; Cwyn's Death By Tea: February 2015 ;

Thursday, February 26, 2015

i Pet my Xiaguans in Bed

I have reached a new level of Low, and yes I'm going to tell you about it. Using one's blog for confessional purposes is indeed pithy and tacky, but I know for a fact that tea drunks have few other places to go. Everywhere else we must be serious and attend studiously to the noble features of an aged tea cake. You see, Old Cwyn understands the Dirty Side of tea, the activities nobody talks about. Like why sleeping in sweatpants is a good idea to keep out the scratchy tea crumbs. And how dribbling tea inside your shirt is inevitable and the best solution is buying new tea ware rather than taking the trouble to wash everything.

Turns out the bed is also the best place to sniff and pet my tea cakes. Keep in mind that a pile of beeng cha is not the only thing I'm rolling over. Normally I keep a tea tray full of various objects on the other side of the bed. Right now the tea tray I'm using is a Chantal in Pumpkin. On this tray I currently have: various lip balms, a cartridge fountain pen, various vitamin bottles, two cells phones, a weekly pill box, cotton, a USB cable, Fishermen's Friend mints, a box of wooden kitchen matches (don't ask), a jar of Albolene, rechargeable batteries, a Converse watch, an e-cigarette, and a small camel hair brush. The brush is the important thing because I use it to brush mold off my Tuos over the small wastepaper basket next to the bed. Currently I am brushing a 2013 Xiaguan Ji Si (gold ribbon tuo) that I'm aging in this tin cup along with some other no-name tiny beeng. My little aging process browned the tea, and started lifting apart the tuo causing her ribbon to fall out.

Tuo tin. Dunno what it says. Rather like the drawing, he's hot.
This evening I've been trying to research the year on this Xiaguan cake somebody sent me. Naturally the cake needs to be on the bed for this reason. So far I've found it on Ebay selling under the name of "Excellent Xiaguan" but with no year on it. Maybe it's a fake. Still, I want to drink it now after all this online research work. The wrapper has some bug bites. I'm hopeful those bites pre-date my mattress, but can't be bothered to verify. The Xiaguan has left a good pile of crumbs on the sheets which I pick up using a white handkerchief and shake into the can next to the bed.

I can't guess what this is. Red Crane fake something maybe.
All right, that's disgusting. YES YuCK. Nobody with a partner in the bed gets away with such behavior. Fortunately I don't have a partner to consider, although some sanity might creep into my tea habit if I did. Perhaps I could learn to leave my tuos in the crock where they belong instead of splayed all over the duvet. But I don't understand the need to sleep with anyone else. How do people go from sleeping alone as a child to all of a sudden needing an adult companion in bed? Maybe I don't want to know the answer to that. Even my cats aren't allowed to sleep on the bed. When you allow people or cats to sleep on your bed, they begin to assume control. They think we are in some sort of large snoring litter where we all lick each other and assume an entitlement to make demands. That's worse than a few crumbs of tea.

I'm sheepish enough, however, to know the nuns would be appalled at my behavior. Especially Sister Grace Clare who conducted impromptu inspections of our rooms and caught my bed unmade a few times. But she is dead now, and that limits the impact of her criticism to a mental chorus consisting of  other mostly dead nuns. The truth is I may not be far behind them on the road to the misty afterlife. However, I plan to out-live them all which means only a couple more years while blissfully brushing my beengs to the very end, because of another truth that I treasure far more:

When one has a tea habit, one has an excuse to ignore other hobbies normal people my age are supposed to have. For instance, I can sniff in superiority to the ladies who gym. Who has time for all the fuss of institutional exercise facilities when I'm busy at home rotating my beengs for optimal humidity distribution and air flow? I can ix-nay on the book club because my intelligence finds work cataloguing and translating characters while reading between the bug bites. I don't require the latest romance novel when I can nap and dream of Taiwan businessmen driving a Lexus with Lao Cha Tou bricks in their pants. And who needs to waste time wandering a farmer's market when I can already guess what they are selling, and instead check out what's new on Yunnan Sourcing, tasty things I've never, ever seen before? You see, tea is a serious hobby, far more engaging than getting together for an Avon party. Patting my cheeks with puerh works just as well as any of those trendy facial mists. In fact, I've been considering forgoing deodorant altogether and just slapping some wet tea where it counts if I simply must bother to go out. One of my friends said she might buy me a green tea deodorant, I just laughed, silly thing. Tea certainly confers innumerable exemptions and simplifies my life from activities other people take so seriously.

