A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

New Years Eve, Buddha-Mom style.

Well, to start the morning of NY's eve off right, and in the hopes of being able to stay awake til at least midnight, a feat not achieved in years, I have to set a good foundation so I began my day of tea around 11am with a very high-grade tencha I've been saving for just this day. Oh, this tencha, man oh man. We are talking about amazing tea here, and this is coming from someone who burnt out on Japanese greens a long time ago. Burnt out enough that it stopped being my go-to instead of booze and I fell back into bad habits until discovering Gongfu Cha, as some of you know, just this past summer.
But this tencha. Whoo. I am one classy babe when I drink this Tencha. I don't know why but I feel beautiful when sipping it, isn't that odd? If you've seen my zaftig old self, you would agree, but something in the delicate taste of good tencha makes me see myself as perhaps I might have been in some past life, a geisha perhaps, a slim-wristed concubine? Neat! Anyhow. Now in this lifetime, I am the female personification of The Dude (but sober) so I shall move on and let us discuss the days' tea of choice, a groovy 7.45 grams of Crimson Lotus' Bulang Brick 2008.
 Talk about setting a foundation for further imbibing? This has been my companion for three hours now and I feel like I will never sleep again. This shou comes on big, bold and strong, and I've been flash-brewing it and enjoying its subtle shifts so much I had to text Glen of CLT to thank him.
I don't want to give the impression that this Bulang is a speedy nerve-jarring tea, for that is not so. I am also feeling very present, in the moment and relaxed and calm enough to be able to sit these past few hours reading a wonderful book, A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, and appreciating it perhaps even more fully than I might have sans Puerh!
At some point when the sun goes down, my plan is to treat myself this New Years Evening by opening my most recent and most looked-forward-to acquisition, Yunnan Sourcing's highly rated top-o-the-line Imperial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oolong Tea of Fujian, Autumn 2015!
Wow, that's a goddamn mouthful, but that what Scott printed on the bag so that's what I am calling it. I have insanely high expectations for this tea, because Scott is a no bullshit seller, and if he says its great, it will be great. Man, what a night I am going to have! Sitting home and drinking tea! Wow! Who needs booze, cocaine, sex and sloppy kisses with strangers? Not me! THIS is the way to usher in the second half of my lifespan; husband and child watching 'The Empire Strikes Back,' me surrounded by sleeping dogs drinking tea in the dark and hoping against all hope that 2016 is a more sane year for the planet than 2015 proved to be. As for plans for the new year? I will not be participating in any dramas I can avoid, and not adding to any division or negativity, but will just be here. At my tea-table, sipping tea and thinking of others, who, like me are doing the same. Keep it up, tea-heads, for you are my inspiration. Now go find something nice to brew up! You deserve it and Happy New Year, dudes!

Preview of my King Of Duck Shit Aroma from Yunnan Sourcing 'review' to come.

Just when I thought I had tried almost everything I finally get to experience a Dan Cong oolong like no other! See below for Yunnan Sourcing's information on this tea, and for my thoughts, feelings and sensations please stay tuned while I process! More info soon from this newbie along with photos will be forthcoming!
                      ( Hint.... I loved it. I duck-shit you not)
"King of Duck Shit Aroma" Dan Cong Oolong tea  Spring 2015
Ya Shi Xiang Dan Cong (aka Duck Shit Aroma) is a rare Dan Cong varietal grown in and around Ping Keng Tou village in the Phoenix Mountains outside of Chaozhou in Guangdong Province.  The tea bushes from which our King of Duck Shit Aroma are more than 80 years old growing naturally!

It's called "duck shit aroma" because in the Ping Keng Tou village area the soil has a somewhat yellow brown look to it and is unique to that area.  With all teas the soil type is a key element in the tea's taste.  Villagers wanting to guard the uniqueness of their tea bushes told outsiders that the color and uniqueness of the soil in their village was due to copious amounts of duck shit and began to call the their Dan Cong "duck shit aroma".  True or not it's an entertaining story which reveals why the tea has such a gross name.

The tea itself is lightly oxidized and the leaves are still mostly green in color.  The brewed tea is highly aromatic with flower, honey and longan notes.   The mouthfeel is delicate and soothing with a taste that perfectly balances sweet, bitter, and astringent notes, none of which are overpowering.

