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 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


For now, those words are plenty enough for me.