Saturday, June 28, 2008

You see puppies, but trust me, this is about tea

Since I work at an electronics retailer, and everyone knows that the only way to increase customer traffic is with gimmicks, we get a ton of promotional crap for new release DVD's. When a couple months go by, and we still have them left over, we usually junk them out and give them to our customers. Since I'm a customer when I'm not on the clock, I got these little guys at work for Grace. The other day while she was in the car having a meltdown, I handed her one of them and she started squealing really loud in a fit of frenzied joy.

That's the best way for me to describe how it feels to receive a package in the mail with tea in it. I always wonder what kinds of flavours await me. Whether it be smokey, minty, acidic, smooth, bitter, even skunky occasionally (for those "holy crap you need to taste this!" moments). I am finding that I am beginning to get better control over my brews. We all know how intimidating it can be making a cup for guests when you haven't figured out your style yet. Did I use too much leaf? Do I need to take some out? What kind of water? How warm should the water be?

I could go on for hours, but the point is this: I'm reaching a point where I don't really need to measure how much leaf I put in to the gaiwan. I don't actively think about the temperature of water anymore, and as soon as the water covers the leaves, my hands have started going into autopilot and pouring delicious cups. The whole process is finally finding it's way into muscle memory. I'm starting to find a bit more consistency in my pours. Looking back only three or four months ago, I clearly remember brewing the same tea a few nights in a row and getting startling differences in the colour of the liquor, the thickness of the syrup, the smoothness, right down to the cha'qi.

I'm starting to take hold of the belief that in able hands, most tea has some potential. It's just how a skilled musician can still make good sounding music on any instrument, even some that are slightly damaged. On the other end of the spectrum, you put a $3,000-$4,000 Taylor in the hands of a player who knows only the first three chords to Inna Gadda Davita, or the first bar of Classical Gas, it's still going to sound like a novice player, and you're sure to repel a crowd.

The last package I bought (the aforementioned tea fiasco I've been writing about in previous posts) contained a few samples and one of them was the 2006 Organic Pasha Mountain from Haiwan tea factory. I was talking to Teddy the other night, and we were laughing over some really skunky pu-erh he brought over. He mentioned that he tried the Pasha and liked it, but that it was very consistent start to finish. Bland was a word he used. I put that aside, like I always try to do when I have never sampled a tea before. Tonight, I pulled it out and brewed it up in my new yixing clay pot (which still needs a bit more weathering) and immediately found that it was smooth, clean, and definitely lacked bitterness. It didn't really have a whole ton of character from the first infusion, but was by no means bad. It's a delicious tea. One I would definitely share with guests, but not a tea for my more adventuresome taste buds of late. Each infusion packed plently of the same flavour, which I can admire. I chalked it up to this excerpt from string of text messages that went back and forth between Teddy and myself a few minutes ago:

Pasha mt. is the Snickers Bar of pu-erh. Not flashy, no surprises. Consistent delivery each infusion. I like it.

My next post is going to be about some of that skunky pu-erh that I've come to love on an occasional night of brewing here and there. Hopefully, anyone who reads this will be moved to speak up and share some of their tales of woe with me at that time. ^__^

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