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. ^__^


Brett said...

Hey J.

I look forward to reading about your oolong adventures!

I think it's about time we did a little tea and music swap? Email me if you're into it.


Jamus said...


I look forward to posting about my oolong adventures! I'm also down for a tea/music swap. I'll shoot you an email with my vitals. Hope all is well in your world!


Bret said...

In my experiemce using boiling water for some of the greener oolong,s isnt the best way to approach them. Boilng water can kill some of the flavors and aromas. My rule of thumb is the more oxidized, fermented or roasted an oolong is the better they seem to do with boiling water. Greener oolongs are getting closer to green tea and we all know what happens if you were to use boiling water with say Sencha. The brew is bitter and nasty. But this is just my opinion, whatever works for you is correct.

Jamus said...


I agree with you when it comes to green teas....180F is generally where I stand on those. Perhaps I've been lucky since most of my collection is on the roasted and oxidized end of the spectrum, but the oolongs I've come across have all done very well with water fresh off a boil. I will definitely keep your suggestion with greener oolongs in mind when I get to them. ^__^ Good to hear from you again, it's been a while. How are you settling into the new place?


Shiuwen said...

Hi Jamus,

Thank you for ordering the tea! I agreed with you that a good oolong doesn't cost the savings of your child's college fund.
Please go ahead and use boiling water for all of the oolongs you ordered from me. They can take it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Hope to see you someday in Seattle for many pots of tea(possibly only oolongs from taiwan.)

Anonymous said...

Right now I'm discovering Pu-erh after going through a time of finding out all about Oolong tea. Fortunately I've found the price point for good Pu-erh isn't so bad either, though it's higher than for Oolong. --Spirituality of Tea