See? I've written an entire post already and didn't get around to discussing the Xiaguans, which is really what I intended to do here. Anyone can see I'm far too busy to interact with people out in the real world, what with all this tea around me, and plenty of tea drunks online to chat with. And then I have Dear Son nagging about supporting me on his part-time convenience store job, and I get distracted needing to tell him for the umpteenth time why taking a second job is really the best solution for him. Now, I must get all this tea off the bed for my nap. I will put Xiaguan on my calendar to discuss another day.

Requiescat in Pace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cwyn's Limited Pu Shirt

Cwyn's Not Quite Dead and Still Drinking Pu shirt.

Limited Edition t-shirt

I will have 30 XL and 20 L and that is IT!

(this is all I could talk Dear Son into paying for)

T-Shirts are here!

Logo on front, back is bare (err...plain)

I drew the picture with my own tea stained finger using Art Studio app on my IPad.


100% Cotton Hanes Tagless White, Oversized Fit.

Price: $35 + 10 shipping anywhere in the world = $45.

Shipping: You will get an email via Paypal with a package tracking number.

When the shirts are gone, they are gone.

Thanks so much for reading my blog, I will keep writing as long as I can.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Royal Doulton or Yixing?

When you get to my age, the world changes so fast I can't possibly keep up. I've got enough to worry about these days but lo and behold, the Rules of Tea have changed. The BBC has posted a shocking article called "Western Manners: The latest Chinese status symbol," which reports upscale Chinese workers are taking classes on western style Tea sessions. This article is posted on a page advertising other worrying articles like "Why do we have Pubic Hair?" Such placement mitigates the shock somewhat and suggests a certain skepticism, except we have photos that show what's really going on.

Not your gong fu anymore. Photo BBC
To save you the trouble of reading the whole article, the gist of it is that people in China now view certain western style habits as a status symbol. This includes tea, and learning how to brew and consume tea western style with the whole kit of English teapots, cups and saucers. In this way, people appear more cultured, apparently, and hope for more success in business. And they are willing to pay big time for this experience.

"Before, it was about owning a big car," said Hebbert [a white guy charging over $3000 for a couple of hours of teaching western tea sessions], "Now the rich are looking for something else to make the difference."

Photo BBC taken by a guy named Seatton...Seat on?
Not enough any more to just own the Louis Vuitton, it's about the spot on the floor where you choose to stash it during tea. So, before it was the Yixing teapot, and now it's Royal Doulton. Taking a look around, how many Chinese clay teapots do I have? Uh. I'm out of fingers and lose count. How many Royal Doultons with purple periwinkles? Zero. How many no-name cups and saucers? Zero. I comfort myself somewhat with the notion of "well, I'm an American and therefore can't possibly be expected to use cups and saucers," thus shoving the responsibility for Keeping Up Appearances onto my English neighbors across the lake. After all they started it.

But this doesn't address one huge potential problem of how much money the best vintage Yixing costs, and how much many of us may have paid, only to find out we'd have been better off hanging onto grandma's wedding set. And the picnic basket set with cloth napkins too, the kind that have to be starched and ironed. Does anyone even own an ironing board anymore? I do still have Irish linen tea napkins but the bother of ironing them has long gone by the wayside for me. I've found it's much easier to simply wipe my face on my sleeve. I figured I'd get along all right in China when I visit someday, what with my gong fu technique, expert schlurping, eagerness to belch aloud, and "you can't fool me that is not Qing dynasty" shopping finesse. NOW it turns out I can't even lean back in the chair anymore and pick my nose. No sir I have to sit straight up like a lady so my stocking tops don't show, losing any advantage at all I might have over the younger girls.

