; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2023 ;

Friday, December 29, 2023

Pu-erh Nation

original map by chinatouristmaps.com

A loose leaf tea fan eventually discovers puerh tea, this is inevitable. People who last past that first gongfu invariably start an online search to learn more about this type of tea, and eventually they fall headlong into the rabbit hole of the hobby. The rabbit holes are full of enthusiasts, elite gamers of paper wrapped camellia sinensis assamica x assamica discs, with the goal of sticking a landing, and placing a trophy into one’s personal home storage. We fill forums with shipping problems, brewing problems, lying asshole sellers, fomo, rumors and snotty hubris. 

Beyond the shopping is another warren of puerh-only groundhog trails, running through countries around the world for even more privately-held elite tea, in an unending cycle of spring harvests and shou piles. Heavily sated with buying, we turn to storage matters in another flurry of watering holes filled with members of our kind. We side-eye someone knowingly when they order tea in a shop and sigh over the choices. If you catch a sideways glance, then you just know, like a tap tap under a bathroom stall of mold, pubic hair, corn kernels and plastic ties. Takes a particular breed of tea-human willing to brush all that off and swallow it anyway, all the while complaining about the fungal hoarding stigma, wafting like a wad of wet tissue on the shoe of the tea social sphere, flopping behind us as we wet-knee walk. 

Yeah, we get it. We are insufferable to live with, in our houses full of broken refrigerators, coolers and crocks, with the crunch of tea leaves underfoot requiring one to wear slippers and pick up chunks larger than a dime. Our pets choose our tea, it’s lame, we know that. Complain about the stereotypes all you like. Sorta like Janet sings, so we are one Pu-erh Nation, irrespective of national boundaries, looking for a better way of tea life. In truth, all the tunnels of the earth lead back to Yunnan, because digging a hole to China is, in fact, a real thing. 

Blah, blah they always say, but we are in a golden age of Puerh tea. Because we are all still here, from the early internet pioneer tea writers and forum humpers, and the vendors too, gods bless us everyone. 

At the tip of the spear is our Hero, our very first hero, David Lee Hoffman, who is still defending his cave storage puerh hoard from the Evils of the local city and county governments trying to take his property, and demolish his incredible, fully self-sustaining and waste recycling home facility, including water recycling. He is the first of us to have a Wikipedia entry and a decade of press behind his struggle to prevent the hoard from the horde. I bet half of you never heard of him, and the other half doesn’t know he is still selling tea and has 8 pages of listings! Get over there to his website, support our Brother and try his storage, buy something from him, okay? He has plenty of old stuff in that list. (Don’t be a dick about it either, don’t ask about the stuff he isn’t selling, that is just rude.) Thoughts and prayers and dollars are better. 

We still have so many of the early vendors, apart from the great factories of course. Houde is still adding teas. I know that some like Scott at Yunnan Sourcing and probably Cloud would love to retire, but how do you retire from tea? No one has. People seem to make and sell tea until they drop. Give your favorite vendor some love instead of complaints for a change, put up some of their tea on your socials that you particularly like and help out so their families can rest a little. 

Still can buy here (official re-seller)

Our favorite factories and boutique purveyors are still around too, and more accessible than ever. I cannot complain when tea factories like Chen Sheng Hao open up in Canada and sell Lao Ban Zhang. I can order from stateside and overseas tea shops who are happy to ship. We don’t know if nations outside the Pu-erh Nation will survive which can change our situation at any moment, so I appreciate all that we have now.

A Liu Bao chocolate bar!
PLUS 50g bag white2tea laochatou,
oh, and the pretty cup, all here.

We know that once inside the Pu-erh Nation, there is no way out. Not if you expect to keep your tea intact. I have learned I cannot stop, not entirely. In this golden age, we still have all our writers with us, and our best forum chatters, and more camaraderie than ever before. We are making efforts amongst all of us to look up forums and articles in languages we don’t speak, to try and connect and use translation tools, because we have more respect for one another or we got more snobby or we got tossed out of home, or we want in on the group buys. Sing it, people.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


Lately I don't really have a tea drinking strategy. I start with a ragged impulse coming from my core of tea neediness, a craving of whatever puerh caffeine buzz I can get, stumbling to shelves, crocks and boxes to find something. A random sampling of teas, a bit of new tea, a wtf is this tea, or nope, I just drank that a week ago. Or something closer to desperation, because I am unraveling, or already cooked, taken apart, or she took me apart in a sentence, my provincial superior. Oh, yes, you can guess, and this relates to my Letters to the Prioress set of posts, the most recent one, for those curious. In the mists I am, and I lose track of time for days at a time, letting random thoughts flow until after dinner when I need that cuppa. 

Usually the need is partly specific. One day recently I really wanted a sheng for the ragged edges of my sanity, and I saw an envelope from my white2tea club boxes. Oh good, I will have this, it is a 2022 Lich Tears sample. I don't know anything about this tea nor why I have it. Club box? Something I ordered? I open the envelope, oops it's a shou, do I go back and start over with choosing a tea? Never mind, I will just drink it, who cares. Pulled out 9g off the chunks. 

