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I noticed some change in my tea drinking pattern. Just several years ago, in 2009-ish, I still didn't get what was in shu puerh that could be enjoyable. Sure I could always drink it, most of the time with food, but I rarely found a shu interesting. Later on, I came across with some interesting shu, and liked shu better. But still, for a long time, I didn't think shu was as interesting as some other tea genres such as green tea, oolong, and sheng!
Then, before I noticed it, I have been drinking more and more shu, and enjoying it more and more. I analyzed my behaviors and now understand why I enjoy shu more and more. The simple truth is, I've come to enjoy more of things warm, mellow and rich in a peaceful way, because I'm AGING!!
I still love green tea with fresh youth in it, and oolong or sheng with aroma and strength. But my body system does not like to take too much powerful tea at one time. On the other hand, my body system could enjoy all day long shu or aged tea that may not have a strong "kick" but have a soothing power. Even with some oolong, red tea or white tea, when I receive some new tea, I no longer feel I have to taste them ASAP. Instead, I would feel it's totally ok to wait for a while, and it wouldn't matter even if I forget about them for a couple of years, because chances are, they are going to get milder - because I'm AGING!
In the past, I've heard people (mostly older guys) saying, if someday, you learn to enjoy tea with aged aroma, or enjoy the Chi in tea instead of just the taste, that means you've come to really understand the dept of tea drinking. Well..., DON'T BUY IN IT!! Them old guys always have something recondite to say, to make themselves sound authoritative and wise. One's tea taste could change with time being, not necessarily because one is gaining a higher level of taste or getting spiritually wiser. It could be, simply, because of aging. If I could still handle 8 types of powerful and aromatic teas in one afternoon, I would do it in a heartbeat!
I'm not against aging. But let's not pretend aging means entering a higher level of human being.
On the other hand, I feel there are a lot of interesting things to explore in the process of aging. For example, I feel I've built up a better friendship with me, and have come to know me better and better. In tea drinking (and other types of eating or drinking), my behavior is less driven by wish, but more by intuition of what would make me feel comfortable and healthy. So when me chooses shu, then let it be!
Not so bad, as these odes to tea go.
A peppy little number and a whimsical video to go with it, from the good people at Yorkshire tea.
Sharing a cup of tea with Stephanie Suszek, Adult Programs Director
This past Thursday, Barb's Tea Service presented "Tea History and Etiquette" inside the Old Troy Church at the Troy Historic Village to a wonderful group of attendees. We were delighted to meet new friends as well as see so many familiar faces.
A variety of teas served with styleGuests enjoyed a wide selection of teas, displayed beautifully and served with style.
Tasty treats with a Valentine Day themeIn addition to tea, a variety of tasty treats were presented with a Valentine Day theme.
Stephanie Suszek introduces the programA special thanks to Stephanie Suszek, Adult Programs Director, for extending the invitation to speak last Fall. This is Barb's Tea Service's third time presenting at Troy Historic Village and it's always an honor and pleasure to be part of this special venue. A true treasure in our neighborhood.
Mary Ann and co. recognize the Althorpe tea caddy
The ladies in the front row, including Mary Ann H., immediately recognized my reproduction tea caddy from the Althorpe collection, home decor inspired by furnishings of the Spencer estate. Mary Ann and company also attended the afternoon tea at Scott Shuptrine two years ago when Lord Spencer paid a visit to Royal Oak. I interviewed Lord Spencer and also Mary Ann for the Examiner. (See also . . . Tea with Lord Spencer). Great to reconnect with these lovely ladies as well as Kathy B. who was in attendance and had invited me to speak at one of her church's Tranquil Teas back in 2010.
Guests share a bit of tea currency from her own collectionAt the end of the program, one guest brought a reproduction of tea currency to show. It was a very interesting piece from her own collection. Thanks for sharing!
We also raffled off two of our "Michigan Tea Rooms" books and were thrilled to sell and autograph several more to the event attendees.
Thanks to all who came out last week for the Troy Historic Village's Thursday Teas at Two!
We have a very busy February, March and April coming up. Please check out our upcoming events page on our website, barbsteaservice.com Hope to see you soon!
