow and lemony. Subsequent steeps bring on the light lemon citrus. I've given up straining White2Teas, you won't find much char worth measuring and hence very little smoke. Gotta go elsewhere for that. Tongue-numbing buzz to the tea. This stuff would be good before visiting the dentist.

Fourth Steep, Giant Steps 2012 by White2Tea
Didn't do too great a job prying off leaves, the cake isn't terribly compressed and a lot of sticks got into my cup, along with the buds.
Cake is described by White2Tea as a blend.
The leaves want to stay on the cake. As they should.

Requiescat in Pace.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

First, and Last Thoughts

This is an epitaph. You are reading the last blog of a tea-head. For I am in the last stages, and I intend to die by tea.

Most drinkers of aged tea write about the complexity involved in choosing puerh tea to keep for the long haul. I don't have that kind of time. All of my tea will either outlive me or I will have drunk it all up. As such, I have an agenda, and this agenda is not to educate people about tea, or about teaware, puerh, Yunnan, or anything else. Other people are doing these things, and rather well, and so the legacy from those before me is that I get to buy and drink the best possible tea.

And I need to hurry. The medication list for my chronic health conditions is getting longer by the year. I am aging faster than my tea. Almost done for. What would you drink, if you know the sum and total of your remaining days? Most appropriately, here is "Last Thoughts" 2014 by White2Tea.

Last Thoughts 2014, by White2Tea
 Now, if you know this cake, you also know what it costs. An absurd sum of $435.50. This alone has the vast majority of tea bloggers choking on their 7542. With good reason. Most people I know have other things to spend money on. Such as children.

One blogger I enjoy reading is Hobbes the Half-Dipper, especially because of the wistful photos of his young children, taken from behind them, as if already yearning for that delicate toddlerhood slipping so quickly away. In fact, I tend to remember the photos of his children better than the actual teas he writes about. Saving money for one's children is a righteous act.

But let me tell you where it all eventually goes. Child grows, goes to college, graduates from college and you get this:
Dear Son
That's right. Unemployed college graduate child sits in front of computer all night long. Sleeps all day.

What else in life can I check off my list? PhD, checked. Long and interesting career, checked. Nice house, checked. Designer clothes that no longer fit, checked. Absurd number of years spent in celibate monasteries, checked. Equally absurd number of years spent in non-celibate bedrooms, checked. Travels to exotic destinations, checked. Famous on the stage? Done that. Art shows? Yep. Play stringed instrument in orchestra? Check that, married the cellist, birthed a bassoonist together, and cellist now plays elsewhere. Oh, and advanced math too? Love it. Kanji? Bring it on, am learning.

Last Thoughts is a purchase of a life well lived. Yes, it's a concept, not a cake, but White2Tea promises in few words that this cake will be worth my bucket list. Smells nice enough, hate to break it up, but I go look again at photo of Dear Son Above and hell yes I crack into it.
Autopsy Tool
Eight grams into a gaiwan, my cup serveth 125 ml at tip top, just slightly under that. Rinse, first steep clear. I am braced for bitterness but the first steep tastes light. I can smell the fruitiness of young puerh and am expecting the usual apricot in subsequent steeps, but I get two notes above that: white grapes. No smokiness whatsoever, have to remove my glasses to spy any specks of char in the strainer. Tea is very thick, you might be able to spy tea bubbles dried in little circles  on the sides of the gaiwan. The photo here shows the fourth steep.

Fourth Steep, Leaves barely unfurled.
Fifth steep. Dear Son manages to get out of bed in the middle of the afternoon to interrupt me with his Younger and far Wiser self. Forgot that 5th steep in the gaiwan, returned to find a thick, yellow and very bitter brew. Nice! Dug out some leaves at this point, they have barely begun to unfurl.

The whole of Life: buds, tiny leaves, grown-ups, old farts.
Later in the evening, I return to my gaiwan for more steeps. The leaves now are coming out of the top of the gaiwan and I need a toothpick to stir the lot up from the bottom. Bedtime and this tea is past 15 steeps and isn't done yet.

And neither am I.

When I bought this cake, I didn't know that TwoDog hails from my state of Wisconsin. Somehow that chokes me up when I think of it. Really means a lot that the cake behind my narrative is sourced by a fellow Badger. So much I have needed in my life comes from Wisconsin. If a month goes by I don't post here, I hope that someone will know to pin the Last Thoughts wrapper to my tombstone, along with the epitaph

She Steeped it Out.