Sunday, December 20, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The first bowl sleekly moistened throat and lips,
The second banished all my loneliness
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
Sharpening inspiration gained
from all the books I've read.
The fourth brought forth light perspiration,
Dispersing a lifetime's troubles through my pores.
The fifth bowl cleansed every atom of my being.
The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals.
I can take no more.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Homemade Spinach Salad
"Here, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything-even die."
One of the biggest struggles I've had over the course of my life has been with the foods I put into my body. As a child, I was a very picky eater. I would often pass on entire meals simply because they weren't chicken, beef, macaroni, or something pre-packaged and processed. When I was maybe ten years of age, my father actually put an entire meal into the blender and made me drink it because I wouldn't eat. I wasn't allowed to leave the table, or do anything else for that matter, until it was gone. Talk about tough love. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono-disodium whatsiewhosit, polysorbate 60, and soylent green (which turns out, IS people). There's so much in our commercialised solution to the "lack of time" cuisine failures that I don't even know where to begin.
I came home from work today and changed out of my work clothes, and made it a point to head to the grocery store and fill an entire bag with raw foods and get out for less than $15 USD. In the past, grocery trips have cost me well over $130 USD for garbage. I made a point to make a sandwich before I left and tried as best as I could to listen to my body. Apples, oranges, baby leaf spinach, apricots, bananas, bell peppers. All of these things suddenly jumped out at me as vital. Food for the body and the soul.
The awareness of a mental shift in priority is astounding sometimes. One day you crave good food, but settle for garbage. The next day you crave good food, and make sure to give your body what it is asking for. The meal I had tonight was a fairly small portion, and yet, my hunger is absolutely satisfied.
I'm not sure if anyone else has this habit, but I will often start out doing a search for something I'm interested in learning more about, and then I'll just jump from link to link to link until I'm so far removed from my original search, I'm learning about something I had no way of anticipating. Anyhow, the other day I happened upon a book by a fellow named Jon Gabriel. I'm not really for or against diet routines, but the synopsis of his story was so ridiculous I couldn't help but scrutinise this guy's story. He was 410lbs, and now weighs less than I do (which is 195lbs, if you must ask), not by dieting, but simply by incorporating better food. He has a theory that the body tends to do what is safe for it. If you eat garbage, your metabolism slows down and the fat stays with you because your body is starving for nutrition. If you eat REAL food, your body desires to be lean as a means to survive against a potential predator.
If tea fuels the soul, then healthy food fuels the body.
That's the thought I reflect on as I pour this next cup.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
So yeah, it's been a while. It's been a rather interesting few months too. I've found myself easily at my lowest of lows and have only recently begun to start putting it all back together. I wasn't sure if I'd ever write here again, and my research into language and the difficulties of literal/figurative translation is taking far longer than I ever could have ever imagined it would. This could be a project that follows me around for several years before I'll have anything to show for it.
Big fuzzy leaves, very clean aroma, bright clear soup. According to Scott's description on Yunan Sourcing, this is entirely composed of higher quality leaves and is entirely Certified Organic 2009 spring flush, as opposed to the usual blend of younger and older mao cha. I'm fairly confident this will age decently well, but at the rate I've been drinking this, I'll have to buy another cake soon if I want to find out.
Today on the way home from picking Grace up, she said to me "Daddy, do you remember my mommy?" It floored me, if only for a few moments. I just said "Yeah Grace, I remember your mommy very well." She's got such a simple presence, even taking her inquisitive nature and ridiculous vocabulary into consideration. Over time, I'm sure the questions are only going to become more elaborate. What will my words and actions add when she finally understands the story that led up to her birth and life?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I think I finally figured out one of the reasons why I haven't been drinking too much tea lately. Since I moved into the new place, I haven't taken the time yet to carve out a little nook for drinking and enjoying tea. I don't need anything fancy, but I do need the right kind of lighting and a space that feels like it was meant for stepping outside of the everyday woes of the world. In my last two homes, I've had quaint little spaces that help me focus, much the same way people have rooms for meditation. It blocks out the distractions
Tonight I am running the gauntlet of teas, but won't be taking too many notes unfortunately. I started with a tea I received from Shiuwen at Floating Leaves; the Farmer's Choice Baozhang. Delicious as always, and her teas can handle the hottest of water without any hesitation. Next, I went to an 08 Menghai Mu Ye Chun Sheng (Old Tree Green Cake) I got from Greg at Norbu last year, and will be finishing up with an oolong tea from Brett at Teacup. Anyhow, my friend Marie just signed online and told me she's in Seattle right now and happened to be mere blocks away from two of the people who sent me these three teas. Amidst the excitement, I totally forgot that I was steeping the 08 Menghai and much to my dismay was punished severely by the Tea Gods for pu-erh neglect. It was probably the most brutal cup of tea I've had in months. Realistically, that cup would have been perfect in 24 hours, when I'll be heading into work at 3:00 AM to deal with the madness that is Black Friday in retail.