I was all set to write a post on international relations this week, and then a discussion on ABC24 Breakfast TV caught my eye and ear. I have not managed to find the original source, but apparently, some well-known coffee identity has lashed out at Melbourne’s baristas, suggesting that they are way too laid back, […]
A few days from now, this blog will be ten years old. I still remember sitting in the Quincy House dining room typing out my first post during a lull between my afternoon meetings and dinner. I certainly didn’t expect to still be writing this blog ten years later, nor did I know where I was going to be in five years’ time, never mind ten. The pace of the blog has certainly slowed – that’s what having MiniN and MicroN will do to your free time (Hobbes can tell you all about it). Even time dedicated to tea drinking has dwindled as demands piled up and my free time mostly consist of late night hours after the kids have gone to bed – when tea drinking isn’t such an advisable activity.
I have also evolved – back then I can remember everything was pretty exciting, I was very much in the exploration phase, and wanted to try everything new. I had already been drinking tea for some years by then, but writing the blog made me look at tea in a more analytic way than before, and reflecting on tea was an interesting pursuit. It still is, but over the years I have also learned what isn’t useful or interesting. Tea reviews, I’ve found, to be mostly a waste of time, for myself and for the readers. This is especially true since I moved back to Asia, so my source of tea is now very different from the vast majority of my readership. When everyone was buying tea samples from Hou De way back when, writing tea reviews together was exciting and interesting – I called it a constant tea meeting back in the day.
The fact that both those links are to places that are more or less dead shows you how things have changed. The online conversation has moved on to places like Reddit and Facebook, and new types of sites, such as TeaDB, appeared. Older conversation partners have mostly dropped off – only the indomitable Hobbes and Stephane remain, and Stephane’s is, at the end of the day, a storefront (although I’m glad to see he finally created a real store). It’s not surprising – people move on, blogging as a medium has changed considerably, and tea itself has also changed.
One of these changes is that now there’s a wider-than-ever availability of teas to the Western consumer. However, there are still conspicuous absences in this marketplace, especially when it comes to Chinese tea. I don’t see many teas that are proper, traditional style tieguanyin, for example. I also don’t see much high-end tea – much of what is sold as high end online is really the mid-range in China or Taiwan – the truly high end stuff never make it abroad, because the prices are prohibitive. The diversity of tea availability is, therefore, a bit of a red-herring – a lot of it is really just more of the same with a different name, but sometimes offered at greatly varied prices due to marketing, hype, etc. That’s why it was especially sad to see Origintea.net die as Tony had to move on in life – he was one of the few people offering genuinely interesting teas and who was always working to find new stuff.
The passage of time also has me thinking – how many 10 years do we all have? Not to go all philosophical on you, but as tea drinkers who buy and store puerh, we are all betting on the future condition of what we own now. Ten years ago when I really got started buying teas to store, I had, as many of you, hoped that after ten years I will have some wonderful semi-aged teas to drink. Do I? Yes I have some stuff, but not as much as I’d like. Early purchases are by definition almost always going to be problematic – they’re tuition. Then you slowly learn what’s actually good, what’s not, and what will become better when stored. This is the key, really. A tea that tastes wonderful now may not be any good in the future. I’ve got some in my own collection, and I’ve tasted many more. Before you know it, ten years are gone and you’ve barely got a collection going. As a very experienced tea friend said to me recently:
But my motto is now , if I don’t like the tea better than when it was new 5 years down the road , I’m not gonna bother storing it anymore. Waste of space. The problem with the new teas these days is that they taste wonderful new, but 5 years on, 10 years on, they do not become better. They become acceptable. IMO, a puerh should taste better as you store it if it is to age well. So you buy a cake, it’s robust, smoky, bitter and strong and even harsh but 5 years down the road, it has improved a little, 10 years down the road smokiness is gone, 15 years a marked improvement but still harsh 20 years it becomes drinkable. That’s from my personal experience. If you buy a cake and it’s not all that and gives you a honey taste after 10 yrs or ceylon tea or tobacco, it’s not the traditional puerh. Really, if you want to drink something that tastes like tobacco, go buy a cigarette and steep that!!!
That’s very true – I’ve tasted so many teas that are made more recently that have aged into something like hongcha or tobacco or even nothingness – that’s not what aged puerh is, whatever the storage condition. That strength that you get from a cleanly stored 7542 from the 80s or 90s, or a Xiaguan 8653, well… it’s not tobacco and not honey nor hongcha, but it’s good. I miss that taste. I get it occasionally, but not often enough. It’s what drew me to this tea and it’s what keeps me in it, when I drink something like that anyway. I’m drinking my cheap Menghai tuo now, but it has that taste. There’s a reason I keep coming back to this tea. Of course, it’s also because I happen to have lots of it. My own lessons have taught me that I should look out for teas like this one – if I drink a lot of it, that means it’s good, and it means I should find more of it and buy in bulk when I see them. Too bad it’s harder and harder to find good tea on the market for a good price. How many ten years do we all have? Not enough.
