Deciding What to Drink

Deciding what tea to drink can be very simple or extremely complicated. In the evenings, when it’s too late to drink tea, I often spend time thinking about what tea I would drink if I could, and that ends up being the tea I have the next morning. But then, I try to dismiss that idea, thinking that if tomorrow I just make the decision in the moment, it would be a better choice.

So we need to decide how to decide what tea to drink. There are many factors that influence the decision: for example, is there a new pot you want to try out, do you want something intense or more relaxing, do you want something you haven’t tried before or would you rather drink something you are familiar with, do you want to try a familiar tea with a different pot than usual?

When do you drink your daily drinkers and when do you drink your special occasion tea? What constitutes a special occasion? Is your Japanese green tea going to go bad if you don’t drink it today?

It becomes much harder when you are going to have tea with someone. How many teas to bring to their place? How many teas can you handle in one sitting? What is a good order? Young to aged, or old to young, or mellow to strong, or strong to mellow? What will they like? What do you want them to like?

When you start thinking like this, it is easy to enter a state of paralysis. This is because they are verbal thoughts that come from the ego. Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot of Alan Watts. But what is the alternative to this? How will you decide what to drink without thinking verbally?

Here’s a little technique I like to call “consulting the void.” Basically, without thinking, just choose a tea with your eyes and hands. This works because there is no wrong decision unless you make it a wrong decision. If the tea you choose doesn’t taste good or feel right, that doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice. Without bad tea sessions, there can be no good tea sessions. If you are trying to make all your tea sessions perfect and amazing, you will be disappointed. However, if you have an open and quiet mind, your tea sessions can be much more fulfilling and harmonious.

You can extend this technique to choosing your teaware. Just choose without choosing. It works very well and you will grow as a tea drinker this way. I am trying to “consult the void” more and plan my tea drinking less.

Today’s choices. I cannot say why I chose them, but I also cannot say that they were randomly chosen.

Oh, and if your Japanese green teas go stale, that’s just the way it turned out. Use them to absorb odors in your shoes, make a smoothie, cook something with them, or let them age until you run out of tea and it’s the only thing you have left. If it’s not going to make you happy, you can also throw it away or give it away.

Do you have trouble deciding what to drink? How do you decide? Leave a comment if you want.

Puerh is Momentary

If you’ve ever left a cup of puerh tea out for a couple days, or tried putting some in a thermos, you know that once it’s a liquid, it changes very rapidly. A young puerh will quickly turn from yellow to orange within about ten minutes if it’s particularly active. This probably has something to do with the microbes in the tea, although I don’t get how they could possibly be alive after being hit with boiling water multiple times. Perhaps it’s some form of oxidation, but that doesn’t really happen to green teas, so I don’t know. Maybe you do?

Puerh is a complex chemical soup that takes about five seconds to make. What other soup is that instant? Ramen? Once it’s made, you have to let it cool down for a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on your tolerance to heat. It depends on the airflow in the room how fast everything cools. If you set up a fan a few feet away and turn it on low, or open a window to bring in a gentle breeze, it can speed up a session drastically by lowering cooling time. However, I don’t really like to do that, because once the fan is on, all I can think about is that there’s a fan blowing wind across my tea table, and it becomes a fan session, not a tea session. A breeze from a window makes more sense, but it depends on the season if you can do that. I do enjoy some breezy tea. It’ll cool you off if the tea makes you too warm.

Apparently certain teas will warm different parts of your body, but I never know if it’s actually because there’s sun coming through the window. I need to drink more tea in the dark to figure out really what’s happening to my body as I drink my puerh soup. I have read that young puerh is by nature cooling, but it can also cause your ears to feel like they are on fire while your toes are going to freeze off. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s something to think about, or feel about, while drinking your tea: how does the tea make my body feel? You can do one of those body scans where you start at your toes and go up all the way to your head, stopping at each part of your body. Of course, you might want to do this with no tea in your system first, so you can notice the changes. Then, you can ask yourself if those sensations are pleasant or unpleasant, and it can help evaluate a tea and add dimension to a deep session.

Of course, all of these phenomena are happening whether you pay attention to them or not. One of the benefits of gongfucha is you get plenty of cups and sips, but every single one of them is slightly different. You get to experience your tea from many angles and you get many moments to focus on different areas, if you want. But it is also fun to think about nothing and let yourself drink.

HK-Stored 2004 Red Dayi Raw via Liquid Proust

Tracking and Aging


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What actually happened that week?


What’s actually happening in there?

I’m starting to think it’s best to not think about your tea: basically, to forget about it until it arrives at your door or at your tea table. “But Tea Secrets, what about mold?” Finding mold on your cakes is like finding that your package has been sent to the wrong post office, or that it’s been taken into customs, or it’s been sent back to the vendor for no reason (all of which has happened to me and probably some of you). If there’s mold in your storage, or your tea is stuck somewhere, it’s not necessary to know right when it happens. Eventually you’ll smell something funny, or remember “hey, I feel like my tea was supposed to arrive sometime this week.” Constantly checking your cakes or refreshing 17Track is only going to bring a lot of anxiety into your relationship with tea.

Aging young tea is like ordering aged puerh 10 years in advance. As you try the aging tea, it tells you a bit about where it’s at, kind of like how postal tracking tells you a little bit about where your parcel is. You never REALLY know when it’s going to arrive. But then, eventually, it does arrive.