Friday, May 30, 2008

This one is for me...

Sorry for the non-tea related post. I'm sure that with time and counseling, the few individuals who read this will come to forgive me.

There aren't too many things that can spin a person about the way love can. In the mix of the past four years, I've seen a lot of changes come about my life. However, not one of those changes has made a larger lasting impression than becoming a father for the very first time. This is my daughter Grace at ten and a half months. She's small, but she's strong. She's starting to figure out how the physical world works, but still has no grasp on the social world. She knows that when she needs a shoulder, she can cry. She knows that she can say "car" or "ball" to tell us she wants a toy to play with. She says "Momma" and "Dadda" and a whole slew of other things. However, she can't possibly understand how much the course of her life is going to change because of love. There are many different types of love a person experiences; love of food, love of music, love of your parents and siblings, love of your children. However, sometimes that just isn't enough to keep a family together. Recently, her mother and I decided that the best thing for her interest was to separate.

I grew up in a household where we picked on one another. We were rude and dug deep into each other. It was how we expressed our love. We always said that if the world stops laughing at you, the world stops caring about you...and we actually believed it. It took some time, but I am starting to realize that every family grows up a little different. Grace's mother grew up in a family that was much the opposite of mine. Her mother was divorced while she was still young. She went back and forth from both parents, and everyone had a moral code of manners. I don't want to get into too many details that aren't my own, but my point is that we all have our own little nuances that make us a family. Some times it works and holds a group together, but when we can't find a way to make those gears mesh, it's time to take a look back at our own roots and determine whether or not to steer the course we've grown accustomed to, or whether we should make a departure from our normal way of thinking. Why did we end up the way that we are? Where do we get off thinking our way is always the correct way? Why don't more people question this?

It all goes around and around until you get to a point where you ask two vital questions:

Is this what I want for my life?

Is this what I want for my child's life?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

Lately I've been reading so many horror stories about people chipping yixing clay pots, finding a crack in my kyusu, hearing about someone's friend wash their yixing with Palmolive, and chipping nice sipping cups that I want to just puke. Which is why I've set up a few guidelines for myself to avoid similar disaster in the future.

* No tea ware ever gets washed with anything other than hot water. No Grandma, not even the ceramics.

* Tea ware does not get left out overnight, no matter what the circumstances.

* If tea ware has a chic and stylish (or functional and not very stylish) carrying case, for the love of all things holy, put it away whenever it's not in use.

* Friends and family members are kept abreast on proper care for other words, DO NOT TOUCH!

* Nothing but pu-erh is to be brewed in yixing pots. Can't let any of my boss' sissy mango-peach teabags tarnish the flavour of a well-aged yixing pot.

* All persons drinking tea in my company have heard the F*ck Yeah Cranes! story at least a half-dozen times.

Okay, I'm stretching now...anyhow, what are your care tips for tea ware? I'm all ears.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I moved all of my teas into a larger cupboard, but it looked really barren until just a few days ago. Today I received a shipment from a seller I had never made a purchase from based out of Hong Kong. His selection isn't as large as some of the other sellers, but he has some pretty good prices, and his customer service was fantastic. I'm still waiting on my tong of Menghai 7542(801) and my two bricks of Dehong Purple 08. I can't wait to add them to the rest of the collection. ^__^

Unfortunately, due to some personal events in my life, I'm going to have to slow down my purchases for a little while. My humblest of apologies to the kind souls who have let me purchase their wares; namely Scott and Gordon. I'll still be buying, just not as much. In the meantime, I will be taking time to prepare myself with an event that will forever alter the outcome of the rest of my life. It isn't going to be an easy transition, but there are too many great things in this world to not give it my all and presently, I am in a position where I am unable to give everything I have.

I am also on a path to figure out who I've become over the past five years. There are moments in the day when the dust settles just enough to where the steps I took to get here become obscured. I have glimpses, but this all has felt like one very long dream. Unfortunately, this is a path in which I will be without companionship. I hope to bring a few friends along from time to time, and I still intend to share my notes and occasionally stories that mean something to me. Aside from that, I make no promises on where I will end up. I do welcome you to come along and hopefully learn something along the way.

