; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2022 ;

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Burial Plans

By coincidence we are on the last day of 2022, but I have to get real. Plans have to be made for disposal of the tea collection. For a few years now I’ve been comforted by the plan I had of a tea vendor to pick up my tea etc in the event of my demise. Offer my son a few dollars, he will be glad to be rid of it all in one UHaul. 

But this is all starting to feel a bit personal hygiene. Nobody is going to want my lovingly tea stained puerh ware. Let’s face it, because that’s what it is. It’s akin to one’s underwear. Anyone who hoards, and I’m not saying that’s me, or you, but the fact is we don’t want anyone messing about in our tea…stuff. The idea of it is completely repellant. 

We all know the realistic advice is always to drink it down while you can, but really we are tea obese here. Drinking down is not possible, and for a sensible variety of reasons including, but not limited to: year of tea, current aging cycle, remediation of various storage conditions, the weather and one’s current physical capacity to consume different stages of the aging cycle. This is just the start. A person like this is as incapable as the relatives will be, the ones who come over to throw it all out. We either are or know someone deserving of support for the active stages of de-collecting.

Our friend blogger Wilson Lim wrote in his summary of tea world chatter Back to the Future, “ 2.  The profile of Chinese tea buyers in China - There are less younger tea drinkers. The younger generation prefer to drink coffee at fancy establishment like Starbucks or prefer to drink bubble tea instead.”

Well, fk ‘em those young ones. Some of those lucky ones could have inherited granddaddy and grandmaw’s tea, but guess what, the only way is to bury it with you. The sole completely hygienic way for the tea, and the specially stained tea ware, to go is in the grave with the rest of your ashes. 

So this is the burial option. I’d be fine really if my son dug a hole in the yard and saved the expense. Unless he can really sell it or get anything for it. The shovel is the cheapest option, and then I can leave behind a pile of ceramics in the dirt for the future generations to dig up and wonder about. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Pure Air Sanitorium, Bayfield

The back facade windows all faced Lake Superior.

One of the projects I always intended to get to in my life is doing something with a set of photos I took in high school. For more than 50 years, I have hauled around a set of film negatives that I took of Pure Air Sanitorium in Bayfield, Wisconsin. The building no longer exists, the moldering remains finally demolished in the early 1990s. I felt moved to get these photos posted after seeing only one or two photos online, even the one posted by the Wisconsin Historical Society is small and barely representative of the atmosphere of the building. 

This sanitorium was built in 1922 to house mainly Ojibwe Indians with tuberculosis, but was quickly expanded with an additional wing in 1923 to house war veterans with TB or other rehab issues. The building continued to house TB patients until it was closed in 1975. I first saw the building in 1976 or so. 

Bayfield sits on the shores of Lake Superior, with a ferry to Madeline Island, and the surrounding area populated by two Indian reservations. Mainly the small towns surrounding Lake Superior are tourist attractions and boating for people from Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Bad River Tribe keeps the wild rice beds around the Ashland area. 

My father purchased a boat about a half mile down the railroad tracks at Port Superior, a full service marina, with the intention of deep sea fishing on the lake. We spent some months there every year for nearly 20 years. My brother earned his captain's license which served him well, he recently did a decade-long stint on the Atlantic as a private deep sea fishing captain. My brother has a sixth sense for fish. 

Port Superior in the distance.
Below, what’s left of the sewage plant
after the demolition of the sanitorium.

While he was busy fishing with my father, I had time to run around with my step-sister and we both had boyfriends in the area, sort of. One of things we loved to do was walk up the railroad tracks to visit Pure Air Sanitorium, which was for sale for a number of years. The windows were often open to keep the building aired out, because the lakeside location meant the air was always damp. 

We were very much at that teen age where one is fascinated by creepy things like ghosts, vampires and haunted houses, and we were convinced the old San was absolutely haunted. Once inside an open window, we crept through the dark hallways and any old noise inside the building made us run away screaming. 

After getting into the basement windows, we noted the kitchen area in the basement was completely covered in green mold inches thick. We saw an ancient box of donuts that must have been purchased on the final work day. One donut no longer had any original organic matter left to it, it was entirely a donut-shaped ring of green mold. 

The X-ray room.

The next two floors up were bedrooms. During the active years, patients at the sanitorium were almost entirely confined to their rooms. The building had no dining room, because meals were taken on trays to the bedrooms. 

Patients were taken from their rooms to "air" outdoors, even in cold winter weather. In the early days of tuberculosis treatment, the population of people at the sanitorium either died in two years or less, or they got better and able to go home. Most met one of those two fates within 6 months of arriving. Very rarely were people there longer than two years. 

