; Cwyn's Death By Tea: she's got too much ;

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

she's got too much

Just a few weeks ago, one of my chronically homeless mentally ill friends came by the house to see if he could have my pumidor. As in the actual refrigerator that my pumidor is supposed to be. He had secured a place at a campground with electrical plug-in, at least temporarily. Instead of buying ice every day to keep food cold, he hoped he could borrow, well, keep my pumidor. Now I'd planned anyway to discontinue my pumidor and move all tea into crock storage. And I'd offered to give away the fridge before to any number of people, with no takers. Something about a fake wood grain plastic turns people off nowadays, which is just crazy. Who cares what a fridge looks like? Plus those stainless steel fridges everybody wants aren't really stainless steel. You can always tell by their fridge magnets, a real stainless steel won't take a magnet. In any case, I hauled my tea out of the little fridge and gave it to my friend.

So, I stuffed all my pumidor tea into a vintage 1970s orange plastic beauty cabinet, but I needed to get a crock solution quickly. Yesterday I drove off to the antique store with that same chronically mentally ill friend along to entertain and scare the crap out of the staff at the store so they might leave me alone to look around. Nothing more effective than an unwashed bipolar buddy talking non-stop about seeing famous people at the gas stations nearby to keep sales people busy while I'm scouting out the crocks. All he requires as a traveling companion is a Whopper Junior burger and a Pepsi, and permission to smoke in the car. For all his cognitive dissonance, my friend remembers more of our two-decade friendship than I do, and in the car we laughed over his retelling of anecdotes of drinking in rural parking lots, things I certainly don't remember anymore and if I did I wouldn't admit to it.

As often happens when shopping, the first eligible crock I saw in the store is the one I decided to purchase. This is a 10 gallon Red Wing, about 80-100 years old. The big plus is the dealer had a lid to fit it, though the lid could be purchased separately. I grabbed the lid and brought it around the store to see if I could find a less expensive crock that might fit the lid. But this first crock has a thickness that attracted me, the sides felt like stone walls.

Hello, lover.

Back in the days prior to widespread refrigeration, thick crocks like this served as long term food storage. Thicker crocks are slow to react to changes in temperature and humidity. So people stored lard (meat fat), and preserved fruits or hard vegetables like potatoes for the long winter. However, crocks sold today are primarily for fermentation, which is a short term process for most people. A batch of sauerkraut takes only a few weeks, so most of the crocks sold today are thinner. If you want to compare my old Red Wing 10 gallon crock, check out the current crocks made today by Red Wing. You can see how much thinner the walls are, about half as thick, and they don't even make the 10 gallon one anymore.

I paid $189 for the 10 gallon crock and lid, which costs less than the 5 gallon Red Wing crock of today ($248), but more than, say, Ohio Stoneware which still sells a 10 gallon for $109 at Ace Hardware. Ohio lids are another expense, however, ranging from $15-25 depending upon where you buy them. One can, of course, make a wooden lid which I had planned to do if I need one. Wood lids might be better in the summer anyway, but I can always remove the lid from this crock when I want to expose the tea to warmth and humidity. A smaller crock will fit beengcha perfectly. For example, a 5 gallon size crock fits 357g beengcha and will hold about 2 tongs of five cakes each. A one gallon crock fits 100g cakes, about 8-10 cakes depending upon thickness of the cakes.

The stains are a bit more grayish than my photo
At home, I washed out the crock with a light bleach and water solution, and scrubbed the exterior with Barkeeper's Friend. Inside, the crock has a few manufacturer's defects, some small cracks which don't go through the entire piece. Such defects are "factory seconds" for Red Wing, and the frugal farmerwife who bought this crock saved money buying a crock with a few flaws. This affects the collector value but didn't bother her with making sauerkraut, and likewise does not bother me for tea storage. Nevertheless, since the crock is starting out clean I decided to fill the cracks with JB Weld to keep them stable so that the glaze doesn't chip away. I don't want to cover up the cracks with repainting and enamel since they add character, like I would do when repairing a teapot.

So today I moved all my sheng that once occupied the pumidor into the crock. And filled the thing up to the top.

All filled up!

The tea I have stored in the crock doesn't count the experimental teas I have in other crocks. Like this.

Table of various experiments
And this.

Most of this is shou
Or this.

One shelf for tea, another for video games.
Or this.

Teapots and gaiwans hold samples for airing and consumption

Or this.

This is a breadpan full of samples I'm supposed to be drinking.
And then we have the guilty stash:

1970s record case full of...tea samples, shou cakes, etc. etc. etc.
Somewhere in the cupboard lurks...


Uh, and then we have samples all over the living room in various small crocks.

I'm not counting any of the heicha. Those bricks are located in various places around the house too. You don't want to see any of that I'm sure. And then we have teas in the refrigerator, the real cold refrigerator. Stuff like sencha.

As you can conclude, I don't have room in my new crock or anywhere else for any more sheng. I need another crock now. Good lord, how much tea does a person need? And realistically, will I really stop buying tea? A lot of bloggers don't buy much tea anymore, they just take samples and call it a day.

Fortunately, I've arranged for a tea vendor to pick up the lot after I pass and offer my son a reasonable amount of cash, because no way will he want to deal with disposing my tea. He certainly won't want to drink all of it. I take some comfort in excuses. As a normal rural mother with farm roots, my job is to hoard food and beverages for the coming economic depression, and provide comfort to the children by doing so.

In other words, I'm supposed to have crocks of food and canned goods in all available storage places in my home. I know farm women around here who pick or buy and can strawberries, rhubarb, pickles, maple syrup and sauerkraut every year whether they need to or not. Certainly my relatives did the same. And I have palpable childhood memories of ground up horseradish, sinks full of cooked beets ready to can, pickles, fish and peppers all over the house as a kid. Not to mention the pickled fish, ham hocks, and gallons of dried hard cheeses, venison and beef jerkies everywhere. In fact, I remember little else from childhood at this point aside from the constant food preservation.

The only evolution my family made in the past generation is that we stopped eating dandelions. Or at least I stopped eating them at some point and now my son mows them away with the mulching lawnmower. I stopped brewing plantain from the yard when the internet got invented and I could buy the lovely teas I have now. My cat still gets his catnip from the yard and so we keep a patch for him, though I no longer brew it for tea.

My "new" antique crock feels like old stone, and smells like an old stone wall. This is a crock that wants highly bitter tea, not the new sweet sheng meant for drinking right now. It wants old heicha and leaf that takes over and dominates the stone wall. Really bitter sheng will tell the sauerkraut stains what's what. Sounds like a good reason to order one more 2014 New Amerykah. If white2tea accepts SNAP, I'm in good shape for this year and the next Depression.

Requiescat in Pace

1 comment:

  1. Old as dirt with 10 lovely mizusashi just for the yancha. I may need your tea vendor's contact info.