The first three steepings after two rinses (young shou or dodgy shou I rinse twice) are a little cloudy. Okay, so the shou is not completely done, it's not totally fermented, and some bacteria has the upper hand currently. What is going on here, so I look up the tea on the website and just about fall over at the price. $225 for a 200g shou? Get outta town. 

A sheng price for shou, okay...so just in the interest of investigating the price tag I will drink through it, but this tea needs more time. Long time readers might remember my shou-making series of posts, as I have made two batches of shou now with only a little bit remaining of my first batch. 

I see on the listing that the fermentation effort here is meant to be a lighter fermentation with fresh leaves added at the end. By "lighter," I mean the tea is pulled from the pile fermentation a bit early with still some green left in the tea. The intent is to add more depth and dimension in flavor by natural aging the remaining green and hopefully get a more nuanced shou. As you know, a fully fermented shou is a bit one-dimensional, comforting as a beverage, but nothing to grab the attention.

Steep 3

So, the cloudiness is to be expected at this stage. My first batch of shou finished up much more cloudy than this, and completely cleared in two years. Fermentation is like a bit of a battle between types of bacteria and fungi. A lot of cloudiness means a bacteria has the upper hand in the fight at the moment, and perhaps bacteria you don't want is introduced when turning the pile or even present at the start in the maocha. My first three steepings with the cloudiness have a sour edge consistent with the microbe battle going on inside the leaves. 

Okay, so the tea clears up after steep three or so, and steeps three to six have some thickness to the brew, but still sour. Steeps 5 and 6 were fairly bitter. Once I start on steep 7, not much sour left and a sweet bit of cherry emerges. The tea tastes more like shou now, a little bit funky, not overboard though. For a light fermentation, this tea is on the edge of "okay to sell." And that mostly explains the price tag. I like the thickness of the liquor and where this tea is at. The caffeine level is okay, I did not get much of a qi sensation from the session, however. But that could be me and shou...

Steep 6, lookin good, hon

I think the price here is Paul not wanting to sell this really, except to people who know what they are getting with light fermentation. The tea will have stages to go through to get a fully fermented shou. Essentially, you are finishing the tea yourself through slower storage. But of course that is what we are doing with sheng, too. So, this isn't for the newbie tea customer. In fact, the newbie is going to howl with complaints over this level of unfinished ferment. The early cups will turn off a new person, but maybe intrigue someone with more experience. So, he is looking to avoid those newbs. Also, he clearly likes something about this tea, partly because he participated in watching and turning the tea over the few weeks it sat piled and covered. 

I got nine decent steepings, and the tenth I had to let the brewing go for several minutes just to get a good cup. I tried an eleventh, but it just was too light a cup, lightly colored water. I debated drinking the sample up completely, because I now have maybe two smaller sessions left in the bag. I guess given the price tag I need to be fair to the tea and store it another year and then see what I think of it. 

If I have to decide on whether to recommend the tea, I say keep on walking, son, if you are new. I can recommend a sample of it, and I am fairly sure Paul would prefer you just buy a sample. Anyone rather new to puerh looking to try a light fermentation shou, you can find these at less expensive prices like at Yunnan Sourcing or Chawangshop. In fact, comparing this one to a less expensive tea is a good way to judge for yourself. 

For my next session, I really needed that sheng, and some edema relief, so I decided to have a session of the 2016 Hekai from Chawangshop, because it really takes the edge off calcium channel blocker edema, and I have not had this tea at all this year. I keep this cake in its wrapper and then in a burlap beeng bag that Chawangshop included with an order. (Beeng bag being puerh nation code knock on the bathroom stall, recognize your fellow sheng addict from afar and salud to you, mate.)

This half-consumed beeng has darkened considerably since I last had it. I might have two others in storage someplace. You can still get it from Chawangshop for $48 for 200g, I think. Most of the darkening is oxidation, because I let this sit out in its beeng bag. I don't care how much it ages, or if it ages. The tea is medicinal for edema, as I have written before, and I didn't measure the grams, dump into the gaiwan.

The brew is much thicker than I remember and far sweeter. I liked this tea for the savory, almost umami flavor. I don't recall the tea as very sweet and floral like the first few cups are in this session. Maybe it was, but I don't think so? I mainly liked it because it doesn't have any cloying nonsense, straight up green veggie style puerh. The tea gets there finally, at about steep 5. Now I am getting the tomato vine acrid flavor, the smell of a juicy daisy stem after picking. Why do I like that better than the floral sweetness? I guess the tomato/daisy just tastes like summer, in a fall season of regrets. 

The tea still does me fine on the edema, I stop feeling swollen in my feet after three cups. The brew goes from light orange to progressively more dark yellow. I did about five steepings and stopped for the day. 

Tea got more yellow with brewing.
What you see is oxidation.

