Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday




I hope that everyone had a safe holiday today.  I slept in this morning and Grace's mother dropped her off a little after 1:00 PM.  We spent a majority of the day at my parent's place, and came back this evening so Grace could open her presents.  After getting her put down, I decided to reorganize my tea.  Kind of my treat to myself for Christmas.  Now that I am officially drunk off Lao Mansa, it's time for bed.  Some of have to work on Saturday.  :-\

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best of '09 Part 2/4 (#15 - #11)

Every year, I like to put together a list of my favourite albums from the year. So often, music literally carries me through my day and there's seldom a tea session without it. So, here's part two of my 'Best Albums of 09.' Enjoy!

#15 - I Heart Hiroshima - The Rip

Agitated vocals with twinging guitars, the familiar call and response between male and female vocals, witty lyrics, and very on point drumming. Perhaps this is a guilty pleasure album for me, but that familiar UK post punk grunge sound comes through here. This album has a higher level of production than I would usually expect from this kind of music, but it's driving and catchy, so it works.


#14 Spider + Octopus - La Arana Esta Susurrando

Another throwback album, Spider + Octopus is a folk act from Pensacola. They sound like a pretty small act and I wasn't really able to find out much else about them, other than the fact that their album is available online for $5 USD. Very subtle use of electronics fill out the sound a bit, but this is a very refined, acoustic album. Uneven production makes me think this wasn't all recorded or mastered at the same location. Soulful lyrics, almost raspy at times. The harmonies are well-executed, and there isn't anything that feels rushed about this album. I wasn't expecting it at all when it landed in my hands. Very good storytelling makes this a collection of lovely porch songs.

#13 - Fun. - Aim and Ignite

This album captivated me in a most unusual way. It's very produced, and extremely commercially accessible, yet somehow, it drew me in. I think it has a lot to do with Nate Ruess' vocals. So many of the songs were littered with awkward pauses, cadence changes, time signature changes, and tempo changes, but all done in a fashion to follow the vocals, giving much of this album a sense of diction, similar to the way a musical would jump in and out of song. The theatrical aspect of so much of the music reminds me of a variation of some of what Silverchair was going for with their two most recent albums, but in a more lighthearted fashion.

#12 Cowboy Indian Bear - Cowboy Indian Bear EP

Again, another EP that found it's way into regular rotation this past year. An intriguing group, consisting of drums that feel somewhat off when they're right where they ought to be, harmonies that remind me of chant, and an electric orgran that makes the hair on my neck stand on end, this is a band that I see having some absolute promise. The first track, Saline, opens slow and mellow, with the drums beating in the background like a pulsing heart, until about halfway through the song when everything comes together, distortion pedals click into the on postition, drums pick up and suddenly the band says "just kidding, here's what we're really all about." Very intricate drumming at points, but never to the point where it takes away from the music, but instead directs it in and out of the beat as tempo and back-beat bop back and forth flawlessly. Can't wait until they finish their album, but until then, this has to suffice.

#11 Owen - New Leaves

This is a band that continues to deliver fantastic music at every turn. Mike Kinsella got married, had a kid, and somehow put together arguably one of, if not, the best albums of his career. From a technical stance, this is more put together than prior albums and the production is top notch. Lyrically, you might think becoming a family man would help him sort things out, but that's not always the case. It's full of confusion and questions. It's intelligently dark, and somehow reminds us that nobody has it all. Thanks Mike, now go spend some time with your kid.

Best of '09 Part 1/4 (#20 - #16)

So, as promised, the first installment of my favourite albums for 2009. A few of these at the bottom of the pile were so close to one another it made choosing a mite difficult. Anyhow, without further a due, here's my Best of 2009 list. I welcome your thoughts and definitely want to hear what you've been listening to these past twelve months.