Next week I won't be able to find a tea set at the local charity shops. I might have to consider dumping my Yixing on EBay before the prices tank. And for sure I will have to cancel the trip to Hong Kong that wilson was hoping (or fearing) that I might join him for. Sorry wilson, I can send you some photos instead, yes ones of me but 30 years younger than I planned. Or maybe I could go after all and we could set up some kind of deal where I can get me $3000 per session teaching American style tea. Like how to put a tea bag in a 2 cup motel drip coffee maker and pour into styrofoam cups without spilling.

Honestly I don't know why I bother. The Year of the Goat might be the year when I will go back to teabags in the stained coffee mug. I just can't absorb any more new trends. My expiration date is coming up anyway, because Blogger just sent me this notice: "On March 23rd, Blogger will no longer allow certain sexually explicit content. Learn more here."

Requiescat in Pace.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Days of Gong Fu Standing

What is the tea that celebrates Loss?

I'm not sorry to turn over a new year. Even better, turning the year over twice: once with the western calendar and again with the Chinese calendar. The more I can turn over the past year then perhaps I can find some new hope going into the next. Last year has to go down as one of the most difficult of my life, following the horrible death of my mother, loss of friends, body going downhill, work drying up, droughts and polar vortices. Even my son commented on my constant bad luck, "you're cursed, Mom," he said.

So what is the tea that celebrates Loss?

I know this tea, what I drank last summer after Mom died, standing next to the stove raising the cup to my lips. Not even sitting down, back then I did my gong fu standing up, listening through the windows to my roommate yelling in the street. Some days are so awful that all I can do is relentlessly drink cup after cup, every night rinsing that tea table out, stacking the dishes neatly again for tomorrow. During the Days of Gong Fu Standing I drank longjing, silver buds, oolong, spring tips, gyokuro, sencha, hongcha, maocha, pingcha, beengcha, yancha, gushu, dashu, ujeon, sejak, jungjak, and shou.

At this point in my life, I'm not a person who needs an answer for the meaning of loss, pain or suffering. A tea name will suit. I don't believe that anything I might experience is part of some grand plan, or holds any redemptive value, or represents a kind of test of whether some God exists because I already carry the answers to those questions within my body, which is where I happened to find them. Well, maybe one redemptive aspect makes sense, only with regard to a singular note of empathy for a particular kind of person. The kind who doesn't have trouble with the big questions of life, but instead has trouble with the little ones. Such as when Sister Mary P. said, "You know, you write beautifully but your handwriting is atrocious." In a similar way, perhaps, I write comfortably about loss now and yet cannot find the name for a tea to suit. I can recognize how spoiled rotten I am, this much tea given to one who complains and not even about some sort of grandly important unique pain of historic proportions, but instead more like the wife sitting next the hospital bed of a husband wrapped in bandages and she notices "oh dear, I broke a nail."

What is the tea that celebrates Loss, when you think it can't get any worse but then you turn the silver mylar tea bag upside down into the gaiwan, shake it out, and realize, oh yes it can. Do you then drink what is most convenient, the next bag or sample in line of many more? Shall I reach for tea that matches the mood, and go for a dusty, dirty stick-filled tuo of wet stored shou? Or try to rise above myself with a pristine first flush darjeeling, have I wondered enough yet how they manage to get such a perfume from regular old tea leaves, and despite this miracle of drying and processing I actually don't like the tea which then makes me feel more dirty and rotten than drinking the truly rotten old shou. Perhaps I can convince myself I'm just lacking green vitamins in the dark of winter and dig out some other spring tea, a Laoshan green, or something left of last year's sencha. The only truth I know isn't in the tea, but in the ritual of drinking. Rinsing out the tea ware means more to me now than what's in the cup. Ignore me when I talk about my latest tea drunk because the wizard behind the curtain is nothing more than an old lady with a tea stained thumb and tea has no answers for me.