On the next night, the green leaves darkened with oxidation which is okay, but the damp leaves have a mushiness to them. I take out a leaf and rub it, turns to mush. I know it will be a little cloudy for having sat out overnight, as green as it still is. But also, the leaves just don't have that strength or quality that you pay big money for. The tea is not money tea. That's not what Chawangshop goes for. Their stated goal is decent tea at more the low to mid-range price tier, and that is exactly what you get. This Hekai has a unique effect on me, so it hits the sweet spot in body and wallet. But I am okay with getting three to six decent steepings and just dumping it out of the gaiwan. 

Still need that sheng itch scratched, and of course I know I have been away from the blog for awhile, so I decide to find another tea to write about, along with the Hekai, so something I have written about previously, as an update on the tea. I require a sheng that will get under all the inner tension, that stirs up the bottom of my stew pot, so to speak. That means a dirty tuocha is in order. 

The 2005 Menghai tuo from Yunnan Sourcing has appeared in my blog off and on, and sits atop other tuos in storage because I tend to reach for it over all my other tuos when I need bar stool tea to do me a nasty. Big chunk with a heavy duty puerh pick, full on-compression starting to loosen a little at 18 years of age. I bought it at 8-9 years old. (I really need to try those 2009 Jin Hao Feng Huang phoenix shou tuos and see if they are starting to resemble that excellent 2004 version I would kill small children for.)

Anyway, load up the gaiwan with a too-bigga hunka-chunka and let's go! Oh yes this is a smoky tea, I remember that, and has darkened a bit more with age. I frown to myself at the wastage of tea with a compressed tuo when you break a piece off it, lots of dust and bits.

At least 9 steepings in, big chonk still.

For storage notes-to-self, the tuo sits loose in its well-torn wrapper in a crock with other similar tuos. The lid on this small crock isn't quite flush, so I have at least a 2 mm gap on one side of the crock lid. Thus air and light getting in to cause the dark oxidation this tuo now has. Doesn't really bother me, but if I wanted to avoid that quality, then I need to eliminate that light getting in and maybe cover the whole crock with a dark towel. I can't really shuffle the positioning of the tuos in there because they barely all fit, although better now that I took more off the 05 Menghai. The resulting oxidation is also what you see in a tong, the top beeng in the stack will have oxidation on its upper surface, while the bottom beeng will show the same on its underside, compared to the beengs in the tong's middle. 

First three steepings are smoke and stick kindling wood, by steep 5 I really get that pipe tobacco juiciness,  that tobacco-from-humidor-storage wood smell. The tea hits its stride in steeps 7-10, this is the point where the pipe tobacco eases off just enough that other dimensions shine through, like aged wood barrel, smoked ham and the minerally smell of rain on asphalt. This is exactly the stage where the flavors blend into something that most resembles aged scotch whiskey, I am reminded why I like this tea and return to it again and again. Bar stool sheng. I get to steep 8 and I am pleasantly tea drunk, the stage where I can't stop, where if I drank booze I am gonna get in trouble. 

And yes, I am in trouble because I am doomcart scrolling Yunnan Sourcing after typing in 2005 Menghai to see what comes up. Lots of teas. Yunnan Sourcing surfing is like that girl you will be stuck with if you take her home from the bar, when you wake up to find your wallet is gone. Trouble and more trouble, don't do it, I click out. 

Yeah... my beloved tuo settling in now providing a boozy warmth. Doing what I need and reminding me why puerh is the pinnacle of tea, and puerh people are the ones who understand it even if we cannot always explain. If someone doesn't get it, we don't care. ;)

I am reminded of how many random variables puerh tea has. Randomness starts with the picking and selection of leaves, yes they are graded, but who knows what gets mixed in, tossed in, a little autumnal, different leaves brought in by a couple of pickers thrown in the blend, or maybe just to stretch to get a last tong done, with two beengs hardly resembling the others. Randomness in the sha qing, somebody glancing at their phone and the heat goes a little too long, but never mind let's press it anyway. Randomness in what wrapper got put on, something left over from the 90s, another tea entirely. Randomness in where and how the tea is stored from start to finish, the microbes from anywhere and everywhere, including in my house. Randomness in when I add moisture, and how much. Randomness in whatever I ate that day and burp up along with the tea fumes. 

We pick and analyze every aspect of our tea as we store it, trying to find variables that explain why someone has a really good tea, so we can replicate it, but we mostly cannot. Even if our storage is good, a gazillion decisions conscious and unconscious have happened already to the tea before we got hold of it. Someone got just the right amount of wood smoke in that 05 tuo, somehow. And every year is a new year with different tea on top of everything else, and none of us puerh people know everything that happens in the garden. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Okay okay

I am still here in the asylum of tea madness and increasingly disorganized. Some of you are emailing, thank you for checking in. Overall, things are okay with me, though I am suffering more and more with don’t-give-a-flyingfuck-itis, which a privilege of retirement. Not gonna lie though, I fell off the blog wagon, and everything else mostly, as two years nursing an elderly cat along with its accompanying sleep deprivation ground in day after day to the point where all I wanted was sleep. If you have had a cat with hyperthyroid disorder you know what it is, the animal is manic with hunger, never sleeps, and the more you try and feed it the more it comes out like water on the other end. 

