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.