Fun fact about Tyler: Joey actually helped create the wrapper for Tyler! If you ever need a puer wrapper made, he’s your man. We wanted to see how the tea did in two different pots. My pot by Jiri Lang from pu-erh.sk seemed to concentrate the flavor more forward in the mouth, while the yixing pot gave us more throat action. The pour on the yixing is much slower, but the fact that it’s a bigger pot compensated somewhat for the increased infusion time. Overall, the tea was very sweet and quite relaxing. The water here was just me chucking a bunch of minerals into some filtered tap water. It was a pretty good water! Mostly gypsum, some calcium chloride, some epsom salt, and a little bit of baking soda. It did the job. I then tried a steeping with something I call jar-char water, of which Joey remarked that it had a layered quality, almost like when it goes into your mouth, it has a solid structure, but once you taste it, it breaks and melts all over your tongue. More on this water strategy in a future post.
27 cents a gram and free shipping. I brewed this mostly to convince that it’s worth more than its price and could stand up to much more expensive sheng. We quickly realized that a CLT blend is very different from a W2T blend and it’s hard to even compare like that. It’s a fruity and floral tea with great sweetness. It won’t blast your face off, but it’s very full and a joy to drink. Then we got pizza.
Tea #4: 1990s Blue Mark (W2T)
Unfortunately we only had 3.7 grams of this long sold-out tea, which used to cost something like $1000 a cake. It was light for a bit, but we got 8 or 9 long steeps with great depth and an awesome profile. All we wanted was more leaf, but you take what you can get. Time flew by with this tea. Oh also I got a toy helicopter which we flew around for a while.
Tea #5: Tsukigase Zairai Sencha (Hojo Tea)
I just wanted Joey to try one cup of this sencha. It’s not grown with any fertilizer, so it has a very non-umami profile with some throatiness. This tea made us both so dang tea drunk we had no idea what to do. A strange way to end a session like this, but I don’t regret it one bit.
How do you know if you’re making your tea right? What I mean is, how do you know that someone on the other side of the country or the world is not making the same leaves taste ten times as good? People’s steepster reviews can be so vivid; is this a reflection of their imaginations or do they have the perfect trinity of great water, great teaware and great tea just by luck?
The same goes for cha qi. When mgualt has waves of frisson going up his ribs and down his back, and I only feel a little loopy, and we are drinking the same tea just in different parts of the world, how do I know if it’s a difference in our selves vs. a difference in our resulting brewed tea?
It’s fairly clear this is a not-so-good way to look at things. Your tea is your tea, and you should enjoy it in that context. However, it is always in the back of my mind, the question, is this good tea?
Sometimes I look for the ten qualities of a fine tea (living tea/GTH) or Relaxation, Oil, Aroma, Liveliness, Finish (deadleaves.club) but I could have teas that should tick all the boxes that aren’t for some reason. The only way to know is to have tea with people all over the world, and I haven’t gotten the chance to do that yet. If anyone would invite me, please drop me a line.
For now, I’ll be playing with water to gain a better understanding of how vastly different tea can taste with seemingly subtle changes.
I went to a tea party! We had twodog from white2tea serving a whole bunch of us. I won’t say too much about the tea; it was great. I got to serve some Yang Qing Hao 888 at the end, but it didn’t come out too well. I still consider myself a tea novice among this sort of company. Anyway, it was good people, good tea, good music, good food, good drink, what more can you ask for?
When I see veins on a puer tea leaf, I think “old arbor.” While I was drinking White2Tea’s Demon Slayer today, I noticed some particularly healthy-looking leaves. At 16 cents per gram, this is on the very low end of raw puer pricing these days. I wouldn’t expect to see old arbor material in this price range.
Huangpian means literally “yellow piece,” but I’m not seeing too much yellow here either. The w2t site says that huangpian refers to the larger leaves in puer production, also referred to as matured leaves in other places. I suppose it can mean one or the other.
With a huangpian cake, I guess you can get the cost down to really put some old tree material in there. For my taste, I might rather have this than plantation tea made with smaller leaves. It depends on the day though, because I also love this which is quite a bit cheaper and is all plantation tea.
I get much more relaxation and power from the Demon Slayer, probably because of those nice leaves which are very uncommon at this price point. The taste was great too. It seems very happy in my storage (a large enameled stock pot with a boveda pack).
Also, this session was with unglazed, wood-fired clay teaware made by Jiri Lang, which beats a gaiwan any day. This goes to show that memorable sessions do not belong to only the pricey teas.
Yesterday I hosted a gongfu session with my friend Joey. I had my whole six-hour music playlist set up, with my tea table moved to the middle of the rug. We started at 10:30 AM, sitting on little cushions. My mind was clear, I had plenty of water, and I knew this would be a great session. All of the teas were made with unmineralized filtered tap water, except for the Diangu which was made with Lurisia. We burned some nice incense from minorien.
We started off with this tea in a Novak pot. I used to structure my sessions from younger to older, but I thought this one would be great to start strong. It’s stimulating and heating and really gets straight to the point. Lots of activity in the throat. The sun was shining through the glass kettle making rainbows all over the tea table, so the session started off special.