At least it tastes good.
 My now-gone mother thought tea held answers. When I was 15, she took me to a tea leaf reader. This wasn't so weird. Mom took me to a séance once, we watched a woman fall asleep sitting up and turn into a guy named "Alexander" who, in the end, couldn't answer questions on whether God really exists. You'd think if a guy is truly dead, then he'd have something to say on that topic. By contrast, Rose the Tea Leaf reader was the grandmother of a family friend, with more than a little Russian in her. She handed us a regular tea mug filled with small bits of black tea and instructed us to drink around the cup. As the tea got close to empty, the tea leaves stuck to the sides of the mug. When the tea was gone, she "read" my future by looking at patterns in the leaves. Somehow in the bits of twig and leaf she decided the tea told her I would be a doctor and have a good marriage. I realized my mother had probably given her a few hints on what to say, since I was in my then-phase of wanting to be a Quincy, MD nun when I grew up and to dissect dead bodies for a living. Thinking that Mom had tipped off the tea leaf lady, I asked impertinent superstitious questions like why Dad always sneezes seven times. She answered "asthma" but not from the tea. Rose's one insightful answer came from her own real-life  observation. I could only feel glad at least my own mom wasn't trying to find patterns in swirls of her instant lemon Nes-tea floating down along the ice cubes.

What is the tea that celebrates loss, when tea leaves say nothing? I suppose this is why my tea blog is mostly about fluff and nonsense, instead of a site about meditation and conscious change and all that. To me, tea leaves tell me about aging and storage. Quite honestly, if I wanted to create an existential blog then I'd write one about Sauerkraut because at least I can wax on the wonders of the bowel and skip the drain cleaner posts. Humor and math do more to set me right in the Days of Gong Fu Standing than desperately trying to find more meaning in tea.

For me the start of a Year of the Goat is double vision. For my son is a double Goat, he is both the year of the Goat and the Capricorn goat of astrology. He and his father have the same birthday but a different year, and of course I take credit for that fine coincidence since I drank the castor oil and went through 43 hours of labor to achieve it. So his father is a Capricorn goat, my father is a Capricorn goat and my brother is a Year of the Goat baby as well. I'm surrounded by goats. Although a snake is no good for a goat, perhaps by holding on to a small goat's tail I can be carried by some sort of goaty momentum into this new year and another cuppa tea. For now though, actually I would love to sit down.

Requiescat in Pace

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Excuses of a Tea Drunk

 It's not too early for one.

Dinner can wait.

I can let them cry a little longer.

You told me I should try and get healthy.

Mother is almost done.

I just need a pit stop.

Well the old man drinks beer anyway.

If I don't buy this beeng now it will be gone.

The truth is I can drink and drive.

Should be getting my tax refund soon.

I didn't order that.

Daddy needs his quiet time.

Officer I'm telling you the truth.

I promised I won't shop but I can still swap.

It's a swap. From a friend.

They can't cut off the heat in the winter.

The kids can have some too.

I really should do laundry.

Fine you check the mail, then.

Yah, I know but this tea lasts for days.

There are worse habits.

He left me for his own reasons.

I don't know how tea got in there.

If you wear socks the floor is not a problem.

You know not to touch Daddy's things.

It tastes good on salad.

Fine I won't open it.

It's spiritual, like Native Americans get tobacco.

We don't need so many dishes.

Could have pesticides but I rinse it first.

Tea, how thoughtful of you.

I'm just answering a t-mail.

white2tea's CNNP 1998 Liming
 The vendor sent it free I swear.

That's because each teapot has a different function.

Sorry. I am.

That dog food cost more than this tea.

At least it won't kill me.

The China Post will be closed for New Year.

Well your mom has Hummels but they just sit there and do nothing.

Two more should steep it out.

At our income the kids can get scholarships.

That tea helps me lose weight.

It's £3 a gram, that is.

Oh thanks, but I'll bring my own.

I'll be there in just a second.

Dinner's in the fridge you can heat it up.

Go on ahead I'll catch up.

It's not supposed to rain on Saturday.

Look I had a really bad day.

I'm working on drinking up samples.

This is why we have insurance.

Just think how much money we're saving.

Spring teas have to be pre-ordered.

That tea table is just for company.

I sent some to my sister.

The vendor said it wasn't a fake.