Our 2015 offering is literally the "King of Duck Shit Aroma" Dan Cong.  Strong taste and aroma... thick and sweet with notes of longan.  Can be infused 10+ times!  I have not tasted a better version of this tea than this one!

12 kilograms in total produced.  Single family production!

Goodbye, goodbye, old friend, Jing Mai......

Smacha's Jing Mai Old Tree 2011 Puerh has been a pivotal experience and left an extraordinary and positive impression upon me that will no doubt lead me even further down the shou path. Today I am brewing up the last 8 grams, yes all of it, (its all shake at this point,) and spend the day saying farewell!
I had to stop for a bit, right in the middle of writing this, and drinking my fifth steep to take my kid to In-n-Out for a burger and I guess I must be feeling a little tea-high because I thought it would be fun to hand to cashier at the window a big rock I keep in my car instead of the $10 bill next to it. Frisky, is how I feel, I guess, playful, buzzed on good tea. I didn't even need to order myself my usual double-double animal style( and no, its not on the menu, ya tourist, you have to know how to order it) to make my day, this puerh has me feeling grand with no additional help from my otherwise favorite thing to put in my gaping maw.
Difference between steeps one and two.

With a tea like this, you drink the rinse! Four Seasons Mu Ben Da Hong Pao. Abiding in perfection.

Finally, a good experience with Dong Hao Pao. I've had lots of things that said they were DHP, and sadly for me a few of them were the very first teas I ever tried and lord-gawd, how I hated them. Please don't make me drink those not good Da Hong Paos ever again? I'll be good, I swear.
Luckily for me, Oriental Beauty was amongst those initial samples as well, and kept me from quitting altogether and onto the path of tea.
So, I bought this tea because this guy...
said it was good. Yes, I take advice from people who look like goofy male versions of myself. I don't know this guy, but I like this guy. His blog article here is why I bought this tea. I grow weary of reading descriptions on tea sites about their DHP offerings, I grow weary of hoping for something good, so when this came out, and then I visited the wondrous website of Four Seasons Tea I felt a immediate little thrill go through me and ordered some right away. This is a pretty darn pricey tea. Over $19 for an 8 gram amount of tea, for me that is high, so I only bought two. Included in my box were samples galore which makes me feel pretty alright about having spent money on myself right at X-mas time, a time I generally just kick back, get 'all-dude' and don't do or buy much of anything.
But reading my much admired Lazy Literatus' article on this tea had me at the Four Seasons site and ordering within moments of finishing the article.
I am super glad I did. I won't go into details about the tea, just click the links and find out for yourself, and for gawd's sake, get a little before it is gone!
the continued lingering after taste right now as I write this is still a lovely reminder of what waits for me back at my tea table and I am heading back in for some more steeps! This is HEAVEN, man!

Bai Hao Formosa, almost gone.

Tick. Tock. Time passes and with it four grams here and another four grams there and pretty soon I will be out of Fragrant Leaf's best offering to date, this Bai Hao Formosa, a precious thing in a mason jar that I keep socked away for special occasions. Like Sunday mornings. Wonder if it will still be here for my New Year's party. Oh wait, I don't do that. In fact, I haven't been to a NY's eve party since I used to have to work them as fund-raisers for the non-profit theatre I used to work at for so many years. Still, bringing out this tea is a quiet little party all on its own. Not a puerh intense party, but a quiet and civilized party, just me. And thee, my little four grams of tea. Sigh.
I will miss this tea but will, no doubt find another to take its place as most favored to this queen. Another hand-maiden of delight. Oh, for goodness sake, I'll shut up now and drink the damned stuff before it gets too cold. Where is my digital thermometer? Damn it, I ruined it, down to 165f, another four grams lost by my ruinous desire to talk more than I experience. Dear Readers, do not be like your narrator here, drink your tea, be one with your tea and then, if you must, if you muddily-must, then and only then write about it!

When a body meets a body, coming through the rye.