I must say that the most remarkable thing about tonight is that something is happening I certainly didn't expect. All of the old familiar aromas are beginning to come back to me. Dryness in the back of my throat, the sweet minty smell of camphor when I take a whiff of the bottom of a bing Bryan bought me for my birthday, the buttery thick soup of good oolong tea.
This is promising news on many fronts.
Also, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who loves good food. It's almost 3:00 AM and I've got a little sleeping angel on the couch who needs to be tucked into her big girl bed.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I'm finding that I am unable to do much more than give brief notes on what I'm tasting these days. I remember having a conversation with Scott Wilson some months back about teas and he told me that talking tea is very different in English than it is in Chinese. He said he can describe it in ways that lack comparison in the American tongue. It makes me interested to start writing in other languages again. I'd be curious to hear the input of anyone who reads and/or writes in a multilingual capacity already.
I've always been fascinated by the contrast between literal and figurative translation. For example, in French, one might say "avoir de l'oseille" to say someone has money. Avoir de....to have. L'oseille....sorrel. Sorrel is an herb used in salads. Lettuce? Ever heard anyone refer to money as lettuce? It's American slang for paper money. Coincidence? Possibly, but I doubt it. Lets take one that is a bit less literal. To see yourself getting angry. Americans might say something to illustrate the way a person's face and ears become red when angered. A common saying in french is (and correct me if my sentence structure is incorrect as it's been a few years since I studied the language fervently) "avoir la moutarde qui monte jusqu'au nez." This translates literally to having mustard going up one's nose; a concept that makes sense to anyone who has ever had too much wasabi or spicy mustard. Even then, I have still never heard it used to describe anger in English.
In English, the word for body is always the same. Body of a car, body of water, human body, and so on. In Japanese, there is a different word for each, but all translate to body. What I was told is that the reason for this is that certain words have a greater level of cultural importance. Just how there might not be a literal translation to English for concepts and ideas that don't exist in Western society.
The closest translation for Tao is "the way," but again, almost all the authors and translators of Lao Tsu's Tao te Ching stress the importance that the true meaning behind Tao is something more.
I could go on all day long about these parallels, yet I am still stumped to jot down the detailed notes about the mellon flavours, mushroom, huigan, camphor, cha qi, and whatever other terms used to describe the mysterious characteristics of pu-erh tea.
Perhaps a fresh perspective on how I write and how I enjoy my tea could be beneficial. Perhaps just learning to enjoy it for what it is will be the greatest lesson of all.
It's getting colder and the nights are consuming more and more of each passing day. I'll be starting school here in a few short weeks and slowing down will not be a viable option.
My friend Bryan just gave me a Dayi sipping cup that reads simply
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Tonight, Grace and I curled up on the couch together and watched the episode of Dora the Explorer where they go to Coney Island in pursuit of ice cream. At one point, an ice cream truck hides behind an object and the kids have to guess where it is based on the sound it makes when that object wiggles. Here's the conversation between Grace and I:
Me: Grace, where's that ice cream truck?
Grace: It's behind the tree daddy!
Me: What a silly place for an ice cream truck to hide. Why would an ice cream truck try to hide anyways?
Grace: I dunno daddy.
Me: Perhaps he ran out of ice cream and doesn't want to disappoint anybody.