Tea does not run my life.

With a subscription the tea will arrive and I don't have to think about it.

I couldn't get good water there last time.

I'm just sniffing it.

You can blame the nuns.

My blood pressure is bad anyway.

I plan on finishing that.

For sure I will throw it out.

Some guys drive expensive cars.

You take the kids, I'll be in here for just a minute.

I thought I let that dog back in.

But the tea will get cold if it sits.

It's bamboo and it's there for a reason.

Tea won't make me fat.

I know you're not done but I have to wash dishes before tea.

Mum always said I was touched.

That teabag is not tea.

My tea was held up in customs.

The glaze is called Hagi. Yes, one of the kids made it.

I spend less on makeup than she does.

Unlike some I'm not on the phone all day.

That's just mold, I can brush it off for you.

It's guaranteed to make me horny.

I'll send it back if it doesn't.

If I buy now it will be worth a lot in 30 years.

We can always build special shelves.

I promise to vacuum tomorrow.

Normally I have caffeine at this time.

Just send me an email about it.

The 10% sale ends at midnight.

It sold out last time.

I do have other interests.

And you knew all this when you met me.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2009 Mengku Jade Dew: Better than it should be

2009 Mengku "Jade Dew"
Better than it should be...this is a cake I purchased from Mandala Tea and in fact, I own two. As you might know from my previous posts, I don't normally go looking for newer teas because I can't expect to survive long enough to age out a 20-30 year fermentation process. The year and base material of this cake didn't call out to me on their own merits, but the fact that this tea tastes as good as it does is a testament to Mandala Tea's excellent storage. These guys have the ultimate glass-enclosed, humidity and temperature controlled vault. By contrast I feel like I'm aging tea in garbage cans.

In my opinion, if a tea collector has really fine tea cakes and whole tongs, we need to stop buying tea and start saving for a decent storage facility worthy of the collection. I don't own amazing vintages, but many people out there do own some historic teas. While Cloud's cardboard box in the closet method might work in humid parts of Asia, the rest of the world needs storage solutions. Honestly, one doesn't need to own the great Red, Yellow and Blue Mark teas to invest in a decent facility, I think if you have a nice Dayi collection, you have an investment worth protecting unless you plan to drink it all up before you go.

Sigh...the issues with winter lighting just go on and on...
But let's consider for now that money isn't an object and look at what the serious storage vault will do for your tea, using this Mengku Jade Dew cake as an example. Now this is not an expensive tea cake. Although Mandala is currently sold out of this production, you can still find this cake online. In fact, I found the cake for a few dollars less on EBay. But then I can't say anything about the storage conditions for those examples. I paid $28 apiece for these cakes, and it seemed almost a crime to find them elsewhere online for only a dollar or two less given the investment that Mandala has made in their storage. I've seen a photo of Mandala's vault and tried to find it again online with no luck. Their vault is similar to what is used to store tobacco in cigar shops, more of a humidor glass and wood walk-in from what I remember seeing.

(Oddly enough a Google photo search brought up a half dozen of MY photos including my puerh fridge, perhaps the geography of my IP addy yielded results from our shared region of the country. In fact, this is one of the reasons I enjoy Mandala Tea, their location is a direct line on the postal route to my house, thus shipping takes 1 day. Instant gratification for this Midwest puerh hog.)

When I brew up 9 grams of this tea, I get every bit of the fresh top notes in the tea, that white grape champagne floral Yiwu type flavor of a new tea. In any other storage situation, this freshness would be completely faded, dried out and gone by now after 6 years. Either too much heat and humidity kills it, or dry and cold air kills it. Then I also taste bottom notes, perhaps there is some Menghai in the mix, or maybe not, but the orange in the cup is all about that aged wood whiskey cask flavor you find in Menghai tuos just a few years older. Then a little spicy finish going down. All this happening in an average blend beeng due to the storage. No way will you find this otherwise in an online market where our choices are for fresh teas of a year or two vintage, or older humid teas that taste like basement, or dry-stored teas with a green dusty undertaste.
We all tend to brew first steeps the same, insta-brew, which is why i show it.
This tea doesn't have the thickness of more expensive productions with better base material, such as White2tea's Last Thoughts thick syrup. You get what you pay for and spending more money will, of course, buy you finer base material. But we have buds in the cup with this $28 production...spring gushu for less than the cost of a new t-shirt. Let's take a look at the buds in the gaiwan and we can also see what else is going on with the aging.