Tonight I mixed two shou puerhs into a gaiwan and risked playing the fool with my stomach by drinking the results for eleven steeps before stopping to eat some gingersnaps. I had the last remaining two grams of a powerful, almost hallucinatory 1996 puerh from Hidden Peak called simply '401' that is somewhat legendary, and I added an additional three grams from a shou also from Hidden Peak Tea-house called 'Lotus Brick' from 2000. This is the first time I have mixed teas and I wasn't entirely sure a crime against one or both of the teas was being committed.
Then I remembered a tea-drunk phone call I had made to David, the owner of Hidden Peak upon my first introduction to '401' a few months prior, during my first session with '401.'
I don't really remember the content of the call, but I know I talked a LOT, and David himself talked a lot, and had I not been so tea-drunk, and my senses so heightened by the intensity of the '401' I might have learned quite a bit about puerh during that conversation. Mainly though I called to ask him, "Is this normal?!?!?!?" as I was having a flat-out hands-down crazy-ass experience with 6 grams of '401' in which my energy was intensely creative, my nips were hard and suddenly after the 9th steep the whole brew suddenly and totally transformed into a sweet nectar that was too good to be real, so yeah, that happened. I called the poor man who doesn't know me from Adam in the middle of the afternoon and I am fairly certain he will remember my voice should I ever walk into his tea-house in person and run for the attic to hide. Or perhaps he will embrace me warmly and tousle my hair. In either case I will be handing my wallet over to anyone in charge over there to help me further pursue such adventures in the great fields and valleys in the world of Puerh.
Tonight's conclusion was; blending is good. Blending is nice, and mixing helped the '401' not make one too full of.......well, too full of whatever those words are I am yet to learn in my journey, words like 'huigan' I think? Maybe just 'chi?'
So, to wrap her up, I had a wonderful, but somewhat mellow in comparison tea session with the blending of the two shous and was quite pleased with the outcome. Now totally out of the 10 gram sample I had purchased of the '401' the two experiences will be remembered but perhaps not rekindled as I have enough new puerhs to try without having to buy another one for years to come. In fact I would guess I have enough puerhs that I could drink a different puerh each day without repeating, or even blending for the next 365. Happy to share, so come on over and we will traverse the insane world of puerhs in an adventure together!

A gorgeous small leaf green to take along for Dim Sum or anywhere you want to have great green tea by your side.

Christmas day. Secular Jew. You know what comes next. Chinese food. In our case the decent and passable local eatery Mandarine Bistro. (Yes, 'bistro.')

Camellia-Sinensis, a terrific tea shop out of Montreal has the perfect tea to take along. Pu Bu Long Zhu, a pretty green tea with small rolled, bright green leaves, and a smooth taste that manages to be both gently vegetal and floral at the same time.
Composed of buds and curly little leaves, it is one of the more adorable green teas, each little leaf slightly different than its neighbor and kind-of a joy, on this most boring of days, to unroll the individual used leaves and spend a little time while listening to anything other than Christmas music to explore the tiny miracles that each one of these tiny leaves and buds reveal.

Zhang Ping Shui Xian. Water Lily! Also known as Sprite, or Narcissus! Call it what they will, it is a delightful oolong in a novel little packet!

Lots of exclamation marks above, huh? Well, check out these photos and see why.

(Even the dog was like, 'What the hell is that? Is that for me?')
I wanted to start the morning with something totally new, and this is, at least in visual terms, just the thing to fulfill that wish of mine. After opening the usual brightly colored vacuum packed bag I found this little paper-wrapped square. Wrapped in a layer of four neat folds, I felt quite giddy about the care and precision of the thing.
Wasn't presented like any tea I had seen before. I mean, can you even find the tea in this picture?
Ok, here it is in case I had flummoxed you and you thought perhaps that enormous gaiwan or cup was the actual tea packet. Like you couldn't tell, right? Sorry.
This is a lovely oolong, reminds me of an Oriental beauty, rich broth, easy to drink, not too demanding of ones attention, not overly complex, just a good, sweet, honey-hued oolong.
I used the entire little packet in a large gaiwan of 250ml, rinsed a few times(the rinses were tasty too!) and am now on the fourth steep. My cup-eth overflow-eth, or rather my gaiwan is totally loaded to the brim with this increasingly expanding and whopping ten grams of leaves, rich in color, amazing of scent on the wet leaves and clearly a tea I can brew for a long time, especially using the insane amount I did, all day and perhaps into tomorrow as well.
Using this amount of tea was all by intent. Well, if 'all by intent' means I was not about to break the magical little cube in half and I also wanted something I could make a fairly decent 'mug' of tea out of as I want to drink in gulps and not dainty little sips today. (See prior post about my old punk self waking up, she isn't much of a tiny-cup-gongfu-sipper, she wants to explode her mouth with a lot of heat, flavor and spicy fun. Gads. Who knows where this desire born out of boredom and a long holiday week will take me, but I am going to drink this Water Lily oolong 'til I kill it and then go looking through my stash for something else new, some intense ass-kicking puerh perhaps or another mind blowing Rui Gui Wu-Yi oolong, a rock-n-roll, buzz-inducing tea that makes me move my middle-aged silly butt if not around the world, than at least around the bungalow as I await the next delivery of yet another new tea experience already on its way to me from around the globe! In fact today might be the day a very special, recommended Da Hong Pao finally arrives from Four Seasons Tea.  If the tea is half as good as the literally moving artwork on their website I am indeed in for a real treat.
And to end this rambling article let's get back to the tea at hand, one more little peek at the tea that started it all this morning, the square chunk of YUM that is Water Lily from Zhang Ping village in Fujian using high quality Shui Xian leaves. Lovely. And appreciated.

