Thursday, December 29, 2016

Struggles of Being a Weird Tea Guy

This week was not so much a tea week as a lack-of-tea week, but I felt like posting something for my grumpy tea brethren. Continue for grumblings of a grumpy tea addict. Topic: scarcity of hot water.

I traveled a bit for the holidays this year, and it made me realize how inconvenient my addiction to tea is. Decent tea is certainly not ubiquitous in the US, but neither is solidly hot water. I always bring along my little tea thermos, but I was staying in a hotel for a few days without a stove or kettle. When in desperation I eventually turned to the microwave, I found the leaves didn't appreciate microwave boiled water at all. It's not easy having a strange and highly specific addiction. But it feels so damn good!

I think I may start carrying a simple stove, fuel and kettle with me. A good way to complete the crazed, tea addicted alchemist aesthetic.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Drinking with the Seasons

I don't reach for High Mountain Oolong as often as more oxidized, aged or roasted teas. But I must thank my relationship with seasonal green oolong drinking for teaching me some serious lessons. The idea sprang from drinking the winter harvest High Mountain Oolongs at FLT, and learning about their connection to the weather in Taiwan. The new season's teas came in a couple weeks ago and I've been drinking them, trying to get a solid handle on them since then. It seems they have been affected by Taiwan's especially mild winter this year.

So now, a couple days ago I was having tea with a scotch loving friend and realized something about the way I drink tea in contrast to the way he drinks scotch. Besides I get tea drunk while he gets drunk-drunk ;) It seems to be the case that from the earth to the tea table, tea takes a very clear and traceable path. In my own drinking, I strive to understand the leaves in terms of cause and effect. What was the cause (farming, processing, weather, aging, etc) that gave any particular effect that I feel in my mouth, nose or body. It's very interesting to me to read the leaves and broth like a story.

I realized this when my scotch buddy was giggling because I brought up 'dong qi' (winter “energy”). In describing what I meant, it turns out the feeling of dongqi is actually an amalgamation of a lot of different feelings which together point to the weather being sufficiently cool in the tea mountains during winter. But his experience as a scotch drinker is more analytical, perhaps, in that he would rather identify each feeling on its own. In scotch this makes sense, as the path of whiskey from earth to glass is hugely complicated by intricate processing, long term aging and storage. I think they're both very sexy drinks. Their contrastive natures seem to at least imply contrastive approaches in tasting. I'd appreciate input from the scotch-heads!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Thought on Tea Classification

I have a theory I'd like to test out on the wonderful tea geeks of the internet. I've been thinking about the way we classify tea. By this I mean the generally observed classification spectrum of green, white, yellow, oolong, black and puer. I don't mean to exclude the other possible iterations of that spectrum, that's just an example.

My idea is that it may be more useful to identify teas by their geographical, cultural and historic contexts. For example, although the Western tea market generally classifies Cliff Tea and Tie Guanyin as oolong, I've heard many Chinese tea drinkers call these by their own names and consider oolong also something unique more limited in scope. Same thing with Pheonix Teas. The context that got me thinking about this was when I was asking questions about the origin of Cliff Tea and Pheonix Tea. I don't think that the tea producers from each region got together and decided what they were making was oolong, they more probably were just making tea that fit their geology, geography and culture. I propose this kind of lens because I think it may get us as tea drinkers closer to the tea and its origins and help us look past abstractions.

I'm not saying we should do away with our characteristic/processing based spectrum concept by any means. I'm just thinking this is an interesting point of discussion. Please feel free (or obligated) to comment ;)