The buds look nearly as fresh as a cake only a year or two old, but I am also seeing the browning, that orange tinge and how uniform this tinge appears across the tea. We don't have a few super dark pieces and then very light pieces in the mix, so I know this isn't huang pian mixed in for color. The cake is past its 5 year mark now with consistent aging throughout and yet no loss of that freshness, no humid forcing going on. The tea is not wrecked in any way. The quality it had at the start is retained, and that is the real testament to the storage more than anything else at this point. The west should have wrecked this cake but the storage is everything. Now this is not a super long steeping tea, maybe 9 steeps but again that is due to base material. Like I said, better than it should be.

This is only a $28 tea cake! How many teas do you have which deserve this much fine treatment? I can tell you that I own at least a half dozen fine cakes that SHOULD be treated this well, and my cakes are nothing compared to the teas I see online posted by their proud owners.

The Jade Dew gets more bitter as I brew onto steep 5. I don't expect this cake to fade any time soon even if I can't treat it nearly as well as Mandala's storage. But I'm getting to the point where if I choose to buy anything else from Mandala, I might see if I can get away with asking them to keep my purchase in the vault until summer when the hot weather will naturally enhance my tea long enough for me to work out yet more storage crocks for the winter.

Mandala Tea has been called the "darling of Steepster" which is both a compliment and a criticism. A compliment for Online Retailing 101: if you want to sell online, participating on relevant forums is a good idea to get awareness for your brand. The criticism comes when such techniques work well. People buy the products and review them, stacking the Steepster ratings with Mandala's Wild Monk cakes. I own a few of those cakes and haven't tasted them yet because they make such excellent gifts to people new to puerh, I end up giving them away.

But I think it's unfair to criticize a retailer for participating on a forum and benefitting because most tea retailers selling to US customers are doing the exact same thing. And Steepster folks are often more than happy to try a new tea vendor at least once. After this it is up to the vendor to keep that business flowing with excellent customer service, especially personal customer service because tea buyers like old Cwyn just love personal attention to our orders. I'll buy more from a vendor who responds promptly to emails and indulges my naughty banter. Crazy old ladies are notoriously annoying and if a tea vendor is willing to listen, why that old lady will be right back again soon. Very simple stuff.

So I ordered two of these cakes on speed dial and am glad I did because they are now sold out. I've got my eye on something else over there but if I buy it then I might ask them to hang onto it until the weather improves. I'm out of crocks over here.

Requiescat in Pace.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Still Crocking: The Puerh Report

Starting Photo from 25 January
Here is an update to the tea experiment I started back on 25 January. The tea is mouldering slowly along, much as olde Cwyn does, and I can safely say the tea is likely to overtake me at some point in the next month. The past week has been very interesting. After crocking up the wet tea on a Sunday, I left it alone until the next Wednesday.

Day 3

The rinsed and wet maocha appears to have absorbed as much of the water as it  possibly can. The tea has expanded and looks similar to the leaves I brewed two days ago. However, excess water has now drained to the bottom of the bowl and appears a cloudy yellow color, rather like yeasty beer. There is a light film of white mold along the top of the pile. I'm concerned about this excess water, it seems to be too much. Some leaves feel rather goo-ey. I don't want to end up with a rotting pile of goo. It's early days now, so I dump the excess water, wash out the crock bowl and rinse the tea one more time.

Day 4

Tea is still pretty wet but not as much mold as yesterday. I turn the tea and cover the bowl with a clean pillowcase to allow for some of the water to evaporate out.

Day 5

I turn the tea and notice that drying has occurred and some of the tea leaves along the bottom of the bowl are drier and sticking to the bowl. I don't want to break up the tea leaves too much. Some are starting to stick together in clumps, giving me visions of tea nuggets.