My youthful punk self just met my maturing oolong self. Uh Oh, what the hell is going to happen?!

Ok, so I'm not daintily sipping tea with the Queen listening to the Sex Pistols. I am, after all, over fifty years old and the only queen I know lives in San Francisco, (Hi, Dovey!), but for the past six months the only music I've had 'in attendance' when drinking tea have been artists such as Sheila Chandra,  Deva Premal, and random sitar music, yes, even when not drinking chai, you moron. Oops, that would be the punk coming out. Forgive me? Kisses. (Notice I am leaving the slur in, the punk seems settled into herself for awhile)
So, its a match and as Green Day is screaming in the song blaring from my 'ghetto blaster' on top of the fridge, 'I'm not fuckin' around!' neither is this oolong.
I did a little slam-dancing a little too near the tea table, but nothing got hurt. My child has shut herself away in her room to draw the hideous characters from something called 'Five Nights At Freddy's' so she is not one to judge my weirdness (thank god) and tea and getting some thrashing out of my old bod seem to go hand in hand. This is not making me want to slam some whiskey shots or whatever I used to want to do when I listened to angry white boy music, this is good news!
In case, dear reader you doubt my provenance, I was the first punk rock girl many people had ever seen in Orange County, California, way back when. They sent newspaper people out to interview me. Twice. I spent almost every night in garages watching Black Flag, Circle Jerk, The Germs, The Plasmatics and the Cramps shows and slept in alleys. So don't go saying I'm a poser, alright? I was the real deal. Of course I never would have considered Green Day acceptable punk rock, but now that I am an old person, it is as hardcore as it gets for me, due to my not wanting to die young after all.
So moving back to this oolong for just a minute. I think for fear that the tea vendor will not appreciate being associated with this particular post, I will not specifically review this 'not fucking around' oolong and will instead dedicate a full post to it at a later date. But its a good tea, and like me, I bet it has a myriad of sides to show you, a soft meditative quality and also an intense buzzing kick if you brew it just right......And now, back to the dance.

My first Rou Gui. 'Rock Tea?' Is that, you know, like a thing I even want to try?

Hmm. So, is this going to taste like rocks? What kind of rocks? In my childhood I licked more than a few rocks, found them perfectly palpable until my mother took them away from me.
Rocks like these rocks?

Regarding Rou Gui and what the rocks look like in the Wuyi mountains where this tea grows, I am not able to tell you and as a first time rock tea drinker I am not writing to compare or judge or offer lengthy tasting notes to help you decide if this is a tea you, yourself would want to try. I can tell you however, that I waited until I had a Rou Gui Smacha was offering before trying this tea at all, turning down more than a few other samples until I could have this. I know if it comes from Smacha it will be a wonderful representative of the tea. New to tea? A little concerned about this 'rock flavor' you hear about? No worries, this is a complex yet soft and easy to drink tea that makes me feel like I am there in the Wuyi mountains, crouched between large rocks and tasting everything; the air, the soil, the ancient rocks, the fresh leaves, the very chi of the place. Loving this experience and highly recommend, based on my newbie impressions that you purchase some of this and travel yourself to those mountains in your mind this tea longs to take you.

I used six grams in my Smacha Auto-brewer with 205f water. I have only just finished the first steep, and first steep was lovely. Off to do it again. And again, and perhaps, again once more? This tea feels like it could have quite a few steeps in it, but even if it turns out to be only three, it will be three interesting, long-lingering, special energy steeps and I can't wait to find out more about 'rock' teas, thanks to this sample from the wondrous Smacha!