At that point, Grace just mashed into my chest and took a deep breath and we both dozed off to sleep. My hair is a mess because of it and it actually looks like I've got a giant wing coming off the side of my head. Fatherhood comes with it's own rewarding moments. This was definitely one of them.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
There have been several humbling musings lately. The move, the conversations over warm tea cups, and the discussions that put dinner preparations on standstill. Through lots of laughter and plenty of tears, I'm finding myself at a much better place than I was a year ago. I found myself hanging onto a lot of things that until earlier this year, I wasn't ready to let go of.
Coming clean about everything in your life to a loved one is a very difficult thing to do when it hasn't been my way of life for so many years. Finding myself in a relationship with someone who wants to know everything about me without judging me is an absolute delight, no matter how hard it is to let go of the reins that hold the walls up.
Best advice: let go.
The kettle is still hot. I think this tea still has another four or five rounds of life in it. Thanks Brett for the Alishan High Mountain Tea (read more about it here). It's carrying me through tonight.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
It's amazing how quickly life starts to catch up with us when we spend our time rediscovering the world through the eyes of a child. I hear from old friends time and again whether it be Alex, Greg, Scott, or a whole run of other people I used to talk to in the world of tea. Yet I find myself time and again running out of spare time to just sit down and write. So I carry on, enjoying a cup whenever I can. Most of my sipping cups find themselves filled with Apple Juice so Grace can join in for a session every now and again.At one point, it becomes less about what's in the cup and more about who is handling the cup.
Yesterday I took her to her first baseball game. At one point, I looked in front of me and saw a camera man, so I placed her in the aisle. Next thing I know her face is plastered all over the big screen on the scoreboard and I can hear people all through the ballpark going "Awwww!"
After the game, the fireworks caught her completely off guard. She buried herself in my chest and said "Daddy, I don't like those!" Eventually she calmed down and said "Is that one red?" The cautious optimism and curiosity of a young mind taking hold of the fact that there really is a lot of world to see and explore is an amazing thing to be part of.
It will likely be some time before I seriously sit down and blog here regularly again, but I will definitely post pictures here and on my other blog (http://lifeinaphotograph.blogspot.com) if anyone would like to keep up with it.
In the meantime, my heart and best wishes go out to all of you!
Friday, April 10, 2009
It's also been a very long while since I've found time to sit in front of the keyboard and let ideas flow freely. I haven't been buying much tea at all. I haven't been drinking much either. Most of my sessions have been shared with other people and the tea merely compliments the conversation, which, in my opinion is not a bad thing at all. Unfortunately, with the state of the economy, I'm faced with a potential tightening in finances. I'm not even allowed to discuss what is happening at work without fear of losing my job, but big changes are coming there. I'll know more soon, but the plan for the year is to simplify my life as much as possible and be in a new house by the year's end. If I can pull through this, then perhaps I'll be investing in some of the 09 pu-erh, but at this moment I'm on hold.
I have been dabbling a bit in oolong teas, which I must confess I know very little about. I'm presently seasoning a pot for oolongs, and it's starting to develop both a beautiful patina and a delightful aroma. I find myself prepping the pot before I even add the leaf and spacing out while I take a deep whiff of the pot. Thick buttery soup, tastes and aromas reminding me of vegetables, cinnamon, and even sweet fruity tastes are taking turns pummeling my tastebuds. This is quite a different experience from what I'm generally accustomed to. It almost makes me think that oolong would be the most likely candidate for a 'gateway tea.'
The things I have figured out thus far is that many decent oolongs don't cost a terrible amount of money. Don't get me wrong, some of this stuff is just downright expensive and likely to be damn delicious, but you don't have to fork over your child's college savings to afford a decent cup. Also, for brewing, I already caught myself dumping the first infusion. I'll likely post a memo somewhere near the sink basin that reads:
"Hey stupid, you're supposed to drink the first one!"
I've also been told that any good oolong can handle water that is fresh off the boil. If it chars the leaf, it means the tea was likely made from lesser leaves....not necessarily bad, but unlikely to be anything spectacular (although I'm not sure to what extent this statement holds water because I've been told that is not the case with dancongs).