The San had a dentist office.
Not sure what this was.

In the late 1940s, the first antibiotic was developed that worked on some tuberculosis cases. Then a second antibiotic was added, which helped a few more cases. Finally in the late 1950s, a three-antibiotic regime was developed that became the standard today. The care of patients changed dramatically after that. People got cured to be sure, but also some people developed resistances to the antibiotics. 

The shortest course of treatment was still about six months, but now some patients lingered much longer. I found one testimonial online by a person who said her mother was in Pure Air for nearly 13 years, having a highly resistant case. I tried to find out if people were kept housed at Pure Air for other reasons, like mental illness, other behavioral problems or rehabilitation issues, or even racial issues, but I could not find any evidence of this. 

The room that had a pool table at one point.
Behind the curtains is a blocked window.

On the second floor, at opposite ends of the building were two larger group rooms. One was used as an occupational therapy room. I saw party supplies left from the last days the place was open, and Bingo tokens scattered. The opposite room was more of a recreational room and had a pool table which we messed around with, though most of the balls were missing. I tried to figure out what the little curtained "puppet stage" was used for. Behind the curtain was a window that opened. I think the little stage was used for church services, and the window was used to observe the patients and pass medicine or treats through without the staff coming into much contact with the patients in the room. This was probably the one area people met with their family, apart from their bedroom.

The lab.

The building also had a locked laboratory, except that the window was open in the lab which made it easy for us to sort of sneak in there. I took some photos of the sputum slides which were used to determine if a patient was responding to treatment and ready to leave. 

Because the building was so creepy, we didn't dare remove or touch anything apart from the pool table. We mostly sat around smoking cigarettes or pot. One regret I have is the tiny room with a medallion window, which was reached by a metal ladder and ran alongside the elevator shaft.

Medallion window.

Behind this window in a crawl space we found a cardboard box filled with mimeographed newsletters that were produced within the building for the patients. They contained things like messages and greetings between patients who were confined to their rooms. The messages lined up with old postcards we found in some of the bedrooms with messages like "Merry Christmas to you from Mary in room 209." I left the newsletters, but always regretted that I didn't simply remove them. What a treasure they would be now for the historical society. 

More stuff in the lab.

Another curious space was a junk pile outdoors in the woods just off the grounds. We found all kinds of things ranging from glass syringes to old bottles, tins and even religious items. Again nothing really that we wanted to have or keep, but just adding to the creepiness. 

One of the staff houses.

Also the grounds had two brick residences, one for nurses and another for doctors, used as offices and sleeping quarters for overnight. These also had a kitchen and living space, so the professional staff maintained themselves away from the contagious patients. We wandered through these as well, but they really contained nothing much. 

The drive-way view.

I visited the property year after year. The grounds had a sewage treatment system with operating sewage ponds, which served other properties in the area and has since been updated. This treatment system was of interest to my family as it served the Port Superior complex. So my father followed the fate of the sanitorium. He heard that an offer was made on the building by a local "cult," of sorts. One of the doctors in Washburn who stitched up my face after a fall belonged to the cult, it was said. The offer on the building was declined. With the mold and crumbling plaster walls, the entire place was not livable. It would have needed a full gut job down to the bricks. 

Creepy ivy covered door.
Probably held grounds-keeping 

The building finally got torn down in the early 1990s, I think. I visited it shortly before it was torn down. By then nearly all of the windows were broken. I took my photos in 1980 or 1981 before all that vandalism. With all the years we spent in the area, almost nowhere else is as familiar to my memory as the lake shore here, the forests, the damp. I still know when the smelt is running, and when the maple sap season begins. I am glad to know that the Ojibwe have reclaimed some of Madeline Island, which was once a place of governance by the tribes. I know how it feels to be there, I would love to see it all again, but the touristy nature of the entire area means you need reservations years in advance to even stay, and it's not cheap.  

If you want more information, you might find something at the Bayfield Heritage Association. I know they used to do live exhibits for the school children on the Sanitorium, but I am not sure if they still do those presentations. But they may have more photos or records. 

The window is just left open, oh if I could go back.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

2022 CSH Jiang Xin Sample Box

I just cannot say no to free tea. Nobody teaches a puerh tea lover this skill, and whatever about tea drinking is supposed to teach moderation, well this lesson has thus far escaped me. Really I am not planning to continue tea reviewing, but when CSH messaged me on Instagram asking if I want their new sample box, what I managed to type was "thank you for thinking of me." And left it at that. Next I got an email with a shipping number. 