'Autumn Moonlight Pavillion Pure-Bud Bi Luo Chun.' Have prettier words ever been spoken aside from 'The Dude Abides?'

Maybe so, but still, while sipping this delicate, lovely tea the words all dance through my noggin and are as charming as can be. The only 'word' I left out of the description is '2015' because no-one will accuse '2015' of being a lovely word, or even a lovely year. I think we are all ready for a fresh new start, am I wrong?
Yunnan Sourcing's MPPBBLCWAUT15, (a much less poetic way of saying 'this tea' without the hassle) is a wonderful varietal of two different kinds of Bi Luo Chun, and is the smallest pure-bud tea grown in the whole of Yunnan.
It is clean tasting, floral and has a light sweet and lingering aftertaste that I am finding thoroughly enjoyable.
I was told, (or did I just dream I was told? That happens a lot lately) that this is a most delicate tea and needs to be handled carefully but I did not do so, I simply put a small handful(maybe 4-5 grams?) into my 6 ounce celadon pot and used the Keurig machines' water (175f) to fill and refill the pot. Gasps? That is not very Gongfu Cha of me, I readily admit, but come on, man! It's a Saturday, it's raining( yes, in California!) and I am stuck in the house, the rather small bungalow if you will, with many more beating hearts than I am used to and nowhere to go. Everyone from the bearded dragons, snake, birds, husband and child have their own things going on and I needed to have something of my own to do but with so many other energies in the house I cannot create Gongfu Cha at my usual meditative pace. So instead of getting uptight I consciously chose to just take it easy and just brewed to brew, made at least three separate tray messes, with trays in every room beginning with a nice spicy new sheng and once I was high from that I moved on to this delicate sweet Bi Luo Chun. This tea abides, and today, so do I.

Another tea that loves to go, go go! And where do you take your tea?

Mountain Tea's Heritage Honey Oolong is a perfect tea for on-the-go. Take it to the pedicure place, take it to the DimSum joint, even take it to the mall, where you can sit in the car and drink it out of a thermos while the kids are in that terrifying place spending their ill-gotten booty. (Or is that ill-booten gotty?) In any case, have tea will travel, but you are on your own if you leave your zipcode. Personally that's as far as I myself will go in regard to exotic destinations; the parking lot of the local mall especially the week before X-mas, a holiday I am thankful I do not participate in. (Love the lights though, keep on putting those lights up every year, folks! Love those lights!)
Heritage Honey Oolong is another of those tightly rolled, super easy to drink full-bodied floral teas that seem to do well in a variety of brewing vessels, with mixed parameters.
I will not, however, offend my tea by using microwaved water (hair salon, I'm talking to you,) even if it does come piping hot, just can't do it.
So how do you travel with your tea? Write me at buddhamom@outlook.com and tell me your outlook at tea-drinking on the go. Article to appear end of January on this topic, and in the meantime, it is back to my honey oolong, settling my fat-butt into the chaise-lounge in the spotty sunshine of a December afternoon in Los Angeles to imagine, only imagine, what kind of trouble you tea-drinking-travel-bug maniacs might be getting yourselves into next week! Be well and drink on!

Going deeper down the rabbit hole I discover Liu Bao.

I am finding this adventure taking yet another unexpected turn as I have my first Liu Bao, a sort of tea I know nothing about even as I steeped it for the first time. It smelled like Puerh, but was choppy and 'piecey' like a Rooibos, god what a mess I made. Grumbling, 'This better be worth it' or something in a similar vein I rinsed twice, then tasted the first brew, and it was Good. Yes, with a capital 'G'. Like how God said it after he made creation.
I cannot compare it to anything else though for it truly is a one of a kind experience, all I can do is to hope to learn more and to have the opportunity to try more of this sort of tea. I can tell you this was a gift, a small sample from Camellia-Sinensis in Canada and is marked, 'Liu Bao 2008 0612-01' and its origin is indeed China.
The flavor is everything I like from a Shou Puerh, it is woodsy and leather, no astringency in the after-taste at all, very mild and almost sweet which is a huge plus for me. Of course, being a first timer with this and only having a small amount I chose to brew only 3 grams and used my smallest gaiwan of 100ml to do so. Temperature was 205f.
Delicious and very intriguing. I am now eye-balling some other Liu Bao offerings from this company and am very tempted by some of the older, and of course more pricey items for sale. efore I do that though I still have one more sample to try from them, the Liu Bao Lao Cha Po Puerh 2006. Yep, that is what the package says, lemme go look online to see if I got that right, the handwriting on the package is elegant but not as easy to read as my old eyes would prefer. Hey, that looks good too, doesn't it? Large leaf is more my personal preference so I am now off to try Liu Bao numero two!
From my first steep of Liu Bao, so messy and yet so worthy!