#20 - And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Century of Self

An almost epic feeling album. This was one I picked up early on in the year, and right from the opening track, it builds with what a dear friend of mine used to call the "Big Burst of Sound Theory," in which a track will slowly and gradually build steam and layering until it drops you clean off the edge of the cliff. Giants Causeway ends with a subtle piano and immediately you're smacked in the face with feedback, driving guitars, and vocals that fit right in with Sparta and Cursive. Spread that out with beautiful intermissions of harmonized chorus and space-rock synth and beautiful things happen. There's a couple of interesting lull tracks towards the end of the album, and Insatiable One & Two are masterpieces for sure.


#19 Bobb Bruno - Dreamt On EP

In previous years, I've never included EPs in my 'Best of' lists, but this year, there were so many EPs that stood up just as well as full-fledged albums that I decided to include a few of them. This one was a gem I happened upon and fell in love with on one of my runs through Hines Park (which is a several mile trail that spans a few cities, chocked with several scenic spots and parks). Entirely instrumental, it's got a very spacey vibe to it, and is driven by everything from an electric piano to steel guitar. I've really come to appreciate instrumental music, especially as a complimentary piece to reading, writing, and jogging. I find this album does the same thing to me as The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place by Explosions in the Sky; it allows me to clear my head and focus on everything that sits before me, just with a bit more lo-fi. With grainy pop-drumming, bells, and synths that sound like they were stolen from a 70's porno, this is definitely not an album for everyone, but it won me over after a single listen.

#18 Dinosaur Jr - Farm

What can I say about Dinosaur Jr that hasn't already been said? They're fantastic. I was a bit skeptical about this album because my initial thought was "They haven't released anything new in years...they've GOT to be hard up for cash." As I so often am, I was terribly wrong here. It's a very solid album that shows us very clearly these guys still have it. The only reason it didn't get ranked higher is because I was so hesitant to really digest it and it hasn't spent a lot of time in rotation on my player. Much like Frightened Rabbit's last LP, I'm sure I'll have a greater appreciation for it once 09 is over and I've got more time to let it consume me.

#17 The Seal Cub Clubbing Cub - Super Science Fiction

I have a confession to make when it comes to this band. Over the years of my life, I have had a weakness for jumping at artists creative enough to come up with the most ridiculous name. The Seal Cub Clubbing Club does just that. Much to my surprise, I was presented with a catchy indie pop album layered with slow strings, funky guitars, and some catchy lyrics. The thing I find most remarkable about this band is the fact that they deviate a bit from the traditional expectations of pop and venture into some progressive elements. A few points in the album drop some odd-meter on us, and before you know it, you're right back into the beat before you ever knew you were off the rails. For a band still finding their way, I was most impressed. Hoping to see more goodness from them in the future.

#16 Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Andrew Bird, world class whistler and master of anything stringed. His hauntingly beautiful voice and prowess with such a diverse array of instruments paired with a collection of songs that induces comas (I mean that in the best way possible). This is a perfect chill-out album. Musically laid back, draped with beautiful harmonies and Mr. Bird's ingenious lyrics. I still don't think it stacks up to Armchair Apocrypha, but it's a wonderfully put together and enjoyable album.

Winter is Here, Take Your Time Coming Home



Well, Winter is officially here. Michigan made history December 1st by having the first November in recorded history without snowfall. Now, almost twenty days into December, we get our first snowfall of the year. Albeit not much snow, it's plenty enough for Gracie to have a good time.

Last year, I lived in an old house that was built in the 1890's with wooden floors that were cracked from humidity, and windows that were poorly sealed. The furnace was always running and because it was constantly running, it sucked all the moisture out of the air. It constantly felt as though I needed to turn the heat up. I did some reading and discovered that with low humidity, it will always feel cold, no matter what you turn the heat upto. My solution was to put humidity beads into my tea cabinet, and to buy a humidifier for the house. Both solutions worked to a degree, but not nearly as well as I would have liked.