So, while I find myself learning the differences between tieguanyins and baozhang (which is one of my favourites thus far), wuyi and shui xian, please bear with me; for this is going to take some time to sort out. Fortunately, Bryan from Teajournaling and I have been drinking together again and have had plenty to share between the two of us.
Here's what I'm presently digesting:
Norbu Tea: Diamond Grade Tie Guan Yin - Fall 2008 Harvest, 2007 Fall TGY (to play with roasting)
Floating Leaves Tea: Taiwan Wuyi, House Oolong, and Baozhong "Farmer's Choice"
Jing Tea Shop: Wuyi Grade 3 Shui Xian Oolong, Feng Huang Milan Dancong
I'd be more than welcome to any suggestions to help me get a better understanding. ^__^
Sunday, April 5, 2009
From Hobbes; a 2004 Baijiguan Yancha and a 2006 Dian Hong!
From Teddy; something a bit older...
Video now; reviews later. Thanks Hobbes, your package was most generous!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The other morning I woke up and it was nearly 60 degrees Farenheit (somewhat less for those of you who live in the world of Celsius...which is probably most of you) so I decided to bust out the rake and clean up my front lawn for the first time all year. Grace caught wind of what I was doing and said "I wanna help you rake daddy." This was her noble effort, and even though the object that stood before her absolutely dwarfed her, she didn't give up until she had pulled it across the leafy grass the very same way she had seen me do it. The fact that she kept on with it made me wonder just what she was trying to say. Was it just a means of replicating what she saw her father doing? Was it a means of saying "Hey, I can pull my weight too!" Was it just a game? Expression? Art even? Is it really that different from the little shapes she likes to draw on everything when she gets a crayon, pen, or pencil into her hands?
How does this differ from the way we carry ourselves through our days? Do we have that kind of dedication to stand up in the face of the things that seem to dwarf us? Do we keep on until we've been able to replicate the results of the people we know have come before us and carried a task to the point where it becomes an accomplishment? It's almost like children are pre-programmed with the right wiring of morality without ever having to work for it. Little buddhas following the eight-fold path. Right views, purpose, speech, conduct, vocation, effort, awareness, and concentration. They ask for love and basic needs. Remarkable little people they are.
Makes me wonder where and how we sometimes fall off that almost righteous path. Where our innocence fades, and where we first learn to cut corners. To not give our best in a world that is smaller than ever. It doesn't make sense but I'm guilty of it as well. It all becomes part of a better balanced life. I often think that is why my mother seems to be such a happy woman. She carries herself as a very content woman, and I think a great deal of it is because she does everything to the best of her ability. She doesn't cut corners, she doesn't do work with an ego. She truly has it figured out.
I recently started rock climbing again. It had been over seven years since I last climbed. I went once last week and the feeling overwhelmed me again. The feeling of the holds beneath my fingertips. Launching off in a dyno and grabbing onto a hold that would otherwise be just out of reach. All the simple applications and no room for cutting corners. It wasn't but two days later I went out to purchase an entire set of climbing gear and last night I found myself bouldering for almost four hours straight. I found a path I was interested in tackling. Right foot on the stone beneath me, left foot, both arms on the starting stones. Left hand reaching up and grabbing onto the next hold, the next piece of the problem. At first, I fell numerous times just getting to that point. Then I figured out how to reach both hands to the same stone, and suddenly my left hand was free to reach the next hold. Right foot came over to shuffle and my left foot was already well on it's way to the next foot hold. Before long, I found myself making these moves without thinking. It was totally automatic and suddenly my slips and falls all felt very natural and almost vital for me to be able to see this out to it's conclusion. There were several other stones I could have used, but none of them were part of the path that lay before me. All of the muscles in my arms and hands are feeling it today; very alive and stretched in ways they're not used to.
I suppose this collection of words and ideas doesn't really tie into tea so much aside from the fact that my hands are still warm from the gaiwan that steeped the tea I am presently drinking, but it's more than that. It's the fact that I slowed down part of my day to enjoy this. I warmed the kettle, prepped the wares, cut the leaf from the bing, and every step was done very deliberately and carefully. When I am done, I will be sure to empty the kettle and clean out the wares because it's all part of the process. It brings this thing to completion and when I am ready to enjoy it again, I know it will be ready to go. I won't be cleaning up messes from a prior instance.