Teas from Thailand that make us take notice...

Tea-Side's 'Red Tea From old trees aka #3' is a damn good tea. Visually its a stunner, long rolled whole leaves of a vivid and almost Lucy Ricardo red, a gorgeous amber brew, and a full flavorful mouth-feel that lingers a long time. Caramel, fruit, and semi- sweet but not as sweet as Tea-sides Red Tea #6, which makes it second in line for me as I really adored the sweeter tones of the #6 almost to the point of tea-worship.
Tea-Side is a fascinating vendor of teas from Thailand, not the usual place one buys their loose-leaf teas, but very interesting. In their own words;

About Us

TeaSide is a company that produces and sales thai tea. Our main warehouse is located in the far north of Thailand, in the mountains, close to tea gardens and plantations.
In our web-shop you can purchase oolong, pu-erh, red, black and white tea, medicinal herbs. We specialize exclusively in tea and herbs of Thailand.

What is Thai Oolong Tea?

These are Taiwanese oolong varieties. The tea is produced by Taiwanese farmers and by Taiwanese technology, but the bushes are grown on the high mountain slopes of Thailand.
It is known that tea plant (camellia sinensis) is very picky about the quality of the land. Tea bushes and trees form a large vegetative mass of leaves and shoots that requires a large amount of nutrients and water. This is a very "gluttonous" plant. However, the wide cultivation of tea has begun in Thailand not long ago. Mountain slopes suitable for tea gardening are not yet exhausted of fertility, unlike many places in China and Taiwan.
Therefore, here in Thailand many factories produce organic tea, they have no need to use hazardous inorganic fertilizers.
Thai terroir is ideal for oolong tea. In the mountains here is a lot of fog and a lot of sun, which allows to cultivate a truly delicious tea.

Are There Tea Trees in Thailand?

Pu-erh's, red tea from trees and a quality white tea is not easy to find even for those who knows tea places in Thailand. Historically, most of tea factories are engaged exclusively in plantation teas, which means tea bushes. Only few people know that in Thailand grow old tea trees. Almost all the raw materials from the trees is exported to China and then there is blended.
We believe that the Thai tea from young and old tea trees has surprisingly distinctive taste. It worth a particular attention among other teas.
Some kinds of our Pu-erh teas we produce by ourselves.

Our Collection of Thai Tea is Unique.

Thai tea is still rarely found in tea shops. But we try not to abuse this rarity, range of teas in our store is always changing and growing. Our goal is to create a high-quality collection, without reference to the exotic nature of the product.
TeaSide has no exclusive work commitment with any tea factory, I always choose the most delicious tea, inspecting all interesting and serious tea producers. Sometimes it happens that from the whole range of large factories we buy only one, the best variety. Every season I spend extensive testing over again. I arrange parallel brewing and tasting of four-five best representatives of the same kind for almost each tea. More often, only one instance will be included into our assortment.

Is 'Tea-Drunk' a real thing?