CSH offered this sample box free to 500 people back in September. After reaching 500, the sample box was to sell another few hundred at around $5 and then increase to $9.99. Right now I see the price for it is marked down to $4.99 with the regular price at $35. But you can still get it for free if you are a new customer to Chen Sheng Hao by signing up for the newsletter. Got all that? 

The sample box is cute and comes with a complimentary cotton shopping bag, which can double as tea storage if you are running out of room on the sofa. The tea arrived in mid-October for me after the harvest shipping vacation passed. You get two puerh samples, raw and cooked, along with samples of black (red) tea. 

First I tried the black (red) which is 1-2g of tea in a pyramid style tea bag. They really need to up this by a gram, I did not feel I got much strength out of this to consider buying 100 tea bags for $100. The tea has the malty chocolate profile typical of Feng Qing area teas. If you need tea for the office where you cannot properly gongfu loose tea, this might be an option. But in purely terroir terms, Yunnan Sourcing offers the same origin tea for a fraction of the cost. It's just okay. 

The sample box contains yet another pyramid tea bag of raw puerh. I passed on this, the leaves looked rather finely chopped which may be fine for a tea bag. But I just cannot bring myself to try this. If anyone has done, feel free to drop a comment on it. Maybe I passed on something good, I don't know, but I binned it. 

Moving on, the star of the sample box is the 2022 Jiang Xin raw (kinda passing by the shou sample). I was not in the mood to like this after passing up the tea bag, but the tea is a decent one. The leaves are very green and this tea might be too much on the stomach for some. I didn't bother weighing the chunk and probably should have, but I assumed this would be a one and dump at first. 

The tea is listed as Bulang large leaf, but also as "mixed," or blended material. The blend may contain other years as my soup had something of an orange tone. The blend is obvious immediately with the first few brews, the hay-like Bulang large leaves mixed with what tasted and smelled like a more floral northern tea. The brew has a touch of smokiness, evidenced by the little pieces of blackened leaves (char) in the strainer, but it's just right and not too much. 

For those of you new to factory puerh, this tea is one of many series "editions," and should properly be understood as an edition. This means the factory has created a series that is likely to remain fairly consistent in the blend from year to year. Factories create many of these blends, and even more in the past 5 years. The "recipes" don't have numbers in the way the state factories had decades ago, like the 7542. This Jiang Xin, translated as "craftsmanship" is thus the Craftsmanship edition recipe, and the series seems to be new in 2021, so we have two years available to purchase. The 2022 retails for $249 for a 357g beeng. This compares to the higher end 2022 Lao Ban Zhang at over $900 a beeng, and thus the Craftsmanship edition is among the budget offerings, although the Zodiac series in the $50-75 range is the least expensive CSH tea. 

In the first 3 brews, the blend is very obvious. I can easily pick out the floral leaves. But the Bulang large leaves overpower the brew quickly. This tea is a bitter goalie kick to the face, especially as the tea cools, and I'm here for it. Reading the tea description, the tea is to have decent huigan (returning sweetness) and the tea made a real effort in my mouth. The bitterness is fully mouth coating and long lasting, pulling hard at my taste buds in the back of my mouth, but didn't quite convert. My cup had a lingering floral aroma that dispelled after three brews. 

As I said, I was not prepared to like this tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The tea lacks any of the subtlety of the more pricey Naka and LBZ teas. But it is a powerful tea nevertheless. I got a nice buzz in my face which might be the blood rush to my mouth to cope with the intense bitterness. Oh hell yeah. This is the type of tea I crave in early summer, a bitter strong punch of puerh. 

This tea illustrates why puerh tea is the king of green teas. It's why Chinese tea, Yunnan puerh in particular, is one of the world's most powerful natural things you can consume. I think of malt whiskey or chili peppers as comparisons in terms of strength. This tea makes coffee taste like brown water, and regular green tea taste like weak Kool Aid. Teas like this are why tea drinkers so often settle on puerh as their tea of choice. Really no tea compares with raw puerh, once you get into it. 

I forgot to take a photo of the brew.
It was orange/yellow, as usual. 

Looking at aging potential, we have the strong grade 8-ish Bulang leaves, and the blended leaves. Will the blended leaves age out or get overwhelmed over time by the Bulang tea, which really requires some heat and humidity to age. The difficulty with all these factory edition teas is figuring out which of them will turn into anything decent after 20 years, assuming the tea is well-cared for. And whether shelling out $249 for a decently bitter tea, albeit a blend, is a wise purchase or whether one should should go cheaper if bitterness is really all you want. 