Monday, May 19, 2008


When it comes to pu-erh, it's no secret that the 06' 6FTM Yi Wu Millenial Tea Tree is by far my favourite. It's an old and loyal friend, albeit maybe a tad expensive. It's the only pu-erh that I generally keep on hand, broken off and ready for brewing at any time. Tonight of all nights is a night for old friends. My brain has been so frazzled for the past few months. Trouble in paradise, as it were. Tonight I learned the most valuable lesson I've ever learned regarding patience and respect; one that will forever impact the rest of my life.

It takes a patient person to truly enjoy this stuff. To look after so many cakes; ensuring they are in a position to age well. Relationships are the same way.

This is a picture of my daughter and myself from last fall. We went to the orchard to pick out pumpkins. She's almost walking now, and will be in school before I know it. Patience patience patience. Need I say more? I'm drinking to her health, but I'll drink to yours as well. Raise your cups this night friends, we've many great stories to share and in due time, we'll all find ourselves sitting around a table laughing at how we never expected to end up where we did.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2007 Xiaguan Holy Flame Tuocha

Tonight I decided I was going to have a little fun with one of the Tuos (a very inexpensive tuo, might I add) that I recently purchased. I was in the market for different things; not because of rave reviews, or recommendations, but because I heard this was a very smokey pu-erh. My friend said "This blows the 05 Dehong Golden Melon out of the water!" That was enough for me to buy two of these.

Upon removing the tuo from it's handsome box, I was overwhelmed with the aroma of smoke. My notes literally say "Very smokey! Rinse REEKED of smoke." It's a thick tea, full of body. From the first couple of sips, I already felt this one coursing it's way through my body. I started drinking this well over an hour ago and I've still got a tinge in my stomach. The qi hit very early with this one. I also wrote down "lumberjack tea" in my notes. Nothing clever to add to that.

After the first infusion, I took a moment to take in the leaves and they smell like the bastard child of firewood, a little bit of camphor, and oregano. I was smelling it over and over and over until it reminded me of the last time I cooked with oregano (or parsley...same family). Honestly, the camphor was so mild that I almost want to group that minty scent in with the oregano because it also has it's own minty touch.

By the second infusion, there was a strong smoke smell still and the minty flavour seems to not be present. I am in awe as my lips, the tip of my tongue, and the hard upper pallet of my mouth are all tingling! Wow, I didn't expect to find that sensation from a six-month old pu. I was just going to comment that the camphor was replaced by a very mild bitterness...not bad at all, but I think it's more from overbrewing the second round a few too many seconds.

At this moment, the leaves smell faintly of cigarettes; non menthol...Parliament lights, to be more specific. I'm glad this doesn't carry over in to the flavour. This third infusion is going down smooth. Definitely the right balance now. If I take a very deep breath, I can ever so slightly smell that oregano again. I'd love to know exactly what is causing that scent.

The feeling I have right now is amazing. My head feels very clear, my body limber. I've got a tingling throughout. Also, I've got the last song of the Spirited Away soundtrack on repeat because Grace (my ten month old, teething daughter) loves to listen to it. Ithink it's called 'Always With Me.' She was humming along to it earlier this afternoon. Candy to my soul right now, I tell you.

The fourth and fifth infusions are still just as strong, even considering the fact that I removed some leaf (I'm a horrible judge with tight compression...sue me) and am using shorter infusion times...3 to 5 seconds tops. It definitely has some edge to it, but opens slowly. I am absolutely okay with this.

This one makes me want to take the night off and sip this until it's nothing more than golden water. I am amazed by how potent this stuff is. It's bursting with flavour, it changes each brewing, and it's got a ridiculously strong qi about it, the minty touch followed by the slightest bitter close. It's interesting, especially for such a young tea. Plus, for the price, you can't go wrong. It isn't for everyone, but if a pu-erh wants to sneak up and make my mouth tingle by the second infusion and still hit hard at the tenth infusion, and be only six months old....who am I to get in the way?

I had a lot of fun with this one. Maybe only us grizzly fellows can appreciate this. I'm going to serve a cup to one of my clean-shaven, well-dressed friends and get back to you with the findings. Till then, try to keep the leaves out of your beard. ^__^

Lumberjack tea indeed!