I say the details are ugly, and I tried to convince the vet that the cat was beyond needing to be put out of its misery, but the kidney tests were still where the vet wouldn’t do it, so I paid him in tea and took the cat home, whereupon within a fortnight the cat took matters into his own hands to stop the pills and regulated feedings and just took off. That was 3 months ago. I don’t think he made it, but oddly a young cat with the same face has started checking us out. That one looks healthy and belongs to someone.

But five months ago, in the midst of feedings every two hours like an infant that never reaches the 6 month sleep-through-the-night mark, it’s time for even fewer hours of sleep. That’s right. Been 7 years since Mr. B. went off the rails. Mr. B. is an itinerant musician I have written about in the past, he lives with us from time to time, usually several years at a stretch, then he can’t stand it and descends into drinking and mania. 

To be fair to Mr. B., since his last episode at the start of the pandemic, he has been stellar. Best I’ve ever seen him, these past three years. We got hit by a tornado, I’ve been sick, had surgery, the cats sick, all kinds of stresses on the daily and our household pulled together in strength through all that. Mr. B. is more than his worst days and he ran errands and we all worked to patch up the damage on the house and deal with the ex’s wrecked car. (Ex is still in Guangzhou, his leg got banged up and he’s in a cast.) Anyway, Mr. B. was a rock-solid citizen with us through all the craziness in the world since 2020. 

Until he wasn’t. Things got bad. As always, cousin Greg phones.

“Do you want a Marshall amp such-and-such in your house? Because he’s here at the guitar shop and he wants an amp that I’m telling you will blow the windows out of your house, and I’m checking with you first,” Greg says.

“Nope I really don’t.” 

“He calls me 10 times a day. I can’t answer the phone,” Greg says in what is literally a repeat of last time. 

“That’s not bad, Ron says he got 28 calls one day last week. I get 12 a day and I just live downstairs.”

Mr. B. brought home the amp anyway. This time he got more focused on me and Dear Son than on his music career. Like laser-focused. When he’s manic and drinking he only needs 3-4 hours sleep a day and the rest of the time he makes it impossible for me. Thankfully Son grew up with a musician dad and sleeps through anything. 

Neighbors fenced us in. Btw, there is a bluff
off in the distance you can’t see.
Canada wildfire smoke this summer.

But we became Mr. B’s arch nemeses and he went on to terrorize the neighborhood. My next door neighbor Dale put up an 8 foot tall fence “so that I don’t have to deal with him every time I come out of the house,” Dale said. My neighbor on the other side Tony put up an 8 foot tall fence the last time Mr. B. went off, which is where Dale got the idea.  

I fully expected 10-12 weeks but it was 5 months, starting February. Since then, Mr. B. got in two car accidents drinking and driving. The state of Minnesota drove him to the Wisconsin line after one joyride culminating in a crash fight with a guy in a pickup, and the cops said don’t come back, a similar deal Mr. B. has with the state of Tennessee, no more Opry for him.

The cops showed up here aplenty, the clip above was on my birthday. Another neighbor filed a harassment complaint, so the cop showed up for that. Drunken rages at all hours. 

I got another friend with the same issues who also likes to come after me. 

I had two of them on me and no sleep to speak of. “How can you stand it?” Dale said. I literally didn’t care. Mentally ill people don’t bother me which is why I worked in psychiatry for so long. I’m not fond of drunks, though. The drinking got bad. 

Man, all I wanted was sleep, like to sleep for months. I didn’t care about anything, I was zombie living. But dear Son and the neighbors could not cope. Then in July, Mr. B. decided he wanted some new tires for a vehicle and didn’t pay rent. Nothing I can do at that point, apart from evict him. You have to go to court now even if you don’t do a lease and even when the unwanted guest in your home refuses to leave. 

Mr. B’s room when it got bad.
That’s a full plate of burnt toast.

Pandemic-era law that needs to go, in my opinion, and it cost me $175 in tea money that I won’t do again. Pulled the cop reports, and Mr. B.’s non-stop binge drinking party of 5 months came to an end. He left the night before the court date. He’s up at the junkyard now. His friend will let him stay indefinitely. It’s in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere. I been there once and don’t think I can find it again, quite honestly.

So that is how life gets on the way of my tea hobby. Last year sometime or maybe this year I dunno, but I re-upped on my white2tea monthly tea sub. Part of the idea was to be on a sort of no-buy, and the tea sub is the way I tried to channel my non-tea-shopping. Don’t look at the websites, because I have my tea box coming in the mail. Actually the truth is I wanted whatever the tea was the month I re-upped. But I don’t remember what that tea was. I don’t know what is in any of my tea boxes and some of them I haven’t even opened. I’m not going to review any of these teas, OolongOwl does that much better than I ever could. 

Mostly this tea sub has worked to keep me from tea shopping. I haven’t really bought anything since I re-upped, and I haven’t even looked at Yunnan Sourcing for three months now, the longest I’ve gone in 15 years, though I did look at Houde recently because he had new teas up. 

Buying hongcha doesn’t count as tea buying, just saying.