I think if you live in a hot and humid climate which can really care for this tea, it's worthwhile to pick it up, maybe the 2021 since this 2022 year is considered a wetter year. The caveat here is we don't know what the blend is, and there may be some older tea blended in. 

Here is what I suggest. Pick up the sample box for $4.99. Get a taste of this now. If you are in puerh for the long haul, put the Jiang Xin series on your mental list and look out for it in 10 years. A well-stored version in the reseller market from places like Taiwan or Malaysia won't cost less, but decent storage on this tea even at $400 a beeng might be an excellent quarter-beeng split situation with friends. 

CSH seems to be paying close attention to tea chatter in the west. I think they are well aware that the market for the higher end is just not here in the west, and they are trying to promote the more budget side of their offerings. I continue to wish them success because we are fortunate they are marketing directly to us, offering loyalty points and sample boxes. Factory direct doesn't get more accessible than this. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Brewing Blind

The end of the line on this blog is closer now. I am not quite there yet, but I can see the end of Old Cwyn and her tea insanity. Nature, and probably poor nuture combined, are having their way with me slowly but surely. While I have no immediate plans to end our tea writing, we are getting to where plans must be made going forward. At the beginning of this blog, in the very first entry, I wrote that I planned to drink tea to my death, and I will do everything I can to accomplish this goal. But days are coming where I know I will be stuck and need to ease myself into sliding out of writing.

My health condition is stable, currently. However, I received a diagnosis of macular degeneration about a year ago. I mentioned this in the Prioress letter earlier this year on the blog, but I did not really explain much. I got this eye diagnosis a year ago, and I was told back then I have 5 years or so of eyesight, now it will be 4 years. There is no treatment other than to hope for the best.

I have noticed my central vision blurring for a few years already, especially during night driving. I also noticed I could no longer read lines on the television. Last year I managed to finish a video game 100% without being able to read any of the text on screen. Now I have a much larger TV and can read a bit again, but with my IPad I sometimes need to use the magnifying glass. It’s annoying because my main activity of enjoyment, along with tea, is reading. I stopped driving a car at night, and mostly I let others drive now even during the day.

Anyway, I have had one year to notice a bit more deterioration and grow accustomed to the idea of losing more of my sight. To be completely honest, I was told back in my 20s by my childhood optometrist that I would probably lose my sight in old age. I guess I had some markers he recognized. For most people who need glasses, eyesight tends to stabilize in a person’s 20s and 30s and mine never did. I needed a new prescription every year or so. Which is why I didn’t think anything untoward over my blurry vision these past few years, because in my life I always needed new glasses at any given time. But here we are.

After the bad news, the first thing I thought of was naturally my tea, because I probably love my tea more than my son and cats combined. Well, at least part of me does, the part I named Old Cwyn and gave this obsessively selfish pig voice so she could get it out.

I read someplace that when bad things happen in England, the “power grid people” can see the electricity spike as folks around the country simultaneously fire up electric tea kettles. I relate to that most endearing trait. So, of course of all the things to worry about, puerh is up there at #1 or damn close. I can get in an aide to help me shower, but who is out there to hire to check my puerh collection?

This is a real worry.. We have mold to watch for, insects and god only knows what else that can happen in puerh storage. Fortunately, my tea is lidded in crocks and various other places. Containers. Tea cups and tea pots. Okay a few other places and some is sitting out. Well, it is still a bit summer here, so I have things on the porch for the heat. Yeah, some fu bricks out there also. Dear god. I am mostly adept at smelling any problems in the tea, but soon enough I could be drinking small insects and not know it.

Even worse is the issue of how to brew tea if I am blind, or mostly blind. I cannot possibly rely on anybody else to know how to brew a puerh tea. Would you? Would your spouse even know how to brew your puerhs, much less find the one you want to drink when you ask them to look? I suppose one could write English on the wrappers, but I hesitate to add inks to my wrappers, that seems dodgy although I know people do it. I worry about ink and how it might bleed into the tea. Even if I label things so I can get somebody to find the tea I want, the issue of how to brew puerh is not something that just any fool can do.

There is a huge difference between someone who is blind from birth, or childhood, and someone who develops blindness later in life, in terms of getting around problems of how to do things. My eyesight has been lousy most of my life, so I got accustomed early on to functioning in my living space at night without lights on. I keep things in the same places for years on end so I can find stuff in the dark. But brewing puerh tea is another matter: we are dealing with boiling hot water, gongfu tea/water ratios, bitty teapots and tiny cups. I can use a mug instead of a cup. Some of you might say “just grandpa that shit” but no way. Shou okay, but I would rather give away all my sheng than spend my days drinking grandpa sheng. Forget that.