2008 Menghai 7542(801)

The 7542(801) comes next, but first, I've got something I need to get off of my chest. It's been both an exciting and frustrating time for me lately in regards to pu-erh. First, it is exciting because I just moved all of my tea to a larger cabinet with more room to grow. I've got some really good stuff coming in from Yunnan Sourcing,, Dragon Tea House, and a couple other sellers. I love waiting for packages to come. I love opening the tea cabinet to take a punch in the face of wonderful smells. That aside, I have been filled with some frustrations. Topping the list is the fact that some of the pu-erh I have been drinking lately leaves me craving something more. Ku is a great part of any pu-erh, but not when it overpowers the soup. Five infusions & none of the buzz, light chaqi if any at all. This was very discouraging until I read that both Hobbes and Marshal have been running into snags as well. Hobbes learned a valuable lesson about the importance of being careful with the puer'dao. Marshal recently said that he felt that he had outgrown one of the teas he used to drink on a fairly regular basis. It makes me feel more human, and overall more accepting of some of my recent experiences with pu-erh that left a sour taste. It also forces me to pose two important questions:

1) Is my heart poured into every cup of tea that I brew?
2) Am I being consistent with prep when it comes to logging my tasting notes?

Now, onto some pu!

2008 Menghai 7542(801)

I had this once before and loved it. This cake is sweet & smells of melon. Right out of the cupboard it makes me careful to get things right this time & every time moving forward. Knowing the best way to cut open any cake, knowing the correct amount of leaf and water to add, as well as how long to steep for and in what kind of vessel.

I love that Menghai has added a seal that must be broken before it can be brewed. It looks like a fantastic feat to find a crafty way to maintain integrity. I did manage to peel the seal off without any real difficulty. Even so, this helps to minimize counterfeiting as much as possible.

The cake is a very rich green colour and I am seeing a lot of light coloured leaves on the face of it. This doesn't outwardly appear that it is going to be a difficult tea to cut into.

As I suspected, the cut was fairly easy although the cake is very narrow at the edges. The rinse smells clean and the liquor is a light golden colour.
The first infusion is smooth and goes down very quickly. The leaves have only begun to wake up. I assume there will be more flavour as I brew my next cup.

The second infusion is where things start to become more complex. The tea coats my teeth and makes them feel smooth. The ku rides out and shows it's face as the last bit of drink makes it's way down my throat. I feel very calm and alert, yet relaxed. A few months back, Hobbes was explaining Chaqi to me, but ultimately said "it's just a feeling." He said "Chaqi is just as you say, the vital energy in tea. It's a subtle effect, which leads some to discount it. Trying some older teas really makes it obvious, I believe. Suspend your skepticism for just a while - I remember being skeptical myself when I first started drinking pu-erh."

Now, the 7542(801) is delicious. I need to make it abundantly clear that this is in no way the best tea I have ever had. However, for an 08, I can say it tastes better than many of the 05 and 06 bings. It's thick, it brews for a long time, and it's complex once the leaves have woken up. This tea is definitely thicker and it takes forever for it to lose it's sweet start and slightly bitter finish. If I had things my way, everyone would have a tong of this. Since I can't have my way, I'll just take comfort in the tong +2 bings I have of this and take pleasure sharing this with dear friends in the hope that our bonds will mature as well as I know this tea is going to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The "8100"

I picked up Xiaguan's 2008 '8100' bing a month or so back from YSLLC because I really want to try as many of the '08 cakes as possible. I want to find my niche and be able to say for sure what I like, what I don't like, and be able to say why. This is one of those cakes that helps me make that clarification.

This has small leaves that don't really smell that fantastic yet. Maybe someday they will, but for just isn't doing it for me. I've tasted this a couple of times, but haven't had much success with this thus far. The flavour didn't seem to carry, chaqi was weak, and it didn't last more than four, maybe five infusions. Maybe tonight I'll prove myself wrong.
The rinse smelled like wet earth after a drunken night around a bonfire cut short by rain. The first infusion is kind of bitter. Quite bitter, in fact. Not the good kind of bitter. I choke it down and hope that maybe it just needed a second rinse. Much to my dismay, the liquor is a little darker on the second infusion and the taste is actually more bitter. We'll go another round. Third time a charm? Not in this case. It's darker still and that kind of scares me a little bit. Three second infusions for all three of them and this one, albeit a bit less, is still quite bitter.