Instead of the pillowcase, I use the wood cover.

Day 6

Of course I'm feeling my way along here but today the tea feels kinda just right when I turn it. The wood lid kept more of the moisture in so the drier pieces that were sticking have been rehydrated, but the tea isn't drippy wet. I see just a little bit of frost on a leaf here and there. I know that mold is part of fermentation. Probably okay to see a little bit of it on top, and then it gets turned in.

The tea has receded in volume, it's not the normal looking rehydrated leaf I had on Day 3. I can see how a lot of tea is needed for this process because what's left here is probably going to end up less than 357g.

Am feeling like I need to add something, bits of an aged cake to serve as a kind of starter. Or perhaps just more tea to boost the flavor as well as the volume. The tea was rather on the light side anyway when I tasted it. Maybe I should break up something hefty like my New Amerykah 2, a very bitter cake I'll never live long enough to age out. But I suppose if I do that, my younger tea friends will complain that I should send them the cake instead. Or break up a smoky young Xiaguan tuo and throw that in there. But seems a bit sacrilegious to smoke up tender young gushu with pipe tobacco Xiaguan. I've got a tiepei 7542 I could toss in. Once done can't be undone though. As it stands now, I don't think the finished product, if drinkable, will carry much of a punch.

Old Cwyn will be the one tasting this rot. Perhaps I should stock up on antibiotics.

Day 7
Day 8

The weather has gone cold here, around -25C which means my iron radiators are blasting heat. The tea is really drying out now so I need to remove it and add water.

Day 10

Chinese squat toilets are brill. I'm thinking of installing one in the basement. Glen from Crimson Lotus Tea said his older mother had trouble getting back up from one of these, a problem old Cwyn is likely to have as well. Hence I've been envisioning a set of long leather straps and cuffs hanging down from one of the pipes. I think a squat toilet would increase the value of my home someday, expanding the potential pool of buyers. A family with a grandpa might move in here and see a familiar sight in the squat toilet. They will know the house is meant for them if they can get past the Feng Shui sloping hill in the backyard. Note to self: Make sure the squat toilet is installed facing the proper direction.

Day 11

Tea seems to have stabilized now. It's pliable and barely moist but not too wet. The color is kind of green/inky gray. The nuggets seem to be hanging together. In a 48 day fermentation this is almost 25% time elapsed.

I think I'm going to get less obvious change going on with the bowl off the radiator, but the radiators are just too hot. The weather is supposed to warm up this weekend closer to -5C outside, perhaps I can put the bowl back on the radiator when they aren't so hot. It needs a little heat but not too much. Of course in the summer time, the natural temperature would be just right. In the winter, however, I'm trying to duplicate conditions I just don't naturally have.

Day 11 in sunlight
Probably not the best idea to take a photo in natural sunlight, but I am trying to capture the color without flash which is more brown than it appears. But my photos lately are tinged with that bluish tone inherent in winter light, the sun is just still too much at an angle to get accurate daylight photos and the flash washes out the color.

Will report back more in a week or so.

Cwyn, Child of the Stone (ware)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun

Combine a long cold winter with an old lady and I get to feeling like hell. Each day I'm sleeping later and later, and while this can be good for an insomniac like me, my son is starting to notice. "I haven't seen YOU all day," he says. Hard to confess I've been dozing. He wants me to be the young and energetic mother he remembers from back before the Flood and thinks if I try harder it will happen. As usual, I look to tea to solve my problems because it usually does. The right tea mimics youth for about ninety minutes, just long enough so that the child might ignore me for the rest of the day.

To stimulate what's left in the old gal, I decide to break in a new tea pot. This is a Jian Shui teapot I bought some months ago from Crimson Lotus Tea.

Jian Shui for Crimson Lotus Tea
Specs are 100 ml, single hole, hand finished and river rock rubbed. Most tea drunks are perpetually on the hunt for perfect teapots and I bought this one for two reasons. One is the size, my favorite pot is my 60 ml high fired 1980s Yixing from Origin Tea, but I gotta admit it's a bit small for all but the most precious grams of highly aged puerh. I need two steeps to fit my clear 125 ml glass cups. I also love my Mandala Tea Yixing 150 ml cauldron pot, it's perfect really but a bit too large unless I'm sharing tea with someone else. Still, I use it to brew tea quite regularly but I must guess-fill it just over halfway. I figure this new 100 ml Jian Shui might be perfect.