Someone posted on one of the tea pages I belong to a 'poll' asking this question. I am glad to report most respondents said 'tea-drunk' was in fact real. I think it is fair to say if you don't believe in tea-drunkenness you are most likely a rather blase lover in bed, and do not carry a very poetic spirit within. You may have many other fine qualities and attributes, just not any I personally am interested in.
Tea-drunk may or may not have its foundations in physiological fact, but when one approaches tea like a lover, there is no doubt, there is a sensation, long and lingering, heady and full, thick and full-bodied that for lack of a better word we call 'tea-drunk.' This is not a caffeine buzz, oh no. This is more like a true connoisseur/alcoholic/Hemingway sort-of person who could write throb-inducing paragraphs about how the whiskey feels running slowly down his throat. Its why I both loved straight whiskey and even more, hot Sake when I used to imbibe. The spreading warmth, the chi of certain liquids triggers many un-nameable(by me) and unknowable(by me) myriads of interior circuitry to flush and swell, memories trigger sensations, headiness follows, and sometimes, yes, it is like a caffeine high, but not in its primacy. First and foremost it is a sensation of head and chest and heart swelling, opening to the coaxing of the elixir at hand.
For me what follows is often moaning and a really awesome and loud belch. If the after-effects had been so innocuous with alcohol I might never have ventured past my senchas and fallen so hard for all these oolongs and dark story-telling puerhs.
I drink tea and I fall in love. I fall in love with the moment, the tea, the various shadows that fall in between my lips and the cup, the room, the great always right-there-for-me NOW.
As I age and this skin dries out, cracks, crazes, thins and blood flow slows, tea is the thing that brings me back to a youth that is far beyond numerical years but takes me into the ageless eons where I am part of everything, and the tea is simply the most elegant and understated post-it-note reminding me of that one true thing. I am here. Now. Whatever the life circumstances around me are, and with no intention beyond being present in this chair, at this time, with this cup, this friend, this alone-ness, this family, this sip of tea.
And that make me drunk.

A lovely and unusual rolled green from Indonesia by way of Baraka Teas out of London!

I am tempted to start this post with a happy rant about how great life is, for drinking this tea is a sharp and poignant reminder of that very fact. (Yep, here I go, cannot help myself.)
That I am able to sit in the backyard of my Los Angeles bungalow, watch the huge flocks of wild Mexican parrots screaming from the palm tree that looms over-head, read a thousand page book on a small compact thing called a 'Kindle' and at my side a gongfu set up of gorgeous tea-ware and a small cup of this tea-broth ready to be sipped again in mindfulness, attention and pleasure? I mean, come on! I am waiting for that other shoe to drop. And I know it will and it will be a big old shoe, full of rocks and it will most likely break my nose, but right now, the other shoe is an accepted and seemingly faraway event, and Baraka Teas Indonesian Pearls is a part of this perfect moment in which I find myself.
Baraka Teas is a great 'boutique' seller of teas, and by this I mean they have a limited and very exclusive group of offerings. As I mentioned in a prior post about Baraka, I find this very, very attractive, for I am the sort of person who does better with four options instead of forty. Especially when I know all four are going to be the very best representations available.
Baraka sources only the best, organic, single estate teas they can find from around the globe, hence my opportunity to try an Indonesian green. This tea was picked by hand from the Halimun Mountains in West Java and are frankly delicious, easy to brew, and surprisingly long-lasting, as I re-brewed the leaves for two hours over a long game of 'Clue' with my family, which I lost, as usual. I find drinking good tea and winning at board games hardly ever go hand-in-hand. This tea is sweet, floral, delicate but is still full of flavor and very sip is a revelation of, once again, how good life is.
I drank this in the morning in the sun and I drank this in the evening in the warm light of my family's hearth and it fit in to both scenarios like a pro. A friendly, happy-to-be-with-you-tea that also hints about how big the world is, and how you simply must, at some point research this part of the world where this tea hails from and marvel even further at how amazing the whole darn planet can be.

My own personal stockpile in case of Armageddon.

You can take my oolongs, my bulangs, the shengs and (most of the) shous. You can hand out my sencha, the tencha, the matcha and the bancha to whoever is in need but do not touch, I say, do not touch my Mountain Tea 1980 Shou Puerh. 
Where did it come from, why is it so special? How come you were able to afford it? Who cares what you, a newbie dumb-dumb wanna-be tea expert hoards or hides? Who? Anybody?
And I don't know, dear readers; I do not know if anyone cares and I do not know if this is an actual 1980 shou, but if Mountain Tea says its so, that's good enough for me. They are some of the good guys, I like them, and I am choosing the believe this shou was affordable simply because they are amazing human beings and chose to bless their part of the universe with it at an affordable price.
At $17 for two ounces, I was able to buy half a pound and am nestled into my bungalow ready for anything awful that comes my way. I got the shu-pu, I got the dogs, I got the ten zillion other amazing teas, but really one taste of this shou back when it was a sample, was enough to make me know I could live for EVER with this tea on my tongue, I could ride the waves of apocalypse and I can withstand all my own stupidities and mediocrities and those of the world at large, if only I can be at home with my darlings( human and otherwise) and this damn wonderful tea.
Regardless of my fixation, I am willing to share it, but dudes, you have to come to me!
And bring cookies.