The disorganization gets worse. The tea photo above at the top of the post was supposed to have the tea I’m currently drinking, not even sure what it is in the envelope, and also a 2021 Arbor Red sample I haven’t cracked into, but I put them someplace to do the photo and then couldn’t find them minutes later. I don’t know what that tong is, I meant to dust it off but forgot to do that too. I might think I’m senile but the lack of sleep can do it. I’m actually sleeping now, we’ve had a few weeks of peace. 

So when people start emailing me, okay I need to start writing and meant to do sort of an unboxing and at least get the packages open, but can’t be arsed today. I’ll just write this and get it on the blog. Probably the most interesting thing about the tea photo is the Lins Ceramics water boiler which I’ve turned into a hongcha pot. Quite accidentally, my son wanted a tea and I needed something for two people. Turned out Lins Purion is excellent for hongcha, normally I save Purion for nasty unidentified aged puerh, and this is a water kettle now turned into hongcha teapot. 

I did find out that Lins is now shipping to the US, though it is expensive. I really would not look at their website if you have a teaware problem, the pots they are making now are so gorgeous and I think I might get the clay water dispenser. They even have a clay coffee drip thing. Whatever those are called. The site isn’t secure, but I know that wouldn’t stop you from looking. You are welcome.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Pandemic Puerh

My primary relationship in life is my puerh tea collection, and the rest of the time I maintain an appropriate facade of caring about anything or anyone else. My dear tea and I endured the pandemic, and we have not yet had Covid. Far more real at the moment is the post-pandemic economy, and this is shifting my relationship with my tea somewhat. 

Just over a year ago, I was startled to read more details about the emergency economy during the lockdown in Shanghai, and how within 5 days the most valuable currency anyone had was reportedly Coca-Cola. Maybe that’s anecdotal, but illuminating nevertheless and adding a dimension now to my tea collection. I don’t like the word collection anymore, my teas are primarily ones I want to drink, not merely collect. 

My tea started feeling like a kind of trade good. One that almost no one else around here has. Coffee started getting very expensive, but seems eased lately. In a situation where coffee gets scarce, my cheap teas might be worth more.

I got a trade relationship going with my local vet. Both my cats have health conditions, and the vet/prescriptions costs are such that I noticed how quickly he got his roof repaired after the tornado hit last summer, whereas mine is still patched and damaged. Also, he’s not a great vet, but has a redeeming quality of an aura of acquiring tastes about him. And he’s a yang type, so I got that covered. Started bringing him tea, for no reason, really more exasperation because the vet part is just not good. Finally I stop trying to be normal and go the eccentric that I am. He’s getting tea. After a year of that I got a free kidney test for the cat who needs to be put down, but test ok so he won’t do it, and the cat finally ran away in madness.

That’s the one 

So far I brought over fu brick, Lu An, Jeong Jae Yuen’s marvelous batch, shui xian and green puerh (the diuretic kind). In March I thought to myself, I always want spring tea come July, why not plan early this year, and subbed to white2tea for the spring cake. When the vet wouldn’t put the cat down I gave him that tea. I was giving up, sort of. I should have just booked a spa before giving away tea like I have. This is old lady behavior for sure and someone needs to put a stop to it. My son is afraid of me, so who will? 

But really, people set up card tables at the Farmer’s Market here and sell yellow gourds they grow, and you can’t eat them, and nobody needs any except as Halloween decoration, so they just end up at the food pantry for free because, hey, nobody can’t waste them and the ones who need the food also need to act grateful. 

What is stopping me from setting up with my tuos? Before the pandemic I thought about doing a class at the library on puerh and a lobby case display, the library is always looking for people. But now, puerh tea would never fly on the be-serious level of the library, but could positively flourish as survival currency for the aesthetically desperate…although…if I brought the crocks along the Mennonite ladies would give a look for sure, and hey, I could hand out samples. I got loads of shou balls back from my Fermentation Fest days. 

Kombucha won out here on the high end, the library-level side, and puerh is probably more useful on the everyday neighbor side of things instead. It’s social currency but in a real way you can use it wean off coffee.

Oh. And I’m back on coffee. The same impulse that drove me to give away my spring cake drove me into buying a cheap plastic Keurig and coffee pods from the Bent-n-Dent store for 5 bucks a box. I must be depressed but I don’t feel anything really. I can complete the impression by adding I’m cutting my hair. They say a certain amount of cluttered chaos leads to a cluttered mind, but it’s probably a tool, one that I’ve always used to straighten my mind against it, you play an A and I’ll tune all five of my other strings. On harmonics.

Yeah, I guess I’m ok. Hope you are too…

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Broken Cup Teahouse Yancha

Back in October 2022, I caught a tweet by Max Falkowitz saying a friend of his opened a new tea pop-up called Broken Cup Teahouse, please offer some support. I’m happy to try a new vendor once, so I ordered 30g of a “1993 Old Style Narcissus,” a Wuyi Yancha. Along with the order I got a free 5g of 2021 Dark Honey, a hongcha. I probably should have got round to drinking these teas sooner, because the Yancha is sold out now. 

