19 January 2012

Tea with New Friends

Tea with new friends or new friends with tea? New tea friends!

I recently had a chance to have Bryan_Drinks_Tea and Lerxst2112 visit. They live no small distance away, and in addition to making the significant effort to drive to me, they brought good tea and a fancy camera!

Enjoy Bryan's salacious tea photos below, which depict us drinking either a roasted Taiwanese gaoshan oolong (green clay teapot) or a mix of 60s-80s Guang Yun Gong pu'er (red clay teapot). We also drank a tenacious 80s 8582 that Bryan brought along, but he focused on brewing it instead of taking photos--to great success.

We ended the evening with a delicious dinner at a local Sichuan restaurant, where our guests were kind enough to try some of the stranger fare we offered them, alongside some "easier" menu items.

12 January 2012

Join us for gongfu! 1/28 at Aristeacrats in Lawrenceville, GA

Come celebrate Chinese New Year with some good pots of tea! Fans of Chinese tea in the Southeast, converge!

Well, perhaps the reach won't be quite so far, but with a few passionate tea souls in Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, I am hoping we can take our love of tea offline and meet for some gongfu occasionally.

Jessica of Aristeacrats has graciously agreed to host our first occasion at her location in Lawrenceville, with the agreement that we get water service for gongfu as long as each of us pays for a pot of tea (just keep the dry leaf for later!)--which is how it's done at the famous Wisteria Teahouse in Taiwan.

Please comment with your email if you're interested. I screen posts, and will not make your email address public.

Let's do this!

Jiu Qu Hong Mei - dry leaves

As featured in the LA Times!

The LA Times ran a little story the other day (also picked up at the Monterey Herald) about the tea group that meets in Los Angeles, back when I was still living there. It's a good article, and I give my thanks to Rosanna Xia for doing her best to be true to our experiences drinking tea.

The one thing the article plays up with exaggeration is the cost of fine teas. The best of the best, as with any epicurean pursuit, is very, very expensive.

But the majority of the tea we drank at LA Tea Affair was not nearly so high-end. Higher-end than your average loose leaf, but certainly not commonly in the $1500/lb range. When I've had the pleasure to sample such expensive teas, the person or tea shop sharing was munificent in their not charging me a thing. And that generosity amongst tea drinkers makes our hobby so great.

Likewise, sharing has been central to the success of the LA tea group. Tea is best shared with others, and that sharing rarely comes with a cost or debt of reciprocity.

08 January 2012

2009 Dayi "Dragon Pole" Shu Pu'er, courtesy of Shah8

The holidays for most Americans have finished, but for many Asian-Americans, they have yet to begin. Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival (春节), aka Tet, aka Seollal (설날), begins on January 23 and lasts fifteen days.

The upcoming lunisolar year is a dragon year, specifically water dragon; Dayi's "Dragon Pole" shu, then, is the perfect way to add some water to a dragon and see what this new year might be about. Thanks to Shah8 for leaving a sample with me!

2009? Dayi "Dragon Pole" Shu - dry leaf

The photo above shows the gongting "tribute" grade leaf. These are very small, tippy buds whose small stature requires a skilled fermentation expert to create and whose potency requires my full attention to not overbrew.

The first few infusions are dark and syrupy thick--heavier fermentation shu. The flavors, though, combine earthiness with an almost roasted character, with flavors of carob and coffee.

Middle infusions, like the one below, have a very soft mouthfeel and more "chinese medicine" kind of notes.

2009? Dayi "Dragon Pole" Shu - brew

Late infusions become woody and sweet, and it gave out rather quickly.

None of the infusions had much aftertaste to offer, but what flavors remained in the mouth were pleasant and light.

Supposedly Dayi's signature shu pu'er, it impressed me less than the An Xiang shu, but I can't say for sure it wasn't my own brewing inadequacy with leaf this small. Oh, if only I had a whole cake to practice with!

2009? Dayi "Dragon Pole" Shu - brewed leaf

The 2009 version runs about US$21 on Taobao before proxy fees and shipping, $53.99 with shipping from Dragon Tea House (ebay seller based in China).