From Mountain Tea:
"We acquired this Shu Pu-Erh from a close friend in China who had been aging it since 1980.  This clean, sweet Pu-Erh is everything you want in an aged tea.  Woodsy aromatics imbibe the senses while your taste buds delight in sweet, earthy tones."

Imperial Anxi Tie Guan Yin Spring 2015 and David Foster Wallace help get my ass off the couch.

Tea and literature as serious medicinal helpmates. I can see that. Today was a day where perhaps nothing could have pulled me from this stuffed-head, allergy-fogged dreariness aside from something as good as a really nice Tie Guan Yin.
Certainly nothing else was working, not the Oriental Beauty, not the English Breakfast, (Yes, I went there, I was desperate) not the quinoa-cucumber salad from Costco I love so much, not the warm fresh challah bread with lemon curd, nothing. I could taste nothing.
I lay on the couch for an hour and let myself get lost in the undeniable pleasure of reading David Foster Wallace's essay on being on a cruise-ship for seven days, a fabulous thing to read and laugh and wake your brain up with entitled, 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.' Click the following link to the PDF, and enjoy!

Once I had finished reading that, I felt somewhat buoyed, (no pun intended) by this now-lost-to-us-genius and brushing the dogs off my middle-aged and ample thighs, I went straight for the tea 'vault.' The one drawer, out of my eight drawer locking wood cabinet where I keep 'the stuff' I know for sure is really good, and I felt that window of opportunity opening up as I did so.
(The 'vault')
Reading Wallace can only steer one to the best of teas, where Earl Grey might be for Luisa May Alcott, and Steinbeck for blacks, Plath for puerh? No, I do not even pretend to read Plath, alas, I am not in my teens anymore, so how about Billy Collins for all other oolongs? In any case, I brewed that top notch TGY over and over and here I am reconstituted and re-imagined, much like the tight little knots of tea-leaves I've awoken in my gaiwan, into something living and verdant, vibrant and awake, albeit a little snotty and surrounded by used tissues. It's just good to be back. I'll thank the Iron Goddess Of Mercy most humbly and now off to pick up 'Infinite Jest' from where I left off a year ago, or even better go to youtube and listen to that commencement address DFW gave called 'This Is Water' while I keep steeping the last of this glorious tea.

Tea-Village in Thailand introduces me to a 'Puerh style tea' quite unusual!

Tea-Village is a tea company in Thailand with some truly interesting things to try. Take this for example,
So Thai teas! Who loves them, who knows about them, who wants to share? This is the first one I have tried from Thailand, but still have a Bai Hao Formosa(Oriental Beauty) and an Oolong #12 ( Jin Xuan) from Tea-Village to try out yet. I've been in a Puerh state of mind lately so decided to explore this one first, especially since I find the idea of a 'Puerh style' tea to be fascinating. Amazing smell came out of the bag upon opening it, very unexpectedly fruity and sweet.
Steeps up a lovely color right away, two quick rinses, sipped the first and second rinse, liked the first, not so much the second, and then a few steeps at 30-60 seconds. Used the whole sample, seven grams in a four ounce gaiwan, maybe I shouldn't have done that, I am undecided as of this writing.
In any case, this doesn't taste like a Chinese Puerh, that's for sure! As of steep five I like it a lot, it has a pretty high novelty value to it that I am riding high on, and recognizing that, I have stopped brewing at five steeps, and will come back to it a little later this afternoon to retry with a fresh mind.
Initial reactions are good, though there is a after-taste that is alien to me, not unpleasant, but it makes me wish I were sampling this tea with one of the Puerh experts I know, I am sure there is a word for this that isn't yet in my tea-vocabulary. It's certainly not 'astringent', nor 'bitter', it is something else, not over-powering and not to be labelled lazily 'unpleasant'. In fact with it lingering as long as it is, I might grow fond of it.
This cha comes on with a strong pretty intense flavor, nothing of peat moss, old leather, nothing like that. It's bright and sweet really, with a terrific aroma. The taste is not like the bag scent, and the scent of the wet leaves is not like the taste. Hmmmmm. Again, I am going back in an hour or so, perhaps a little less high on the novelty factor and the tea-high this intense little sample has got me grooving on!
A few hours later and the tea is mellowing out even furthering an I am finding it has more to offer me than just the novelty of being a 'puerh-style tea', it is warm and gracious and very, very delicious!