2021 Dark Honey Black/Red

I drank the hongcha first, all 5g in the Kamjove gravity steeper, as a casual morning cuppa. I brewed 3 steeps per day for 3 days, so a total of 9 steeps. The longevity is impressive, the tea could have gone more, but after 3 days I decided to toss the leaves, not being sure I should really keep them longer. 

The profile is Yunnan style, with a hot cocoa note start and then red tea tannins. It’s a pleasant enough tea.

The Narcissus Yancha was more interesting, I think I paid $30-ish for it? So maybe a $1/g. I brewed 5 grams of this too, also over 3 days. 

“1993 Old Style Narcissus”

I’m not a Yancha expert, and all the Wuyi Yancha I’ve had in the past were 7 years or younger. So I don’t have any way to judge the stated age, but I bring puerh skepticism to the session and I don’t take 1993 literally. Wuyi teas are rife with fakery issues similar to puerh, they are pricey and not enough real Wuyi style teas actually exist to create all the those sold as Wuyi. So yeah.

The Narcissus is a very comforting tea to drink if you like oolong profiles and a bit of damp in your tea. The storage on the tea is very good, it has a faded wet note that for me characterizes natural storage, along with a not-unpleasant dusty closet front. But I didn’t rinse the tea, I normally don’t rinse Yancha. Might be ideal to rinse in terms of the steep quality, but the storage is also more obvious without the rinse. 

I don’t know the provenance of this tea, but I can dream up a guess. The faded roast, dusty closet, and retired damp seem like a tea stored in bags or a box or basket, in a shop or warehouse for years, where nobody currently working can remember how long that tea has been there. “Yeah, it’s been here as long as I’ve worked here,” and they add up the years of the workers and after that make up any year for the tea.

The tea has nothing green left in it, and requires a hard boil to get it to open. The storage and a prune note are there along with the faded roast, my first 3 steeps were flash brews, but then the tea seemed tired for three brews and I needed to really extend the time. Brewing a minute per steep I got 7, 8 and 9 steeps no problem. 

The tea having no green in it does not get stewed such that it sticks to the bottom of the gravity steeper. It stays fluffy. The gravity steeper is probably not the best vessel, it needs ceramic to boost the temp for longer. On my next session, I will switch over to a ceramic teapot or a gaiwan. 

Aside from that, it’s a Yancha. A comforting tea, but not as interesting as a puerh tea, and brews faster than a rolled oolong. After 9 steeps the pot had a tart cherry aroma and mineral notes. 

All that is just information, because Broken Cup Teahouse had some 90s puerh in the shop that was sold out before I hit the shop. Seems like this vendor is a good one to bookmark, to check out if you are looking for something of a lite snack in terms of tea. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Signs You Drank Too Damn Much Puerh for Far Too Long

1. Someone brews you a teabag, and you taste the bag.

2. “What does it say on the box?” registers as, “what box?”

3. Do you like mushrooms? Means not pizza.

4. You would never brush your teeth before puerh, and depending upon what you drank maybe not after.

5. Still no room on any shelf, anywhere in the house.

6. In the event of severe supply chain issues, I’d still rather have all that tea than gold under the floor.

7. I’m paranoid of anyone now who says they like tea.

8. I’m paranoid of anyone who says they have a tea name, date or original wrapper. Don’t care who you are.

9. I’m paranoid of anyone who says they want to come over. 

10. Tell the doctor you drink tea and they think either tea bags or green tea and tell you “good job,” but if they really knew, they would up my beta blocker and run a pesticide test. 

11. I’m paranoid of anyone who tests the tea, but for no reason I tend to trust the tea more and order it anyway.

12. I tried to entirely stop buying tea. I’m paranoid of anyone who succeeds.

13. I’m trying to force a tasting of a yancha that I did order and pay for and I can’t do it. Three months I tried and failed. 

14. The “I need a new kettle” is never done.

15. Everyone I live with can fuck right off.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Failed Endeavor of Charles Buell Anderson

Charles Buell Anderson
Photo findagrave.com

This is one of those stories I have to get down. I am divesting myself of the shit that happens that you cannot make up. In this rather bewildering story, I managed to meet a worldwide cult leader and walked away mostly unawares. Wisconsin is full of cult-y people; actually the whole world is, and has ever been so since Adam said hello to the snake and decided to listen to it. I run into weirdos like this all the time, and the story is mostly the same.

Back around 1993 or so I had a part time job in social work, not full-time because my son was a toddler. I was awfully broke and needed money, and saw a job ad in the newspaper looking for a "Set Painter." You just don't see art jobs in the paper ever. I was volunteering in various theatres doing set painting for free but mainly for the cast party invites, which guaranteed free food and drink every week for at least a couple of months while a show was on. 

The Set Painter job posting required dropping off a vita and an example of one's work. At the time, I was doing my own art work of illuminated manuscripts in a gothic French Anjou style, something I picked up after growing disillusioned with abstract expressionism, an effort to start over my shit painting life and copy the art history I refused to do back in college. Now, I had most recently made a large manuscript for a friend, a secular piece of Henry II with some quote by him, because my friend had just acted that historical figure in the play “The Lion in Winter." So I brought in this manuscript as part of my application. 