Perhaps it's clear to say that there is a recurring motif in all of this. It's about slowing down to enjoy simple things as well as standing up to the obstacles that seem to tower over us. The growth of a child, learning how to overcome my physical limitations on a wall. Even small things like making music or even enjoying a properly brewed pot of tea. They all carry with them the idea that love and respect must be present for anybody to benefit from them.
I can't think of a better thought to carry with me into Spring.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Since my daughter likes to make funny faces and play ALL THE TIME, I've been on a bit of a vacation from writing lately. My leftover effort and energy has all gone into reading more than anything else. I constantly find myself kicked back on the couch with my nose in a book and a pot of tea on the table next to me. It's an excellent deviation to just drink it without a pen in hand.
I was actually having a conversation with my friend Amy yesterday about books and whether or not one should mark in the books that they read. I told her that I can't bear to mark inside of a book, and she said "remind me to never let you borrow any of my books then" because she marks them up and down. She brought up a few points about taking notes to see how your feelings and opinions have changed whenever you get a chance to re-read them. It's a fantastic point, but I still don't think I'll find myself marking up my books anytime soon. It does give me an interest in revisiting some of my old tasting notes to see if my tastes have changed in the past couple of years.
On a side note: Tonight as I was putting her to bed, Grace's sleep playlist was going and the Christopher O'Riley version of Fake Plastic Trees came on to the player. Grace started listening intently but couldn't hear the words. She finally said "Can't hear that music daddy" with a look of exasperation on her face. I replied with "Well baby, that's because they aren't singing and there aren't words." She stared at me for a moment and said with a firmness only a child could muster up, "Sing it daddy."
At that moment I did the only sensible thing a father is to do when a nearly sleeping child makes a request; I sang every word of the song to her and by the time it was finished she was sawing logs in my arms.
Moments like that make all of this madness well worth it.
I'll get back to blogging about tea again sometime soon; I promise.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
“Memories of love are, in fact, no exception to the general laws of remembering, which are themselves subject to the more general laws of habit. Habit weakens all things; but the things which are best at reminding us of a person are those which, because they were insignificant, we have forgotten and which have therefore lost none of their power. Which is why the greater part of our memory exists outside us, in a dampish breeze, in the musty air of a bedroom or the smell of autumn’s first fires, things through which we can retrieve any part of us that the reasoning mind, having no use for it, disdained, the last vestige of the past, the best of it, the part which, after all our tears seem to have dried, can make us weep again.”
- Marcel Proust
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
"To realize freedom, the mind has to learn to look at life, which is a vast movement without the bondage of time, for freedom lies beyond the field of consciousness. Watch, but don't stop and interpret, "I am free" - then you're living with the memory of something that has gone. To understand and live now, everything of yesterday must die."
I decided to attempt solids today, and thus far it's been successful. My sense of taste is returning to normal again as well. I wanted to sit down with some tea this morning and figured and old favourite would be just the ticket. Roughly seven months ago, I posted a drive-by on the 2006 Haiwan Pasha Mountain sheng-pu, referring to it as the Snickers Bar of pu-erh. I said this because it was consistent throughout. There weren't any surprises to be had; just a straight shooter with a good flavour profile. Thought it would be the perfect control group for a more extensive set of tasting notes in lieu of my waning illness.
First off, the area where Pasha Mountain is located is in Menghai county, grown at 1,700 meters up. It has beautiful tips and a sweet fragrant aroma to it. To my (recovering) nose, it doesn't really carry any kind of the earthy aroma I usually associate with sheng-pu. I'm crediting 3+ years of decent storage partly for that. I'm also a big fan of most of the Haiwan cakes I've encountered; with the watchful hand of Zhou Bing Liang overseeing the whole process, it's no wonder.