The other reason I bought this teapot is a cuteness factor. It was made by a very young villager, 20-something guy I believe, and it is not master ware by any stretch. Doesn't have the usual aesthetics we look for, a knob matching the shape of the pot, for example. The lid hangs over just a bit. But the black clay reminds me a bit of Santa Clara pottery from the southwest. It has a cuteness about it, because if a teapot could be a little teddy bear, then this pot qualifies. That is as lame a reason to get a teapot as I can come up with. And because it is just so cute I've been unable to start using it. But like many things with an old lady, it's now or never.

The only marking is a clay tool indentation, hard to see.
 I don't own many cups. I love looking at cups in tea blogs and so on but can't seem to find any to buy. I broke my pink porcelain vintage cup and am now stuck with a lone plate. The clear cups you see in my blog are literally all I own aside from two espresso cups and a couple of travel set gaiwans that have their own cup. You've seen those too. It's not entirely a shopping issue, however. A teapot is a necessity, but cup buying starts to get into visions of large hutch cabinets full of old lady knick knackies that hardly ever get used and end up in the charity shop when she gets put in a home. Insofar as tea pots make me feel like a Real Tea Man who can compete with the Goodfellas, cups feel diminishing somehow. Cups feel knacky. Maybe it's a northern cultural thing. If you can't cut a beer can in half in a pinch, you're not really ice fishing.

Okay, so what tea shall I use to christen my new tea pot? Recently a tea vendor wrote me and said, "I want to ask you if you've tried a type of tea, old tea nuggets." Thought that was the perfect endearment for an old lady, and I floated along on that for a few weeks until...wait. Tea nuggets are lumps of tea forming in pile fermentation. Tea vendors have Their Ways but he didn't mean that way, silly me. No, I don't think I've tried old tea nuggets before, but looking around stashes recently mailed to me, a reader friend sent me some old tea nuggets and I'm just now noticing it.

Some old ladies prefer chocolate...
 So here we are with a fine chunk of 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun Ripe by Yunnan Sourcing. I googled it and found Hster wrote about it back in October. She describes it as one of the few brick teas she has actually finished. That is probably the strongest possible recommendation for a tea I've read in awhile. And here I have a lucky sample. I give it a 5 minute soak in cold water, and in the pot it goes. Three rinses.

When hit with boiling water, the aroma from the pot is that of porto port, by that I mean Portuguese tawny port, not the red grape kind most Americans find in liquor stores. I started drinking Portuguese port after playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in college, in the play "The Lion in Winter," a joke from the line "the royal boys are aging with the royal port" wine cellar scene. For some reason playing that part meant a lifetime of gifts of port from theatre people, I still get bought port when I go out for drinks with actors. Tawny port aged in wood is quite remarkable, and my tea here has the smell of tawny port.

First Steep
As the tea cools, the aroma and flavor changes a bit and I'm getting mushrooms cooked in butter on toast. I don't know what, if any, flavors or aromas my new pot is imparting onto the tea. Another happy factor about these old tea nuggets is I'm not getting overwhelming dry mouth. Three cups on, I'm a happy camper and mercifully my son has lost interest in me. My teapot recommends itself with a fast single-hole insta-pour and no drip. A better day all around. See, tea really does fix things.

Second steep, plus leaves.
Three days, and more than 10 cups later, this tea is nowhere near steeped out. Still doing flash steeping. My teapot pours like a young master toddler in toilet training and I must be quick to catch with my cup. The tea continues to smell like port, though some of the mushroom flavor slowly dissipates over several days. Trotting over to Yunnan Sourcing US site, I see the 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun is still available. $27 a 250g brick ain't cheap but it won't break the bank either. And the good news is, 90 left in stock! Err...89 now.

Requiescat in Pace.