I thought that after a year of hearing this news I would figure out what to do about my tea, and about brewing blind, but I really don’t have any answers yet. Denial works for me most days, but I need to keep thinking ahead even if I don’t want to. I did some preliminary research into some possible brewing options. For example, here is a Braille infuser photo I found online.

Then we have Braille objects like this one.

My thoughts on these items were that I could buy them early, get accustomed to using them and I would be all set. I even found some potential amusements already.

But I have two problems here. One, none of these products in these photos are for purchase. They are prototypes available for sale and manufacture. To order something like this, you need to place an order for a minimum number of units. Think about how many units of tea kettles, brewing devices and such that a vendor purchases wholesale to sell. I cannot think of any tea vendor who has more than a handful of any brewing item to sell to anyone. A place like Walmart orders hundreds of electric kettles, but how many Braille items are needed in the general marketplace? Surely people need these devices, but the population of customers is so small that I don’t think Walmart would even consider the volume sufficient to order a Braille mug to sell.

Another problem, I don’t know Braille. My friend DW decided to help me on that, and he called up our friend Marty for me, a teacher recently retired from the Wisconsin School for the Blind.

“Marty says it’s not that easy,” DW phoned me back. “He said adults mostly are unable to learn Braille if you didn’t learn it when you were a kid.”

I know Braille books are out of the question anyway. Most libraries stock popular trash that even the large print collection has nothing I would want to read. Braille library books are probably worn down to the point that only a very skilled person could decipher the dots. Braille teapots just don’t seem practical for someone like me, even if I found one to buy and bought it early to learn the buttons while I can still see.

You know what would be so perfect? That damned Teforia tea machine that crapped out on me. 

The Teaforia had an app I ran on my IPad. I could voice-command that app to brew my shit. The Teforia had a double-walled brewing globe and double-walled carafe, no risk of burning myself on the water, nor the tea, and I had a mug that held all the tea from the carafe. I could easily fill the water basket at the sink and replace it onto the machine without needing any eyesight whatsoever. But then, the stupid sensor for the globe stopped sensing it was locked on. Even though the machine worked perfectly well I could no longer get it to start up with the sensor error because the stupid “smart” device lacked a basic ON button. 

Supposedly a new Teforia is in the works, but every time I check on when it will be released the date gets pushed back another six months. Probably supply chain issues and no financing. I have given up on it ever being released.

So here I am. After a full year mulling on these issues, I have no answers whatsoever as to how I will care for my puerh teas, and how I will choose one to brew except at random, and how I will brew them properly without burning myself. I have zero ideas and nobody to help me and I know I am too fussy about tea to ever accept that anybody can brew puerh to my perfect taste. Even I don’t always brew well. You know how it is, at any given time puerh tea goes through changes and whatever worked last time to brew the tea now needs brewing around.

I have a few non-tea-related posts of things I want to put up on this blog. They are mostly some old photos and a few Wisconsin historical things I fell into that I want to post someplace. I don’t have anywhere else suitable for them on the web to post, it’s not worth starting another blog for non-tea-related stuff. I apologize ahead for the non-tea content that may not interest anyone. But the end is not here yet, and I still have plenty more to write about concerning tea. The puerh tea scene certainly remains sufficiently insane to provide a never-ending trove of silly trips and tripes to get me started.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Before the Fall

The last day of September is here already, and in my part of the world autumn is arriving. We went from turning off the air conditioning earlier this week and turning on the heating the following day. No lazy days with the windows hanging open this year. I am more tired nowadays, getting hard to find the energy to sit down and write as the basics of daily living take more effort at my age. I have so many unfinished drafts. But I can appreciate the start of cooler days more as I slow down, especially the turnover of teas I reach for. Over the warm summer, greens and shengs clutter up my countertop. Between those I reached for coffee sometimes, and many days it was just too hot to drink any hot beverage. Instead I had a lot more water, sparkling water and diet cola. 

This summer I planned to brew up iced teas, but I gave up after a few tries. I have to admit once and for all I just do not like iced tea. I don't mind slurping up the remains a cold cup of a tea that starts out hot, but a finishing swig is not the same as a full tall glass of iced tea. I tried a big bottle of that unsweetened iced tea you can find at the grocery store, you know the one, it has a green label and green top on the bottle. It was so terrible I tossed half of it out. Mainly I wanted the container, thinking I would refill it with cold tea, and I still have the bottle. And I made an effort with my new Stanley French Press, doing some grandpa green sheng teas with it and pouring them over ice. Then the weather got too hot and with no A/C in my bedroom, I started out my day too warm to bother brewing hot tea and waiting for it for cool off, and ended the day still trying to cool off. 