After the initial rinse, I started smelling the earthy, leafy aroma we're all too familiar with. Clean is another word I would use to describe it. Everything about this cake smells and tastes very clean, although I have found a couple of small hairs in it...nothing us pu heads can't handle. First infusion went for 15 seconds, and I was left with a very light yellow soup that felt like it was cleaning my mouth as I took my first sips. Taste reminds me of earthy mushrooms dusted with the aroma of freshly cut grass. No bitterness, no tang. Clean, consistent, just as I remembered it. By the second infusion (20 seconds), I notice a slightly darker colour of liquor. This time around, the taste was still very similar, but with a more drying feeling. It also had a tarty aftertouch and left a noticable tinge on my lower lip. In the gaiwan, I'm staring at leaves that are green with some integrity (any Ken Nordine fans out there?). A green to be seen with! That's the green for you!
Third infusion came around (25 seconds) and an even darker hue sat within my cup. Still, the flavour remained consistent. Again, the tangy aftertaste grew in strength. I don't remember such a strong finish when I had this last summer...actually, I don't remember ANY kind of astringency or tangy finish at all. Either this tea has taken on some interesting characterists, or my tastebuds are still a bit wonky. Fourth (35 seconds), fifth (50 seconds), and sixth (1 min 15 seconds) all continue to polish out a thick, tasty soup, and that bite at the end continues to dominate my taste buds again and again.
I'm starting to think that my sense of taste isn't deceiving me at all. I really think this tea just decided to learn a new trick. If anyone else is hanging onto some of this, it may not be a bad time to go break off a little and see if you get similar results. As for myself, I'm just happy to still have a cake of this.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I'm still feeling ill, and Gracie is actually just starting to groan a bit, meaning she's about to wake up from her nap. I decided to keep foods simple today. Saltine crackers, bananas, apple juice, and pu-erh. I was surprised how easily it goes down on an upset stomach and how much it makes me feel better. I decided that shu would probably be easier than sheng. I can't taste it as well as I normally would, but I still feel the cha'qi working it's magic on my intestines. I've been reading a little bit on the medicinal qualities of pu-erh over the past few months; about how it aids in digestion, lowers cholesterol, cures hangovers. I even saw one study that said it has the same effects as the most powerful cholesterol-lowering medicines on the market. I will have to keep looking to see if I can't find any medical journals showing specific studies with pu-erh and influenza. If anyone has seen such a study, I'd love to read about it. All I know is that pu-erh has been trusted for it's medicinal purposes for over 1,700 years, and in the half-hour since I poured my first cup, I'm already feeling much better. My body feels warm throughout, I've got an angel sleeping right next to me, and a mild tea-buzz. Having the flu has never been so sweet.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Initially, the tuocha had a very smoky aroma with a touch of mint to it. I expected it to taste a little new, but I had no idea what I was actually in for. As I opened up the tuocha, I was surprised to see some of the loosest compression I've ever seen. I put the puer'dao into the tuocha and leaf after leaf quickly enlisted to be sacrificed to my tastebuds. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in front of a gaiwan filled to the brim with a tea that definitely didn't hesitate to start rounding the bases with me.
I didn't even bother to measure out the leaf in this one. I figured I'd just feel it out as I went along. 3/4 full in a 125ml Gaiwan is the best approximation I can give you. Boiling hot water with a flash rinse and my usual times: 15s 12s 25s, 35s, 50s, 75s, etc.
I once read about a word called mitote in a book. As for the credibility of the book, I've found it to be lacking. However, as a friend pointed out, the word literally translates to "dance" or "ruckus" in Nahuatl. The way it settled into my head, the word was a dreamlike fog; a bustling coutyard with thousands of conversations going on all at once. With so many voices, it can be a mite difficult to hone in on the ones that really matter. That's kind of how I felt about the first few infusions of this tea. It has a lot of character. There is definitely going to be a bit of buzz with this, but since it still has a very new taste to it, a lot of what it has to offer is going to be initially masked.
Normally, this new taste isn't an issue, but I think because I haven't been drinking much in the panel of young sheng, it took a stronger hold on me; similar to the way a couple of beers will have you feeling buzzed much quicker if you haven't drank in a while. I even needed to stop to make food because I was getting a stomach ache.