The man looking to hire worked out of one of those early mid-century modern decaying offices with plywood paneling, where you will often see a pair of deer antlers hanging on the wall. I poked fun at these places with a drawing of the "Elk Motel" in my Sommelier story. I can't remember the business title at this office, something home-related, heating or inspections. The office sharing the building was an insurance agent. I left my art work and got a call about an hour later, asking if I could come back for an interview. I could. 

At the plywood office, I met a man in his late 30s wearing a white, long-sleeved dress shirt without a jacket. He told me that my art work was very impressive and wanted to show me the job. We left the 60s building and went to another building on the next block which more recently became a dance school for kids. It is a decent sized space that looks a bit black box theatre-like. 

The guy said he wanted some backdrops made for some furniture he planned to photograph and sell, nothing to do with his office business. I saw furniture in the space which resembled the kind of stuff the Bombay Company sold back then, British colonial fantasy. I said I could easily paint hanging backdrops, if he had rolls of canvas, or even bed sheets or wood. We went back to his office so I could retrieve my art work. He asked me a bit about my background. 

"Why don't you come and have dinner with my family, and we can talk some more?" he said. I wish I could remember his name. 

I said I had to pick up my son, that his dad was working a moonlight teaching job. 

"Oh, just bring him along." Well, okay. Seemed like I had the job, so why not? 

Picked up my kid and we drove back to the guy's office. 

"We will just go in my car, you can leave yours here. Parking is an issue." In a city it certainly is.

I had the impression he lived nearby, so I got into his black 4 x 4 vehicle, which was a little “extra” back then. So far this guy added up in my mind as a B-level striver, with the cheap office, no suit jacket, 1980’s Bombay fantasy furniture and tastefully hormonal car. 

But then he started driving on the freeway out of the city.

"Where are we going?" I was feeling a little apprehensive, though not too much. After all I worked with people with psychiatric illnesses all day long, the severe kind, people seriously dangerous. This guy didn't exactly add up to that, but still we were heading out of the city which is not a good a thing. 

"Oh, it's not too far, we will be there shortly. I called my wife and she knows you will be with us for dinner." 

We kept going and going, and nearly 40 nervous miles later he turned off the freeway and soon we were driving into forest, and then a gravel road. I could now understand the 4 x 4. 

"We are almost there. By the way, the house we are renting belonged to two Catholic priests before." 

Now that was certainly a strange thing to say. We literally were in the woods. Two priests renting a house in the middle of nowhere is dodgy. 

The house surprisingly was a modern loft style house, a rather suburban professional look, better than his office, but again that B-level striver, or so I told myself. I don't mean to judge people but sheesh, it's not a moral thing so much as hoping the guy driving me and my kid into the dark forest isn't a serial killer. I also didn’t particularly understand B-level strivers, only because I worked entirely in non-profit service.

I met the wife, who seemed like a normal person and they had a 10 year old son who was watching Wheel of Fortune or something on the TV. The meal was ready to go, and the man said a prayer at the table which was not a formal one, but a spontaneous one. Okay, maybe Pentecostal or Evangelical, I thought to myself. We were only a few years post-Reagan back then, so it didn’t seem too weird.

Over dinner I tried to discuss ideas I had for his backdrops. I was thinking instead of the big canvas maybe more like a shoji screen, this would be cheaper and go with the furniture better than tacky canvas theatre drops. He just said "hm" to all that, and suddenly did not seem so interested in the project I was expecting to do. 

I was asked more about my background etc., and he wanted to talk about the importance of his faith. He had already given away where he was with religion, and I tailor my responses to people asking. Most people like to ask about the nun stuff, but they usually want a very simple and easy to understand answer about it all. Too much and people literally glaze over in the eyeballs. So, depending on who asks I will answer in different ways. 

This is not exactly a religious snobbery thing, it's actually the opposite. Mostly people are mildly curious, yet I could say some things about religious and clerical life that can seriously disturb them. (Just for starters, they had not clearly thought their house in the deep woods rented by priests to be the dark flag I thought it was.) It's like trying to explain your puerh hobby to people who say they have a tea collection too, and upon inquiry they have boxes of tea bags. It's not a puerh snobbery to avoid the details, it's that people glaze over and then feel like they don't know something about tea that they should know, and who needs that discomfort? They don't want it. It's just polite not to overdo.

I continued to try and engage this guy on the art work as he loaded the dishwasher after dinner. He said I could go into their formal living room, that two people were coming over to meet me. 

The couple who then arrived were an older couple, looking around 70-ish. This was the man I later recognized as Charles Buell Anderson. I didn't know til later he had recently opened a church school in the Dells nearby called Endeavor Academy which is supposed to to teach the The Course on Miracles, a 1970s New Age-y book I considered trendy, the way theosophy was back in the 1930s. But Charles also allegedly thought he was Jesus in the flesh, and claimed to have already resurrected before actually dying. 