So, with some relief I set aside my iced tea efforts now and turn to my darker teas. I need to get the Fu bricks off the porch. This week I pulled out my  2018 Arbor Red from white2tea, the last cake I have. After a year or more drinking Fu brick, I have not yet dipped back into my hongcha with any determination, and I have forgotten how good Arbor Red is. The tea is ridiculous in how long it brews. With 4g of tea, I can brew two steepings a day  poured into a mug and the leaves are still just opening up 5 days later. I am not a fan of the sweet and malty Yunnan gold style hongcha teas. I prefer something more astringent and savory that packs a punch of caffeine. 

Arbor Red leaves after 5 days

Arbor Red for me fits with my night owl self, it's a hefty snifter of tea energy. I don't wake up in the morning feeling perky like many people do. I feel like a sack of shit. I forced myself up in the morning back in the convent days, but ended up in the bathroom so many times just feeling nauseous for no reason other than the hour of the day seemed unholy to me. As a kid I used to think about all the executions at dawn in WW1, like Edith Cavell, that's the level of dark morning is for me. In the summer, early mornings are not so bad and I enjoy them more. But fall and winter, my body nopes out. I am the perfect night shift person, and took as many late shift and weekend shifts as I could in my clinical days. By 10:00 pm I feel stellar. Give me a heavy caffeinated beverage and I can rock out the night getting so much done. I thought I might turn around in old age, but instead I am just more of what I always was. My family hates it.

As hongcha teas go, Arbor Red is not a light floral tea, I like it for the robust astringency like chewing grape skins. It's an easy transition if you like English-style assams. If budget is a serious issue, I'd recommend looking at Yunnan Sourcing's Feng Qing hongs, or their purple leaf blacks. But Arbor Red is a better value than it seems with the initial outlay, simply because of the longevity of the leaves. I can get 5-6 days out of 4g of tea, with doing two steepings. So for me, a 200g disk lasts nearly 200 days. That brings my cost down to more like 25 cents a steeping. 

Day 6 on the same leaves, hardly see the bottom yet.

I really loved beautiful hong teas from places like Joseph Wesley (whatever happened to that vendor??), but the cost for those teas was around $10 or $20 for a small amount of tea that lasted maybe a few weeks at best. So while $85-95 initial cost for Arbor Red seems steep, it's a better value for the longevity than some of the gourmet red teas I have enjoyed in the past. 

So I re-upped on Arbor Red yesterday, and the mail can take 3 months if it does and I'm good for awhile. I need to dig out what I have left of aged Shui Xian pillows and the roasted oolongs I have been hoarding for years. Not to mention checking out the more aged puerh teas I own. I won't think about winter until it hits, but at least I have teas to look forward to trying again. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

2022 10th Anniversary and Liu Bao white2tea

No, I have not forgotten my blog. Still here with at least four blog posts in my head and a couple in actual draft. Here I have a few notes on teas held up because I just cannot find time lately to sit down for a decent tea session without any interruption. Mostly I am caffeine-on-the-go over the past month, grabbing a mug of something and trying to remember to drink it before it goes cold. Then I sit down and already the sun is gone for the day, and I am overtired, overheated and ready for bed. These are the usual excuses of a life that needs to slow down and get easier because I'm so ready for the shit to stop. 

This month I wanted to write about these two teas from white2tea's 2022 lineup. As usual for me these past few years, I try and buy a couple things from their new teas to support the shop and see what TwoDog is up to. I planned to buy the 10th Anniversary tea because I own the 5 year Anniversary beeng. TwoDog suggested the 2022 Liu Bao when I said I wanted something fresh to try. 

Mostly when you see Liu Bao for sale, the tea is aged already or has a head start either with pile fermentation or oxidized as pressed bricks. I really wanted the opportunity to try Liu Bao fresh, and un-pressed, so I can gauge its transformation over time. The leaf quality here is pristine. Most aged Liu Bao teas are broken leaves and dusty bits, so for me buying a fresh tea like this is worth the money. Liu Bao ages fairly quickly compared to puerh tea, and with proper humidity maintains itself for many years. But unlike factory Liu Bao, this tea has not undergone any pile aging or oxidation.

I drank this tea for over a week straight as my a.m. caffeine shot. It's not harsh like puerh, so I was fine with it on an empty stomach. The leaves are long which limits the amount I can pile into a brewing vessel. I used a gravity steeper and did 3 steepings per day, which means I got two mornings of tea out of each dose. The tea is reliable for a good six money steeps, which is fairly typical for Liu Bao.