Once I worked through those few snags, I really started to see what was going on with this tea. Leaves are still very green with an immediate kick. They fill out your mouth with a tangy astringency that recedes into a very welcome tarty flavour that eventually fades out but keeps tingling the back of my tongue almost a minute after my cup was empty.
It's got character, it's thick, it has a very up front punch that hangs around with ample amounts of astringent tang, and it's loose compression makes me hopeful that it will age quicker than most tuochas. I think that given a few months to mellow, it will show drastic improvements. I highly recommend trying this one. Thanks Scott for your generosity.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"Sorry for the delay" is what I really wanted to say, but I know that the quality of my life has improved greatly since my last post. I've been spending more time with my daughter. Bath night, which used to be a task before bed a couple nights a week is now a nightly activity I look forward to every day. I long for my eyes to become heavy so I can scoop Grace out of her crib and toss her into my bed, even though I am fully cognizant that she's a bed hog. I see her taking on new challenges every day, not really owning much that is solely hers. It's inspired me to gut my home of things that don't carry their own weight and in the process I've killed more than a few demons. It's a funny game life plays on us.
We start very small with very little that is truly 'ours'. Our name, our pride, our integrity, among a few other things. As we begin to grow and understand the world around us, we'll collect trinkets. Some of them will be useful until the day we pass. Other items, seemingly valuable, will hang around until we no longer have need for them. In the natural order of things, we'll grow into our world. We'll eventually outgrow some of it as well; ideas, homes, vehicles, clothing, even friendships and relationships. As we become the people we are to be, a lot of changes will take place. As humans, we have the capacity to make things as simple or as complicated as we like them to be. If you are hungry, eat. If you're tired, lie down. If you get nausea drinking young sheng on an empty stomach, don't do it. There's always going to be an input/output when it comes to people living their lives and making decisions. There will always be wasted potential. I just want to see if I can minimize that as much as possible, not to make a statement, but because it's what I want of my life.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Fact is, lately I haven't been so much concerned with what I've been drinking. I haven't been hot to review a hundred different teas just so I can share my tasting notes. It's winter time, I'm cold, work has been hectic, and the demands of a growing child all occupy the time that would otherwise be spent happily inside of a Moleskine. What I do know is that a big part of enjoying tea is being in a comfortable position. In many regards, I miss my old kitchen. I miss heating water on a gas stove. Above all else, the lighting was pristine. The stove had a single incandescent bulb tucked into the range hood that lit the small kitchen perfectly. There wasn't even room for chairs, but it just felt right.
Tonight, I was talking with another friend of mine and she sent me this, which came from a friend that follows her blog, which came from a friend of theirs via Twitter. I'm not sure what the real origin is.
"We seldom ask for what we really want. We ask for what we think we can get or ought to have, but seldom ask for what we really want. Ask."
Sure, I'm a single dad. I don't have the fanciest house, and not a ton of cash but I'm doing pretty well for myself. Why can't I have the most enjoyable place to reside while I'm here? The answer is simple. I can. I just settled for less than what I really wanted. I think as people, we often do that to make things easier for those around us. Perhaps it just gives us the perception that it makes things easier for those closest to us. When it comes to one's happiness, we have to look out for ourselves too.
Some of that resonates and leaves a somewhat unsatisfied feeling in my gut, but most of it is hopeful that I've locked in on a better way to live. Simple, honest, direct. When we stop and step back from it all, none of the superficial stuff really matters. It's up to us to figure out what we really need and satisfy that need. The desk, the tea, the placement of everything else; yeah it's fresh and new, but what I really needed was comfortable lighting. I satisfied that need and at this point, the type of tea in my pot doesn't matter. It's hot tea. What more could I ask for?