Either one of two things is happening:

1) My tastebuds are finally starting to become
particular when it comes to pu-erh. I'm finding things that I really enjoy as well as things that I simply detest.

2) This pu-erh is flat out way too young for me to be drinking.

Actually, if I had to put money on it, there'd be a third option:

Obviously, I cannot rule out that it could be both, and very likely is. There is absolutely nothing exciting about this tea in it's larva stage. I may as well ice it down, add some sugar, and drink it through a straw while I'm at it. There's no telling what my thoughts will be the next time I sample this, but I can say for sure it won't be before my daughter says "I love you Daddy" for the first time.
If infusion #4 isn't any better, I'm going to brew up some jasmine white peony and call it a night.

#4... I quit.

I even tried removing some of the leaves. It helped, but not enough to merit retracting my former statement. Right now, my cups sit like this:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Revisiting the 2005 Dehong Golden Tuocha

I bought this more as a curiosity than anything else, and I posted my notes on it a few entries back. Now that I've had it in my possession for a few months, I've only broken it out a couple of times. Main reason I don't try it more often is because of the fact that I'm sure I could cut diamonds with it. I broke it out one night when Teddy and I were sampling a bunch of different Pu-erh. We always have these nights where we'll try something really amazing, and just for fun, follow it up immediately with the skankiest pu-erh we can find. Twigs? Pine needles? No problem! That's just how we roll sometimes.

Last time, I remember my biggest takeaway being the bitter to smokey to smooth to minty effect...all one at a time. This time, the bitter has already started to go away. It had a little bitterness, but nothing that I would consider bad at all. The smoke flavour has definitely lessened. I'm not sure if it really has, or if it's because I've tasted something even smokier; the Xiaguan FT Flame tuocha I just received the other day made this seem like candy. In any event, the liquor still brews up dark, the rinse still smells of smoke, but the flavour is much much smoother now. Not so sweet as some of the others I've had; in fact, not sweet at all. The minty flavour has also subsided. It's still very interesting to me how much this tea changes in such a very little amount of time. Makes me wonder if these subtle discoveries, however big they may seem now, will be miniscule as they really start to age.

Is it just me, or do you want to replace every bing you open with a fresh one? That feeling when you cut into it for the first time and you know there is no going back. It's an $11 cake and I feel this way...Imagine how I felt cutting into the 2005 Dehong Purple. I need to see if I can't find more of those. Glad I was able to get a couple of the 2008.

I need to learn more about Dehong. It seems like Xiaguan has taken over my collection. At least, until my tong of the Menghai 7542 shows up...

On a side note, since I'm thinking about it, my tong of the 2006 Xiaguan Tibetan Baoyan arrived this afternoon. Yakbutter, anyone?

2008 Xiaguan FT Nan Zhao Tuocha

Lately I've been turning to tried and true Pu-erh. I've been going back to the ones that make me happy, so I was a little surprised to taste something that was not like anything else I've been drinking lately. I recently bought one of the 454g cakes for Teddy for his birthday, but come to find out, the tuo and the cake are NOT the same thing. The blend is a bit different in them. Also, it's of note that Xiaguan uses 2006 and 2007 leaves for this tuo. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to open the package and find my nose taking in something that smelled of melon. This tiny little tuo easily became the choice for me to sample this evening.

First off, I've got this horrible curse of getting ahold of nothing but ironcake tuos. I was happy to see that my pu-erh knife slid right in and I was able to break off a decent amount of leaf. The tuo itself had a lot of lighter coloured leaf on it, which looked very young. I could see fuzz on some of the leaves. Once I broke it off, there were pieces just begging to come along with it. This tuo is as loose as some of the bings I've cut into. After breaking off enough leaf, I did my initial rinse for about 15 seconds and found...well, not much. No strong aroma, nothing I couldn't smell just by holding the dry leaves up to my nose and inhaling. That seemed a little odd to me. I must be honest when I say I thought I had struck a dud after my first infusion.