This year, I am living in a new home. One that doesn't have a typical furnace, but instead has radiated heat and ceiling fans in all of the rooms. I've already noticed my allergies have been better, the air feels warmer and I haven't even had to really use my heat yet, and my tea cupboard still carries a lovely smell (which I was expecting to disappear just as it did last year).

Late night tea sessions are finally giving me a chance to catch up on some of the albums I've been meaning to get around to all year long. With that comes my annual "Best of" album list. Last year, I believe I only picked ten albums, and the year prior was fifteen. This year, I decided to go with twenty albums released after January 1st of 2009 and will be posting those albums in four separate posts. I'd also be curious to hear what some of you have been listening to. Generally, my tastes shift towards indie rock/pop, but that will never sway me from listening to or checking out anything that is recommended to me. Having played in bands with genres ranging in everything from jazz, progressive rock, fusion, funk, hard rock, folk, and and even dabbling with electronic music, one would be hard pressed to find something I can't appreciate.

It's 2:10AM already. I love these nights. I'm finally back to a point in my life where I don't worry. Last night, someone got a hold of my debit card number and charged almost $400 to an Egyptian airline service, and instead of freaking out, I called the bank, got everything straight, and went to the bakery and ended up getting a free gingerbread cookie for Grace and bought a giant dinosaur cookie for me. The girl there was absolutely adorable and had the prettiest smile. It's rare to find someone who smiles with their eyes as well as their mouth. Sometimes, it's the smallest of pleasures that remind us that whatever happens, it will pass. Even with all of the headache, how can your day not get better with this staring you in the face?

Dinosaur cookie FTW!
(sorry, Grace mowed her gingerbread man before I could snap a picture of it.)

This is the time of year when I constantly remind myself to talk, walk, think, and act a little slower. Everything with a little more care. Everything with a little more deliberation. Take time with everything, even coming home. It's been a tough run getting back to this mindset.

Irony = all of the colour coming back to my world as the colour is literally leaving the world and being replaced with skeletons of trees and white blankets of snow.

I think I'm ready to start sharing my tasting notes again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wiped

I don't have the energy to write tonight; just the energy to sleep. So I leave you with this.

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.
This seventh...
I can take no more.

- Lu Tung, Chinese Poet

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Healthier Living


Homemade Spinach Salad

In an earnest effort to live a simpler life, I've been making conscious strides to be aware of what I'm putting into my body. To take the time to listen to one's own body reveals a wealth of knowledge on just what is needed to get through the day. Obviously, there's no big secret that we drink tea for it's numerous benefits, whether they be chemical, social, or spiritual. There is a certain level of interconnectedness when it comes to tea. One of my favourite quotes comes from the jacket of Three Cups of Tea, which reads:

"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."

In the culture of kinship, I must say I've not met and gotten to know as many amazing people as I have through this journey to find the perfect cup of tea. The insightful conversations, the sharing between the community, and the realisation that what I'm drinking was carefully cut from a bing by someone I have an immeasurable amount of respect for thousands of miles away from me. It's these repeat conversations that really make a great many of you feel like family. In this sense, it's just like sampling teas. You normally brew something a few times before you really start to have a meaningful conversation with it. That's been the flow of my life since day one: Attempt, fail, attempt, fail, and so on until one day you meet success.

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.

I didn't need to get much further than that in the 200-some page book before I closed the PDF (digital books are amazing) and realised that it was time I started questioning my own eating habits. It's all about learning through conversations, with others, as well as with my own body and the things I am consuming.

As the kettle is brimming with boiling water, I can't help but to think of it as a sort of combustion engine. Fuel. The steam fuels the tea.

