28 January 2014

A Cup That Cheers

"Don't spoil good tea by bad preparation. Let every cup you make be a cup that cheers."

I recently came across this little tea how-to gem, from 1941, and yes, sat through the entire ten minutes. (Seems like people had a longer attention span back then- including me, as I started writing this last week but got caught up in baby porcupine and Public Enemy videos.)

It's also coming from a guy in lab coat with a cool British accent, so pay attention:

The advice on how to brew a good cup is surprisingly accurate, even 70 years later- although the sections on how to best sweeten and milk large quantities in urns may be slightly less applicable. No one likes an urn.

"Remember: tea is not a manufactured article which can made bufflebuck, and served at will. It must be made every time it is required."

17 August 2013

Cake Out

Yes, I made That Cake again.

Yes, there's only this much left.

Yes, I had it for breakfast. But I did pair it with a different tea this time, Oriental Beauty- a highly oxidized oolong from northwestern Taiwan, rich and honey-sweet in both flavor and fragrance. If you could curl up in its lap, you would.

Oriental Beauty was actually developed in the late 1800s in an attempt to emulate Darjeeling tea- but although both are fine examples of how delicious a bug-bitten leaf can taste (a small leafhopper insect attacks the plant before it's harvested, changing its chemical components), I doubt you'd mistake one for the other. There's a smooth, complete roundness in the Oriental Beauty that's a very different structure than the stacked and layered curves of a Darjeeling.

And if the idea of eating shapes is unappealing, just make the poundcake. You can get anything down with a slice of it.

20 July 2013

Quiet World

The best cup of tea I've had in a long time.

21 May 2013

On Loneliness, Desire and Hand-Rolled Gyokuro

The longer you're in a city, the more alone you feel. I don't think it's necessarily in a bad way- it's just inevitable that as you're surrounded by people every day, you're faced with how many of them you don't know. It's not an unnatural state, but it can at times lead to a feeling of missing out or wanting to be somewhere else. Just a few blocks away something better must be happening.

So when I do find myself lost in an engaging experience and not thinking of anything else, I relish it. Such was a tasting I had recently with a few friends that I met through tea (the kind of people you can sit around with and talk about leaf varietals for a half hour, and realize that no one is melting from boredom).

And while I am utterly surrounded by tea at work- no, I'm not complaining about that- it's always a treat when something new shows up, like this hand-rolled (or temomi) gyokuro from Yame, Japan, that we had. The matte tone of the elegant, needle-shaped leaves is due to this process; even though these producers could easily break you in half, human hands can't produce the same amount of friction or pressure as a machine (but it sounds way cooler).

I'm a sucker for gyokuro, since it's the tea that got me into this whole mess, but I've rarely had a hand-rolled variety. This one had its characteristic powerful, brothy intensity with salty, bittersweet flavors that last far longer than you think possible. As one of my friends described it, it tasted like it had no beginning or end- it was like stepping into the middle of a plot and being told, "figure it out, kid."

We tried some Japanese black tea as well, which makes up less than 1% of the country's tea production. This one was from Mie Prefecture, near Kyoto, and when my friend asked the farmer why he started making black tea, he replied because he liked it- probably the best reason to do anything.

The flavor was full and somewhat astringent, like a strong Ceylon, but the smell of the leaves and the liquor were unmistakeably Japanese (deep green, seaweedy). Interesting to taste, but it's still hard for me to drink non-green Japanese tea. It almost feels like going to a steakhouse as a vegetarian- sure, the potatoes can be good, but you're kind of missing the point.

Maybe a little missing out is good, though. Satisfaction can so easily lead to stasis.

05 April 2013

Gaiwans I Have Known

It doesn't matter where I am. It's with me.

26 March 2013

Lush Life

Another beautiful, sweet cup of Bailin Gongfu while watching the sky lighten into dawn.

And listening to Joe Henderson. This is why I love mornings so.

04 March 2013

The Obsession Runs Deeper Than I Thought

I found an old diary when I was visiting home last year- it's one I've paged through several times, because it's absolutely hilarious to see what an eight-year-old mind endured.

Among a lot of embarrassing entries which will never be revealed, I came across this little gem:

There it is, recorded for posterity in 1985: My favorite beverage is tea. It's also interesting to note my abhorrence of bananas, which persists to this day, and that I'd love to have a meal where I could eat all the food I wanted. Clearly, I wasn't about to be tricked by a children's book publisher into a monotone plate.

Mr. Melon remains a bit of mystery- I think it was a watermelon candy, which as evident from my favorite foods list, probably was shunned in favor of the real thing. And coffee, as we all know, is pretty gross.

It's no surprise, then, that I greet another morning with a cup of my old friend. I almost can't remember ever doing otherwise.