The first infusion brewed up a light golden colour, and hid everything like a bashful child. WWMKD? Anyhow, a really weak brew, and upon further inspection, the leaves still hadn't woken up. I suppose we're all a little tired in the morning, but it wasn't until the second infusion when I started to notice some stuff going on. Second infusion gave way to some darker liquor and a slightly stronger flavour. It had a touch of bitterness at this point which I guessed would get stronger the third time around. By the third infusion, I was correct; the bitterness had gotten stronger and then when I said to myself "not something you give to a friend who has never experienced Pu-erh" something interesting happened. I found a patch of sweetness at the very center of the back of my tongue. That sweet melon aroma from earlier had found it's way out of the gaiwan. Not sure why it took so long, but I have a feeling this will just get sweeter over the years. It'll likely only take a couple of years and it should be a consistently smooth, yet hopefully bold tea. I'm starting to feel a little buzzed from this. I feel warm inside. I'm very interested to try the 454g cake now as I'm curious about the differences. It's still very bitter though. The bitterness reminds me of the Menghai 7542(801), but I don't think it works as well. Perhaps I like it so much because it's outside of the norm for my regular drinking? Perhaps there is more to this?

By the fourth and fifth infusion, the colour seems to have settled into this medium golden liquor and the flavour has mellowed a bit too. The bitterness isn't so prominent now, and what is left over is a sweet, yet somewhat bland taste. I really don't need to spend too much time with this to know how I feel about it right now. Don't get me wrong; I do enjoy this, but not because of what it is now. It isn't bad by any means. I enjoy this more because I have a feeling it's going to turn into something really great over the next 3-5 years. It reminds me of a younger cousin you know will be cool someday. Just sitting there asking me to come out and play. Every now and then I'm sure I'll give in, but only because I know I'll want to still play when they become a little more mature.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More goodness

Scott just got in 460 bricks of the 2008 Dehong Purple Varietal. He's already down to around a hundred. When I talked to him the other day, he mentioned that he had just received them a couple of days prior. I remember how much of a pain it was to get ahold of the 2005 that I have, so I bought two. On top of that, I bought a tong of the 2008 Menghai 7542(801) as well. One of these days I'll get my notes on paper. But for now, I'm very excited just taking in the smells and making room in my cupboard. I think I'm going to move all of my stuff to the pantry soon. I've got an empty cabinet that is nice and far away from any strong odors and humidity appears ideal for aging.

The thing that really occupies my time is my daughter. She's crawling, and she just learned to stand. Plus, she's teething, so she's up a hundred times a night. As soon as the rhythm gets a little more routine, I'll have time to write more; for now, well, it's business as usual.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

No time for Notes

I've still been drinking it, I just haven't made any time for notes. I've got a few orders in transit to my house right now.

Yixing Clay Serving Pitcher from Dragon Tea House
2x Xiaguan FT Flame Tuo Cha Raw 2007 125g from Dragon Tea House
Chinese Zisha Clay Sipping Cups from Dragon Tea House
Strainer from Dragon Tea House

2007 Guoyan Youle Mountain Wild Arbor from YSLLC
2006 Haiwan Tea Factory Lao Tong Zhi Aromatic from YSLLC
2x 2008 Xiaguan FT Nan Zhao Tuo 100g from YSLLC
2006 SFTM Yi Wu Millenial Tea Tree 357g from YSLLC
2x Menghai 7542 from YSLLC
2007 Menghai * Silver Dayi * Premium Raw Pu-erh * 357g from YSLLC
2x 2006 Haiwan Certified Organic Pasha Mountain Mini Cake from YSLLC
2008 Xiaguan FT "Nan Zhao Round Cake" Pu-erh Tea * 454g from YSLLC

2006 6FTM Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Tuocha from
2005 6FTM Jia Ji Raw Pu-erh Tuocha from
2006 Xiaguan Tibetan Baoyan Raw Pu-erh Brick (5-bricks) from

That said, I can't wait to steal more space in the cupboards...and to make Tibetan Yakbutter...just like this guy!