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

Tea Wave

So the more and more I talk to people about it, the more people I come across people who have had a chance to mess around with Google Wave. It's an amazing vehicle for communication and information sharing. The problem however, is that nobody really knows exactly what to do with it yet. It's got features that allow users to embed pictures, maps, links, and even pull people into waves in real-time. This got me thinking about using it as a resource to help spread knowledge about various teas, vendors, the regions they come from, tips for brewing, and whatever else people might be interested in learning. I know I've already got a few of you listed as contacts, but I still have 12 invites if anyone is interested in using something we all know and love to find out what exactly can be done with Google Wave. Any takers?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dust

Tonight I broke out the 2005 Dehong Golden Melon. It was one of the first tuochas I ever purchased, and when I first bought it, it was brutal. It had amazing presence and the chaqi was strong but it turned a few of my friends off (likely because they were babies). Two years later, it's still got some bite, but has definitely mellowed a little bit. I rather enjoyed drinking it tonight. If you look at the picture above, you'll notice dust in the cup. I've found this tends to happen more with choppier pu-erh, but is an attribute I've grown quite fond of. It creates a texture that you don't get all the time. An ever-so-slight grittiness and from what I can tell, the source of this tea's strong ku.

Then again, perhaps it's just my beard talking...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gravity, you there? + (Mini Review 901 Menghai Ba Da Gao Shan)


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.

The fact is, I can't write when I can't enjoy the time I get to spend in my own head, and those wonderful nights staying up late, absorbing all of the new albums I still make a point to gather up haven't been a regular part of my world since I moved to this new place. Part of it is the holidays for sure, but a big part of it is the fact that I've been so far removed from finding joy in small moments that the hours go slipping past and it's morning all over again, rushing to be out the door to do a job that feels much less than satisfying. The only thing that hasn't slipped is my time spent with Grace.

To slow down and take it all in, a lot has happened over the course of the past couple years and I'm still scratching my head at how I walked away from this with only a bruised ego and mild reversible brain damage. The mountain of failed relationships have shown me just how a deft blow to the heart can send a man clean out of orbit.

Recently, I was having a beer with a dear friend and we were discussing the flow of things and we summed it up to being in a car with an opaque front windshield. You see the world go whizzing past you, everyone else outside can see where you're going, and they'll even warn you when things get in your way. You can even see where they're going, and what stands in their way. Yet most of the time, we're too busy tinkering with the radio to give any real credence to their warnings. So a seemingly unstoppable force collides with an immovable object and thus begins the story.

I've had the luck of acquiring friends who, for lack of a better phrase, had no difficulty seeing through the bullshit, picking me up, dusting me off, and sending me off into the world time and again the past few months. I can only assume most of them could easily write a song to the beat of my trips and stumbles, but they stood by. That said, I'm quite sure I'm past my reckless point, but some days are still more difficult than others. Grace's mother still tends to spin me about without even trying, and each day I have to remind myself to breathe past the difficult points, sewing my mouth shut, but often missing one or two stitches. Given time, it gets easier, but it requires effort every single day.

Now, onto other matters. ^__^

Winter snuck up on us this year. It went from 50F days down to 10-12F almost overnight, and most of us weren't ready for it. What this means is that humidity is down in the house, so the sweet aromas that normally fill my nose every time I walk past my tea stash taper off a bit. It's also the time of the year when I make a point to get really heavy back into drinking tea. I dig out old teas and see what they've been up to all spring, summer, and fall while I've been away.

Dragon of Bulang, you still disappoint me.

Hai Lang Hao, you always come through for me.

All of my shu is just as deliciously musty as I remember it, and on numerous occasions, I've gone all day with a few of the old tea nuggets.

Some of my TGY needs a refresh in the roaster, but otherwise deliciously thick and buttery.

Tonight, I'm drinking something new though. Something I don't have prior experience with. It was a gift from Bryan at Teajournaling. Every year, we buy a bing and a tuocha for birthdays. It's easy and never disappoints. This year, he got me something new from Menghai; the 901 Ba Da Gao Shan Organic Sheng pu.


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.

The closest I'll be getting to a tea-mountain anytime soon...