As long time readers of my blog know, I’m pretty allergic to marketing-speak, especially when the vendor is spewing disinformation. Well, I got an email a couple days ago from an outfit called Misty Peak, which I’ve never heard of but who had somehow harvested my blog email to put on their mailing list. The title of the email is the title of this post – Storing Pu’er tea – You are the final master. Yes. You can read the email here.
Basically, the email tells you how to store your tea, which seems informative enough, until you actually read it. To summarize the five points:
Now, if you haven’t figure it out already – do not follow any of this “advice” if you care about your tea at all.
Let’s start with point 1. Airflow is pretty much a bad idea, and the theory that puerh needs fresh air to age is simply bogus. Fresh air can do a lot of things, but most of it will destroy your tea. If you want your tea to retain its aroma and age well, stick it in a place with low airflow that isn’t too damp. The fastest I’ve ever seen mold grow on my cake was on a coffee table with good airflow. A few days of continuous rain and it started growing stuff. Don’t do it.
The definition of dry and wet here is so off it’s laughable. Wet (I think they mean traditional in my usage) is a lot wetter than “50%” humidity – in fact, 50% is positively dry. Anything drier is going to kill your tea, and even a constant 50% will pretty much ensure your tea never really age at all. The idea that 50% or higher is wet is… simply amazing in its ignorance coming from a vendor. Certainly no vendor in Asia will call that wet.
Temperature – well, this is a sort of reasonable, if somewhat low, range. Temperature is not going to kill you here, but if it’s too cold for too long your tea won’t change much either. The reason Malaysian teas age a bit faster is because they’re generally hotter there. If your temperature is a constant 15 degrees your tea once again won’t age much at all.
Point 4 pretty much repeats what comes before, except that as people who have tried storing teas in clay can tell you – clay is very, very dangerous, and can easily kill your tea by helping mold grow. It’s not a porous material at all – certainly not porous enough. Wood, even, is pretty risky, and wood has the additional risk of smell coming from the wood itself. Sometimes simple is best – paper box with a tiny opening, a closet that is almost always closed in an area that isn’t too damp, avoid direct sunlight, etc. You can experiment with additional moisture via bowls of water if your area is dry, but humidifier is a pretty risky thing to use and I’d caution against it. You only need to screw up once to mess up your whole stash.
Point 5 is so comical as to invite laughter, or if I’m less charitable, I’d think they’re actively trying to get you to screw up your tea so that you’d have to buy more from them. Put your tea on your porch? Really? Caravans traveled through snow-capped mountains and sun-heated deserts? Not really – not usually anyway. They mostly traveled through passes (instead of over the mountains) and on plains through oases. You’d avoid deserts if you can help it at all. And don’t get me started on the bit that I haven’t quoted about dead horses and coming back to the tea years later.
So with this email, I was curious who these guys were, so I went to their website. I see they only do puerh, which is disappointing – for an outfit that only does puerh, the advice they’re giving you is astonishingly bad. I went to their “About” and “FAQ” pages, and noticed a few interesting things
“Our tea is the only tea on the market grown and processed by one family from trees planted in Yunnan China before the advent of electricity, 200-500 years ago.”
Pretty sure this statement is not true. There are lots of people selling single family teas from old tea trees in China (real or fake), but I guess if it’s in China it’s not happening?
“In 2014, the online tea community on the world’s largest tea review website, Steepster, rated us the #1 Pu’er Tea in the world out of over 5,000 different Pu’er teas with over 10,000 voting people!
“Now the tea is available in over 370 select shops in the North America, Europe, Asia, and South America.”
Let’s see… 370 shops, but only one farm, and only 200-500 years old trees. That’s A LOT OF TREES FOR ONE FARM. Does this pass the smell test? You be the judge.
“First company in the world to change the shape of Pu’er Tea.”
You clearly haven’t bought any gongyicha before. You made a triangle in 2015. These guys made an elephant in 2013. There are also countless examples of other people who did this sort of thing way earlier. First in the world? Really? Have you ever been to a tea market in China? Obviously not.