Tea #2: 2018 Maocha
Joey brought some maocha which he made in my jianshui pot. We got nice bitterness and huigan. It’s fun switching brewers; it demonstrates equanimity and it is nice to experience tea from both sides of the table.
Two little gaiwans with two rolled oolongs. We liked the one from Leaf of the East better. They were both good, but the Qing Xin made us feel heavy and sleepy. The one from leaf of the east was a little bit darker. Both were complex and clean. We were ready to move on after four steepings of each.
I told joey that an aged ripe would probably put us all the way to sleep, but we found that it provided a very comfortable feeling. This tea was made in a glazed pot from teawarehouse. This was absolutely delicious.
Tea #6: 2018 Xizihao Diangu
After a lunch and music listening break, we made this in a gaiwan. This tea was purchased from Liquid Proust. We chose this tea because I knew it would be interesting. The furry leaves smelled like red tea to joey but it became apparent when brewing that it was not red tea at all. It’s a raw puer with intense florals (jasmine is most striking to me) and an energy that made us laugh.
This tea is no joke. Brewed in a small QSN yixing from tealifehk, one sip of this purportedly vintage loose puer and we were blasted into a new dimension. Joey said at this point that he felt like he was “a different element.” We could not stop cracking up. This is what a tea secrets party should be. We were not comfortable, but not uncomfortable, or maybe we were both. We got stomach aches from this tea and had to stop drinking. Could be because of over-wet storage. This concluded the five hour session.
The tea shop I work at stocks Global Tea Hut founder Wu De’s book “The Way of Tea.” Out of curiosity on a slow day I started reading the display copy behind the counter. Now before anyone says anything, this post is not about my opinion of Global Tea Hut. This post is rather about a specific quote in that book:
Master Rikyu said, “imagine your life without tea, and if it’s any different than it is now, you don’t understand tea.”
I actually can’t find any sources that contain this quote other than this book. Regardless of who said it, the idea is interesting to think about. If I imagine my life without tea, I would be yawning constantly. The time spent brewing tea would be spent doing something else… video games, music making, or hanging out with friends. Speaking of friends, I wouldn’t have any of my tea friends, and I would not work at a tea shop. So of course my life would be different! This seems trivial and must not be the actual meaning of the “quote.”
So what does it refer to? It does seem that my quality of life would be different, but just as fine. It is not necessary to drink tea to be happy. The point of the quote to me is that if you can’t apply what you have learned from tea to all aspects of life, you have not made the most of your tea practice. If you can do the dishes the same way you make tea, that would give you a happier life. The quote’s condition isn’t that you never had tea (of course you would not understand tea if you never had it), but that your privilege to have tea is taken away. Perhaps the essence of tea can remain when the actual tea is no longer present.
After all, it is not advised to have tea constantly all day. Most of our lives are spent without tea, although it can be in our system for a few hours after drinking. We should not be clinging to tea so tightly, and should be willing to let go of it: not by giving it away, but by letting it be.
I like young raw puer in unglazed clay. Specifically, I like it in jianshui clay because it brings out the sweetness. But ever more special to me is this european clay from teaware made by Jiri Lang.
I actually broke my pot recently, but I had a shibo from the same clay laying around so now I use that. The downside of this shibo is that it is very easy to burn your fingers on it. Here’s a picture.
Here’s another picture:
So what does it do to the tea that gaiwans don’t, or for that matter, yixing? Well, look at the inside clay. How does it look to you? Now how do you think it would affect the taste and texture and feeling of the tea? It makes the puer rocky, not by applying a rock taste, but by filtering the taste of the tea through microscopic pores in the clay to its own unique effect. I get a lot of throatiness from tea made in this shibo. But furthermore, it gives the session a different feeling emotionally. I like young raw puerh because there’s something tough and natural about drinking it; it’s strong stuff. My jianshui pot is very fun and cute, but this one is something else, almost reducing sweetness to bring out other subtleties.
With a gaiwan, you get the pure taste of the tea, but you miss out on this dimension.
I had a non-tea-drinking friend ask me once, what is the point of having a nice teapot? Why does it matter how nice your tea comes out? To me, it’s obvious; the tea tastes fuller, a fast pour gives me more control, it enhances the entire experience. Even with that, he still didn’t seem to get it. I wondered where that question was coming from. Perhaps he didn’t want me to spend a lot of money on something that has no practical use. I mean, it’s only tea. I think other people see tea obsession as a distraction, something that gets in the way of more important things. They see it as a waste of time and money.
He might have a point. What’s the point of making better tea? Why do our standards have to be so high? Tea is a beverage.
But tea is also a secret. The best cups of tea cause the drinker to be silent. It’s hard to explain, but when I’m having tea, there’s something in the air. I’m not obsessed with the energy of everything, but I feel a certain energy. What is that? Why is there no word for it?
I know I’m asking a lot of questions and not answering any. That’s because I don’t know why I have made tea such a significant part of my life. Well, I actually do know why, but I don’t have the words to say. I guess it’s a secret.