This tea has a very good lift as well. I'm feeling a mild tea buzz from it, and the same kind of warmth and happiness that I generally feel after I've enjoyed a big bowl of Panang Curry at Lai Thai (which is a small Thai restaurant run and owned by a lovely woman who has been an unwavering source of optimism and my benchmark for genuine human compassion). A warm, full belly and a happy heart. That's what this leaves me with. Lasting impressions and a moment to reflect.

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?

When it boils down to it, the importance in anything is the impression it leaves us with. I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tea Nooks


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

Hello, Ni-hao, Bonjour, Konnichiwa, and all that Jazz


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

茶有大益

For now, those words are plenty enough for me.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mystery Samples

Today I received a phone call saying my package from Scott at YSLLC arrived at the local post office. I'm in the process of moving so I had the package shipped to my parents' house. Mom said "They left one of those 'Sorry we missed you' notes at the door, but they didn't even attempt to deliver the package." Mom was really annoyed. I've had far worse issues with the post office (rummage through some of my old posts for clarification) so I'll be happy to drive up there in the morning so I can begin the festivities.

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

Coming Clean

She's two now. It's humbling. Any parents out there will know exactly what I am talking about. We've been busy enjoying our time together. We're also getting ready for a move at the end of this month. Most of my tea is boxed up and ready to go. Two large boxes now house most of my tea (not nearly as large as Hobbes', but maybe someday) and my box of samples is getting a lot of attention right now. It's strange to know that in a couple short weeks, this place that has been my home for the past year and a half will be locked for the last time until some other tenant decides they like large porches as much as I do.

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

...and the train barrels onward.


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!

jamus~
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Late Nights

Almost everyone I've spoken to in the tea community generally drinks tea in the morning or throughout the day. They all tell me that the alertness they feel from being tea-drunk keeps them up all night. I'm not sure if it's because cans of Pepsi and Coca Cola mixed with package after package of sweets loaded with sugar and partially hydrogenated soybean oil and whatever else we feed our children in this country has made me immune (or at least moderately desensitized) to everyone's favourite alkaloid. To that, I have no answer. The truth is I've never lost sleep because of tea; only a wandering mind keeps me awake...well, that and the occasionally fussy baby.

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

An Excellent Day in Tea

I recently received a very exciting package from Hobbes and inside found a couple of gems that got some attention this afternoon.

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

Springtime is finally here


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

Reading and Marking


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

Serenity

Spent all of today with Grace. She is finally healthy again, as you can see from the above picture. The afternoon consisted of playing Hide 'n' Seek, going shopping for groceries, making a big dinner, reading a few books with Gracie that Amy picked up at the John K. King library downtown (best library ever!), and a session with the 2005 Dehong Purple Varietal. Amy is picking up some food after she get's off of work, and we're watching Serenity this evening. A glorious evening for Browncoats everywhere! Hope everyone enjoyed/behaved themselves today.

"I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar!"

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

Solids, Zen, and a trip to Pasha Mountain

I've always enjoyed posting pictures of what each session looks like when set up. I'm an extremely visual person so it is mostly for me to grab onto events of the day, moods, or whatever else may have been present at the time I made each post should I ever need to look back in time. It just hit me that I post them a lot, and for anyone curious, that's why. As dangerous as it can be to revisit past events, sometimes it can help us to become something more in the future. This next part is here mostly for me, as a reminder:

"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

Sick Day

This is the view I've pretty much had for the past couple of days. Gracie and I are both down with the flu right now. She came down with it first, and took the initiative to show me how much of a sharp shooter she is with the puking by getting it only on me. Nothing on her, nothing on the couch. That's what dads are for I suppose. Anyhow, like something out of a movie (a not very funny movie might I add), I stopped to pick up apple juice and bananas for her yesterday after work. I wasn't feeling fantastic myself and called into work because I was going to take her to the doctor if she wasn't better today. While getting her ready, she puked on me again. After cleaning her up, I put her in the car praying to anyone who would listen that she wouldn't get sick on the ride home. Fortunately for me, that prayer was answered. However, by this point, I was feeling very nauseous myself. I pulled into the driveway, kicked open the door, laid Gracie down on the couch (she was asleep thankfully) and made a mad dash to the loo in just enough time to keep everything contained within the porcelain. Lucky day indeed! Taking care of a child when you're sick as well; not as fun as advertised. We endured, and today has been somewhat better.