This tea does not resemble puerh so much as a very fine green tea. It is lightly floral with a mild honey note, and very grassy which most green teas are. I find the sample well worth it for the experience of drinking Liu Bao fresh as I have wanted to for some time. I spent many years trying various incarnations of green tea processing and can finally add this to my experiences. If I were looking to age Liu Bao for myself, this is definitely the choice by far, although one advantage of factory Liu Bao is the handy storage basket which you can get from white2tea only if you buy a full 250g order. I'd much rather have this than broken dusty bits that most factory Liu Bao teas are. 

2022 10th Anniversary Beeng

I planned to buy this tea as my purchase for 2022, because I own the older anniversary beeng. I bought a full beeng plus a 25g sample too. Lately I have been doing this with teas I want to keep intact in the wrapper. I probably won't open the beeng any time soon, the point is to store it in Wisconsin and someday see how the tea does, he can have it back to compare with his storage in China. Hence the sample size to keep track of the tea without opening the beeng. I did the same with 72 Hours, tried the sample I had instead of opening the tea. As you all know, a loose beeng sheds tea in storage every time you shift things around.

This tea will only remain on offer for 2022, and then it will return to white2tea's storage. The older 5th Anniversary tea is now back on the catalog, but it is much more expensive, almost twice the price it once was. I have not opened the older tea, so I cannot compare it currently, but the two teas are not comparable. The 10th Anniversary tea contains a number of teas from 2017-2020, so not the same tea at all in the 5th Anniversary. I can imagine these anniversary teas are a memory lane trip for TwoDog of the teas he acquired during the intervening years. 

I brewed 6 grams of this tea in a porcelain gaiwan which started out as 7 grams and then I accidentally got a bit of wet cat food flung onto my tea. So I picked out about a gram to get rid of the cat food bit. 

The tea has the house floral-northern aroma many teas from white2tea have, and then a more pungent tomato vine note underneath. I did a very quick rinse of mostly clear liquid. The first steeping after that came out orange-yellow and then lightened up to a deep yellow on subsequent steepings. 

Hit with boiling water, the tea starts out very floral on the top note with a pungent, warm spicy core. I can definitely taste the different batches of tea in here. This tea is newly steamed and pressed after stored in bags for a few years. The orange color shows the oxidation on some of the older leaves in the mix. 

Subsequent steeps continue this dual note of floral fruity with a spicy base that is cooling on the throat and warm in the tummy. The blend is a good way to try a tea that has such a clear distinction between the notes. It's a strong tea, not a subtle creeper. Let the tea cool down to about 90-95C and it gets very bitter. So I feel the tea has something at the core that is maybe more 'banna-ish that will give substance after aging if the floral top notes fade. 

I noticed after steep 5 I needed to brew the tea longer than flash steeps. The tea leaves opened up quickly due to their recent steaming. I did three more brews going about a minute or so in the gaiwan. The tea still had a bit more, but the main notes now are the deeper spicy pepper ones and less of the floral/fruit. I feel like a good 10 steepings are reasonable to expect from the tea once a few years go by and the pressing sticks together more. Right now the pressing is just so recent the tea is giving more early on than it will down the road. 

The leaf examination yields some very firm leaves, a few buds but many larger leaves. I don't see any processing issues like reddened edges or char. The tea does not have off-odors at all. 

It's a good example of what white2tea offers all in one beeng with the contrast of teas. I'm not sure how this will gel together, but it will be interesting to see if it all melds in a different way over time, because right now the teas used in this blend are quite distinct. That makes it useful if you are hoping to learn more about detecting different notes in puerh teas, because the contrast is so obvious. At $98 for the 200g beeng I think it's a great choice if you are looking for a decent white2tea that is still coming in under $100. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Puerh Personalities

Recently I found myself reading along in the social blogger-sphere and somebody has the idea to consider the puerh hobby as a personality type. This is probably accurate and I am only glad to be part of such a club, even if I am the last to be picked for dodgeball. Only problem is, the concept as a whole needs some fleshing out in subtypes. I am happy to do that today, now that I am at least nine cups in, I may have lost count. Anyway, here goes:


These puerh people only buy special editions and socially desirable long-sold-out teas. Their tea is all about the wrapper. They own shrink wrap machines to preserve a beeng all costs. Aging is mostly a secondary concern and not as important as visual integrity. 

Pretty on the shelf is as pretty does in my book. But hey, a market for everyone, right? Somebody has to buy the limited-edition teas, even when the tea is exactly the same as every other production the factory puts out. 