Anyway, I think I’ve made my point. Avoid these clowns, and stop putting me on your junk mail list.
A few days ago a group of Korean students came as a delegation, and during lunch we somehow got on the topic of tea, and specifically, where one could buy some Chinese black tea in Hong Kong. Funny enough, after thinking about it a little, my answer was basically – nowhere.
It’s of course not really true that there was nowhere to go. You have your choice from supermarket tea to specialty food stores to specialized tea shops, but a place that I can truly recommend for good, reasonably priced, Chinese black tea? It doesn’t really exist.
That in and of itself is sort of odd – after all, Hong Kong is big on tea drinking. However, people here don’t drink much Chinese black tea. When drinking black tea (hongcha) they generally prefer “western” teas – usually from the Indian subcontinent, but often probably mixed in with stuff from Africa or elsewhere. They are drunk in more formal settings, such as afternoon tea service at cafes and hotels, or they are drunk in the Hong Kong style mixed drinks – in which case the teas are blends created expressly for the purpose, and are usually devoid of origin. They also come in containers meant for food service, like these guys. I doubt anyone wants 2 packs of 5lb teas for home use.
So when you want to buy loose leaf black tea, other than the usual suspects at the supermarkets, you have your choice of overpriced foreign vendors and overpriced local vendors. Buying keemun from, say, Whittard of Chelsea, seems exceedingly silly when you’re in Hong Kong. Local stores either don’t stock very high grade black teas, because there’s no real market for it, or they stock reasonable quality ones but then charge you through the roof for it. Also, Hong Kong tea stores are not great for packaging. It’s fine when you want it for yourself, but if you were going to gift it, it’s not so good.
Similar dynamics are at play when looking for tea elsewhere in greater China as well. When you’re in Taiwan and you want green tea, you either buy Japanese green tea or you go home. Chinese greens in Taiwan, from what I’ve seen anyway, are in pretty much the same position as black teas in Hong Kong – you can either get really low grade stuff or you can be prepared to be charged through the roof for teas that are often not that great anyway. Local taste is not in it, so there’s no real market demand. You can say the same for puerh in Shanghai, for much the same reason – much of the puerh I’ve seen there is not great, or too expensive. I’m sure there are more private vendors in Shanghai who deal in this stuff, but as a visitor looking for stores, it’s terrible.
In the end, I took the students to a local tea shop that I like and they were quite happy to buy some white tea and some tieguanyin instead. Everyone went home happy.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but I love hot tea. I mean, duh, but wait for it. For me, tea is the ultimate comfort drink. There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a blanket, a book and a hot cuppa. Finally, FINALLY, it’s cool enough to do that (in Seattle – Naomi, you’re on your own in Vegas).
In Seattle, we’ve had a scorcher of a summer and while it’s been wonderful, it’s pretty uncomfortable curling up on a leather sofa in your short shorts and sipping hot tea when it’s 90 and humid. I’m just going to let you sit for a moment with that picture in your mind.
But there’s always iced tea, you say? Well sure. And I drank a considerable amount of iced tea this summer. It’s wonderful and refreshing. There are so many options for turning tea into summer treats.
However, nothing beats a lazy morning, sipping on a piping hot Earl Grey while reading about ghost stories or endless love. There is nothing cozier than curling up in blanket, staring into the fire and breathing in the smell of a jasmine green.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:18pm PDT
AND. IT’S. FINALLY. TIME. TEA TIME! The best kind of tea time. The fall leaves, morning fog, crisp air, boots and scarves kind of tea time. The time where your cup warms your cold fingers and the steam warms your cool nose.
The best part of it all is that now, it’s going to be the perfect tea time (in Seattle at least) for the next few months. And I’ve already started gearing up the office to be prepared. A co-worker and I built our own little tea cozy corner.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:32am PDT
That entire cabinet the basket is sitting on is filled with tea, so you can be sure we’re prepared for the teapocalypse here. So bust out your mugs, scarves, boots and hipster hats because it’s finally time to enjoy a proper cup of tea (without sweating and sticking to your leather seat).
It was a fall evening in 2008 that I decided to start a tea blog. In retrospect I knew very little (still do in fact.) However I did have one thing, passion, passion to learn, passion to know, and passion to try. Honestly I had no clue then what the next 7 years would entail, and what I would learn, but knowledge about tea aside, the thing I have learned is what passion can do for life, and
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