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

2008 Menghai v93 Sheng Tuocha

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you're probably familiar with the buzz around the 2005 Menghai v93. I just acquired one of the 2008 release and I went into it with a very open, yet optimistic mindset. The only bias I have is the one that I believe 2008 was a good year for Menghai.

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

Outgrowing the World


"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

Move 12 Small things...

...or something along those lines. I'm not exactly sure how the quote goes, but a friend of mine read a book on Feng Shui and now she's my expert. She said "move 12 small things before you move one big thing." I took it with a giant pinch of salt until this evening. I've been a bit lethargic. Definitely down about the weather being so frigid. The humidity has been low, so cranking the heat up still leaves me feeling cold. Obviously a humidifier is the solution. A trip to Target (as well as IKEA) are both on the horizon for tomorrow morning. Anyhow, I felt like a change was in order, and small changes weren't taking care of it. Normally, finding enough old clothes to fill a bag for goodwill, or cleaning out a closet helps. Dishes (oddly enough) have been a slice of salvation. Yet, these past two weeks, not even the small things work. Perhaps I'm alone, but the enjoyment of coming home to a clean and empty kitchen sink makes me feel like I've earned the right to kick my shoes off and take a knee. After eleven and a half months and much frustration, the bedroom finally got the big shuffle, and I was left with a new sanctuary for reading, researching, creating, and drinking.


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

Weight Comparison

A post that is not tea-related. I'm in the midst of rearranging my house and I'm drinking Lao Cha Tou; something I've ranted and raved over numerous times. Anyhow, my attention is focused on the fact that my new razor...

...weighs just as much as a McDonalds Quarter Pounder. Shaving has never been so awesome!


Discuss.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Overanalyzing Humidity



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

Oily Seas

One of the first pu-erh teas I ever fell in love with was the 2006 Six Famous Tea Mountains Yi Wu Millenial Tea Tree. Wild arbor, big leafy facing, thick soup, lots of minty camphor goodness. Above all, oily as can be! I can recollect numerous times after handling the beeng rolling my thumb and fingers around for a couple of minutes, impressed by the amount of oil that sits on a dry leaf. I'm not sure why, but it wasn't until the past six months that I ever paid attention to the amount of oil that sits atop the chahai after pouring an infusion. My only guess is that I don't think I ever really saw it until I started drinking aged and shu, which both generally carry a darker, amber/red shade. Now that it's something I look for whenever I'm drinking tea, I tend to notice it more frequently and last night was no exception. However, I noticed it was actually dancing in the chahai.


video

Not too shabby for a 3-month old shu. Delicious. One of the small joys this world has to offer.

Picture-time

Just a couple of quick photos. Not much to update tonight. 1) Quickly destroying my first bing of the Menghai Hong Yun. It's oily as all getout, and even more delicious when I brew it to my normal steeping times. 2) New teapots often smell like the north end of a southbound dog. Hence, a picture of my efforts to remove some of the stank. Goodnight.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh Gravity, You Win Again!


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

Menghai 2008 "Hong Yun" ...and a few other things


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

Top Albums of 2008

Every year, a few friends and myself post our top 10 albums of the year. Last year I destroyed every other piece of social networking I used to use. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter...all gone. So this year, my teablog becomes the new nesting grounds for the albums that have gotten me through this past year. The only rule is that the albums have to be ones that were released within the confines of 2008. So, here they are. Hopefully I might inspire a few others to post their favourites as well. Don't worry, I'll get back to the tea soon...most likely this evening ^__^

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