Friday, January 23, 2009
...weighs just as much as a McDonalds Quarter Pounder. Shaving has never been so awesome!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So, I found myself fretting over the humidity factor, just like everyone else. I was curious where my cabinet sat, and whether or not my pu was in any kind of danger. I'll tell you, sometimes, I think it's more hassle than it's worth. I have been running a bit of an experiment to see where my stash falls. If I put a bowl of water in the cabinet, it will hover anywhere between 39%-47%. If I take the bowl out, it immediately drops to 30%. I live in an old house. The windows don't seal as well as I'd like them too and the heater is always sucking the moisture out of the air. I think I'm going to run it how it is for a few more days and then pull the bowl out for good. I enjoyed my pu-erh so much more when I didn't think about it like a child to be looked after. Soon spring time will come and that seems to be when my pu-erh makes it's most remarkable changes. Best of all, it does so without any intervention from me. Besides, I'm not out for a quick profit. If I stopped buying tea today, I would have enough to last me for at least ten years. Those two things in consideration, what's the hurry? My cabinet is definitely not dry enough to kill it and at least I won't have to worry about mould.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
I'm not terribly superstitious, religious, or easily spooked. However, I'm starting to wonder whether there is a little invisible man living in my house who dislikes ornate ceramic, clay, and porcelain tea wares. Tonight, as I was getting ready to sample a 2003 Tai Lian Yi Wu sheng, the lid to this gaiwan decided to mysteriously roll clean off the counter and shatter into three pieces on the floor. Although it was my favourite gaiwan, it was inexpensive and replacable. In fact, I've already got a new one in transit...turns out, it's not travelling alone. Turns out, impulse convinced me to buy another pot to be used for roasted oolongs. Turns out, Scott from Yunnan Sourcing is the man. I had an order placed and paid for within six minutes of hearing the lid shatter. Talk about making a positive out of a negative. Since I only drink raw in the gaiwan, it looks like I'm stuck drinking nothing by this amazingly delicious shu and dancong that's eating holes in my cupboard...
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Since I work throughout the week, and immediately have to pick my daughter up from my parents' house after work, I often miss the mail carrier when he makes his daily rounds through my side of town. Guidelines state that international packages must be signed for, and will not be left on the doorstep. For this very reason, I make several trips to the post office (which I hate oh so dearly...anyone who reads regularly knows exactly why) to pick up my packages. Yesterday, much to my surprise I came home to find a large box on my porch, riddled with tape from Kunming Post! (The regular carrier actually left me a note asking if I could please sign the paperwork and leave it in the mailbox for him to pick up tomorrow. In my eyes, he saved me a trip in this sub-zero temperature) Inside that box was a beeng of the Menghai 0532, a new teapot, and ten (count them) of what you see in the picture above. This was sort of an impulse buy, to be quite honest with you. I'm a big fan of Menghai, so naturally it works. I've also been on a shupu kick lately. I want nothing more than that lovely taste of old cellar, campfire, and wet earth. Actually, the first time I ever tried shu, I was immediately taken back to a morning camping in the Appalachains. Specifically, the morning after drinking around a bonfire all night, having it pour enough to flood my tent, and waking up early in the middle of the woods to clean up all the mess we made the night prior. Somehow, as weird as it may sound, I love that kind of stuff. Reminds me of rock climbing and rafting in the New River Gorge.
Anyhow, that brings me to the tea. It's a 100g ripe ironcake. This bad boy has a beautiful smell in that "I'm a lumberjack" sort of way. Compression is very tight, but gives way without too much difficulty. It's a little slow to wake up, but with a couple of good rinses, gives way to some incredible flavour.
It has a fairly strong Cha'qi, and isn't afraid to show it's presence. It had me feeling somewhat tea-drunk by about the fifth infusion. I assume that is something I'll probably refer to as "damn delicious" after a couple of months, because it was pressed in November of 2008...still VERY young. It didn't have a ton of surprises however; pretty straightforward, which is in no way a bad thing. All in all, I'd say it definitely earns a place as one of the best shu releases I've had in the past year. The only things I've had that I possibly liked more were the Haiwan Lao Cha Tou (which is in a league all on it's own), and the 7572 (both Menghai and 12 Gentlemen were delicious). Even then, it's a tough call. I have brewed up a couple of very bitter cups of 7572, as opposed to the fact that I just can't seem to make this one bitter.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
10. Lydia - Illuminate
9. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
8. Ours - Mercy
7. Ben Folds - Way to Normal
6. Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave
5. Apes & Androids - Blood Moon
4. Natalie Portman's Shaved Head - Glistening Pleasure
3. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing
2. Islands - Arm's Way
1. Human Highway - Moody Motorcycle