They sat down and said how happy they were to meet with me, and how fortunate I am because a great opportunity awaited me. They seemed very vague. I was struck by how this man and, I supposed his wife, were sitting. They sat on the sofa like my mother's parents from Chicago did, this very 1950s city way of sitting with knees tight together at the edge of the cushion, leaning forward to chat. A social posture that has mostly gone. My generation on down you see local men sit more spread open and leaning back with a confident and nonchalant machismo. My mother actually sat the same way on furniture as these people. I got the impression they were retired urban business people who were decently well off. I thought they must have gone to a lot of clubs and cocktail lounges in the old days, business socializing. That was the vibe.

Overall, these people were definitely better off than I at that point. I didn't have a dishwasher or a loft house. My Corolla car would never have made it on that dirt road. But apart from that, they seemed rather simple business people, at least in terms of religion mixing with business. By "simple" religion, I mean they probably didn’t have troves of lawyers fighting thousands of cases of child abuse while pretending it never happened and raking in millions in donations to support mansions in Italy. They asked me more about the religion stuff and I just kept up with very basic responses with my eye on my young son playing with the 10 year old who wanted to lend us a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VHS tape. These people probably didn't have any interest in the details of a woman like me once attending diocesan deanery meetings. 

I just couldn't figure out what these two older people really wanted. They said they were in business with this guy I met, and looked forward to working with me. They didn't exactly say right out what this meant. I assumed the younger man was their protege' maybe from a mutual church, and they were investing in the younger man’s business, or doing stock buys together, or maybe a pyramid scheme. 

It was time to go back to the city and the older couple decided to ride along. We were told my son could borrow the Turtles tape. 

On the way to the city, I sat in the back with the older couple. The job seemed like it was evaporating quickly, and I tried to check that. 

"So, it looks like I will be doing this job, do you think?" 

The woman just looked out the window with that vague expression again, and replied, "absolutely, he will take very good care of you," and something about the opportunity I had at hand. I can't tell you how many times in my life people have said things like this and it turns into nothing, like college professors saying they will write letters for me, or maybe that restaurant people think is the best ever and we should really go there. Nothing that people promise you like this ends up happening.

Back to my car, serial killers averted. In the coming days I waited for a phone call as to when I would start the new job, and of course I hear nothing but crickets. So I phoned the number in the newspaper ad and asked.

"Hi, I was just calling to follow up about the painting job. Also, shall I return the videotape to you?"

"Oh, don't worry about the videotape, I will call you back."

Never heard from him again. Drove by that office a few times over the years, and the building changed hands and then got torn down at some point and condos put up instead. 

Clearly I had done or said something wrong. For awhile I thought that maybe the videotape had been some kind of test, because I never returned it. Were they testing me to see if I stole, or something? 

Oh god, and then years later I see the photo of Charles Buell Anderson on the internet. He died in 2005, apparently not having resurrected beforehand. New Jesus died in his chair while watching television.

Did a lot of reading about the Endeavor cult. I found a photo of the cultists on the internet, one guy looks like the guy who interviewed me and invited me to dinner, but without a name in the picture. The Endeavor people all wear white shirts. Charles/Jesus reportedly screamed and hit his followers and reached down the shirts of the females. They were supposed to recognize him as God, and without this recognition he said they were lacking in their ability to see. 

Charles Buell Anderson was a real estate broker in Chicago, a recovered alcoholic who attended AA meetings. Indeed, his church still offers a space for local AA meetings today. I guess I wasn't that far off with the similarity to my grandparents, as my grandfather in Chicago was in sales too. My grandparents were into theosophy, faith healings, psychic stuff, the Christian Science Monitor, trendy spiritual things. Like this cult does. 

The Endeavor School offers classes in art, theatre and music. At one point they tried to start up business giving talks at religious conventions along with performing a theatrical play and live music, all to recruit or ask for donations. I am guessing they took a look at me and thought religious person combined with art and theatre. Maybe Charles expected or hoped a former nun would recognize him as Jesus and I disappointed. 

People sell everything they have for Endeavor. They leave their families to live with and be in this cult. I read online that they donate their furniture directly to the cult when they join, which would explain the "job" in the paper, and the building where it was all stored. I think this guy with the office was preparing to sell the furniture and then join the cult too. The whole scam was the reason they didn't reveal anything, and why I probably didn't get called back to work on selling the furniture. 

I am definitely not amenable to cults or ecstatic religious groups. I was thoroughly worked over in such a way by the nuns, I cannot undo it even if I want to at this point. Whatever Charles is or was certainly went past me in a fog. They all wanted to talk religion and I just didn't oblige enough, or I didn't show the sort of enthusiasm that could withstand the scrutiny once I figured out what they were up to. Or I just blew it, the best opportunity ever! 

If you are in the Endeavor church, or any group that asks you to donate your finances and leave your family, call someone, anyone, to pick you up. Let me offer some hope. You can start over no matter what you have done for that religion. I had to give my furniture back to the nuns when I left, and I slept on the floor for a long time. Eventually you can afford better tea.