I also include the wrapper buyers in the western vendor scene. In this latter case price-and-pretty wins all day long, no matter the tea. Very likely the person doesn't know much about the actual tea. Like I said, something for everyone. We cannot be too harsh knowing that their tea is bug-bite-free, mint condition; the pets get nowhere near the goods. They care....and it, well, shows. In fact, this person is the best type to buy tea from secondhand, and maybe the most willing to entertain a sale.

Brick Bitch 

Pry my 7581 out of my cold, dead hands. The most straightforward group, and you gotta respect the simplicity of nothing more to say. 

Water Sportsters 

Get a whiff of this one.

These folks drink wet-stored on purpose. 

(On behalf of this group I reject the term Hong Kong storage, under the reasoning that we have puerh people in Hong Kong storing in situations ranging from the basement to the penthouse and every floor in between.) 

Here is the extreme where if it isn’t wet enough, just add more, maybe with an installed humidity system. Close to compost is how these guys like it. Wrappers are immaterial and unrecognizable, the more bug bites, tea-and-water stains the better. They store their tongs in a box. Never rotated. Critters welcomed. On the plus side, you don’t need a puerh knife but a dust pan is very handy.

Tong Johns 

These are people who think a beeng is only a sample and complain about the Stamp Collectors. Their theory is you don’t know the tea until you drink the whole tong. Don’t ask them what they think about this year’s puerh. They have no idea because they are still drinking 2006, and 2007 is up next. I was gonna say still drinking the last century but I really doubt this group owns any last century. If they did they wouldn’t be drinking it, because at this point they only have one left. Mid-age drinkers all the way, purchased in bulk tong, factory-direct or bargain shopping. On the plus side, they are not tea snobs if you hate that sort of person. Happy drinking!

Stamp Collectors

Contrary to popular belief, these are not the people who buy one of everything. Let’s be real, no puerh personality is truly tong-less. These are the nerd collector people who buy puerh books and catalogs to obsess over. They pore over the catalog details with a magnifying glass to convince themselves that anything in their collection older than, say, the 2011 Dayi Gold they probably own is the Real Deal, and not a fake. It’s like the crypto folks who say "hold forever!" but they check the market obsessively anyway and chain-email auction catalog links. Although they are not selling, you could probably befriend one and weasel a sample, if you can garner their curiosity over your own ambiguous tea.

Boo-teeks (boutiques)

The perfect puerh club member willing to buy sight unseen whatever their vendor of choice manages to acquire. Ultimate puerh snob unwilling to drink whatever the riff-raff are quaffing. They won’t be bringing a factory drinker to a tea gathering unless they plan to foist it off in trade, and probably not in tea. If you want a taste of what they got, bring along a stinky cheese or a bottle of maple syrup, wine is just insulting although a single-malt peaty barrel-aged whiskey might be acceptable. 

The Crazies

The true hoarders. These are people who own tea instead of guns. They cosplay at tea gatherings, and spend hours perfecting their rituals. They buy tea when under stress and comment incoherently on social media after having a few, and maybe write tea blogs. They probably have an ex living in China. The house is a fire trap. I think they own cats although they probably resent the expense that could be more comfortably spent on teapot #175. Expect to move the tea before sitting down, assuming you get let in at all. The relatives gave up long ago and it's now down to fire code inspections to determine how long they keep going. 

Happily, I am likely in this group and I prefer my vendors are too. Assuming a vendor in this group can actually bring themselves to sell. 


These are the folks in happy thermos-ing mode, drop in some tea and add hot water. No need to rinse, just add more water as needed. Grandpas are not up for gongfu, might be too much for the stomach and anyway, who are you to tell them how to brew their tea? They have unwashed tea-stained cups to prove their longevity. Also, they have no interest in discussing puerh, or trying new editions. Any talk of the puerh scene yields a befuddled look that is not from the tea they are drinking. It's just that they have no knowledge of any puerh past maybe 2007. Ask them what they are drinking and they are not sure. At this point they no longer know what they have, nor what they paid, nor how long they have owned it. 

The Students

Original woodcut by Leland Struebig
defaced in a safe, non-binary manner
by the author.

We always make room for our scholastic friends trying to get a degree done, and who have puerh on the brain with not much money to support their obsession. Every year I get a few emails from broke students looking for leftover samples. You gotta adore the youthful idealism, "where can I get a tea from my birthday year?" And "how can I get some 1960s puerh?" It’s so endearing how they get offended when you suggest a sensible shou.


Hopefully this post covers almost everyone. In fact, I venture to add that if you are not in any of these personality types, you really are not a puerh person. You, my friend, are a taster, a wanna-be, and do run along back to your assam tea bags. Come back someday when you fit in more.