A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Thanks to TeaPrints I can go out in the world showing my love of tea and making new tea friends!

Teaprints, check them out! This small and wonderful line of tea apparel is as important as the teapot itself! Other than internet socializing many of us have no other way to recognize fellow tea-heads, and that is a problem! Tea is a lovely solitary thing to do but sharing tea with like-minded fans of the good stuff? Well, its priceless.
My tongue gets tired of mentioning tea to almost every single soul I meet during the day, the guy who packs my groceries, my kids pre-teen buddies, I suspect all that nodding and smiling is a kindness everyone shows me but in truth they are bored sick and think I am a utter nutter. Having some shirts to show potential tea-heads out there that I exist and want to commune with them without having to gab constantly at the uninterested and uninitiated is going to be helpful. Am I overly optimistic about this? More than likely! Will my optimism and hope wither and die? Absolutely not! Readers, you know me. I am fighting the good fight, loving what is there to be loved and all about connecting and sharing with others. And my goodness, how much longer can I go without having real people to sit on the other side of my tea table to pour tea for? I can't go solo forever.
So, yes, I love Teaprints and hope to slowly replace all my non-messaging clothing with shirts and hoodies and hats, and um....... sweatpants that say 'DRINK TEA' on the ass...... or, maybe not.
If my ass were younger perhaps. If my younger ass were single, but, yeah, none of that is gonna happen. So! Shirts, hats, hoodies totes, all that is a definite GO however! I will reach out beyond this blog and the social internet and meet people in my very own town to gongfu brew with! My CHI is loving and overflowing with optimism and my new hoodies message of 'KEEP CALM AND GAIWAN ON' is my message to the world. And if someone asks me 'Hey, what is a gaiwan?' then I will just pull out my travel set, sit their bottoms down wherever we happen to be and make them some TieGuan Yin oolong tea right then and there. It could happen. Anything could!
To wrap it up, I love the high-quality material of the hoodie Teaprints was so kind to send me and I am inspired to reach out more everyday to share my love of tea.


Seriously. Not only does this tea remind me of my favorite kids show, but it makes me feel the same sort of happy-go-lucky giddiness that show evokes.
Not that I am claiming it has the effects GABA is said to have on the body, I don't know nor care about that. If its true, awesome, but I would be feeling good in any case. I just like the tea. Yeasty, roasty, fruity, spicy, its a damn good Oolong. Period. Got mine from the wonderful Teca Tea company, out of Houston's Ten Yen Teahouse. Gabba-Dabba-GOOD!

Limited Honey White from Chinjin, Nantou, Taiwan from Teca Tea

Very crisp flavorful white! Wow! And though it's not listed on Teca's website, they do have it if you call and ask about it.
Using three grams in a small hohin with water temp at 185, five steeps in and still delicious, and in fact, evolving more than I expect a white to do. One of the prettiest dry teas you will ever see.

Farmers Choice Bao Zhong from Spring 2015

(Photo of first steep)
Green and gorgeous to behold, this delivers a vibrant flavor with the first steep.
Earthy, sweet and super affordable especially now with a 25% sale going on, if you like Bao Zhong or have always wanted to try it, this is a good offering to explore. I had this one, and here is the personal recommendation from the owner of Floating Leaves of her preferred brewing parameters, which I of course, smartly followed...
She says;
I like to brew it in a gaiwan. My gaiwan is about
120ml. I use leaves to fill one third of the gaiwan, which is close to 4
grams of tea. I will boil the water and rinse the leaves quickly. For the
first brew, I do about 15 seconds; 17 seconds on second infusion; and
about 22 seconds for the third infusion. I like to brew about 5 infusions.
Some people argue lightly oxidized Oolong like Baozhong can't take boiling
water. That's not what I see and what I learn in Taiwan. We use very very
hot water even for a tea like this. I will encourage people to play with
the temperature. I notice higher temps brings out more body and lower
temps brings out more sweetness. I am a "texture" drinker. I prefer it
with higher temperature to brew my tea.

Four Seasons Qing Xiang High Mountain Oolong

Sometimes when I get what looks like a small sample due to vacuum packing, it isn't so small but I can't seem to stop myself from brewing the whole thing up anyway. I did it tonight with this tea from Four Seasons Tea. It was over 8 grams and I used the whole thing in a Jian Shui pot which holds 210ml. It is my biggest pot. I was then told this particular tea, which I know nothing about, was better in porcelain so I moved the whole hot wonderful delicious mess of leaves into my 250 ml gaiwan and have been steeping it all evening. I may never sleep again. I think I also wasted an opportunity to gongfu a pretty darn good tea and have it available for weeks due to my gluttony. Live and (hopefully) learn, right?

Four Seasons Tea delivers some of the finest teas you will ever taste. I have been delving into their offerings ever since purcahsing some of the greatest Da Hong Pao I've had so far in my newbie journey.

Gorgeous website too!

Many hours and steeps later, the leaves rest in my 250ml gaiwan

A new and delicious yellow tea made quick and easy in the new mug and basket 'system' from Quantitea!

It is yet another Monday morning and I've got, well, not a 'sick' kid home from school today but a kid home nonetheless, feeling 'icky' and so it is not appropriate for me to delve deeply into a much desired first morning tea session, as my focus, (what little of it I possess on any given Monday morning,) is on the 'napping'(aka using her iphone under the bedsheets I suspect) child in the other room. SO! What to do? Must start the day off right, but can't think about it too much. Aha! I remember I have a new western style mug with fabulous looking, shiny and large infuser basket, my first, from Quantitea along with a 'flight' of 12 teas, already pre-measured so I just grab one! Ah! A Sheng. This is not a Sheng morning so I dip back into the flight of teas and pull out the Huashan Huanya yellow and YES, it off to the Bonavita!
First steep, maybe one minute, I lose count but it turns out lovely, not over-brewed, and a full mug of a high quality yellow tea is right there in front of me with minimal effort on my part. This is more than I could have hoped for before getting this set-up from Quantitea. This is very nice indeed. If I were in an office or for situations like this, where I need something as quick and easy as popping a pod into a Keurig which is of course barbaric, than this Quantitea 'system' is a blessing.

More on the tea itself from Quantitea's website:

Huoshan Huang Ya is a classic tea from China that isn't very common in the US. The process to produce this tea is similar to green tea, but the 'men huang' (seal yellow) step is added to mellow the green tea chlorophyll/green flavor profile. Men huang is performed by heaping & covering with occasional application of steam. This produces a tea that has a unique flavor and mouthfeel, the tasting notes are: white pepper, asparagus and a smoothness some called “waxiness”

Plant: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis
Type: Yellow
Origin: Anhui Province, China
Harvest Date: Early April
Plucking Standard: bud and first leaf
Process: Wither, Fix Kill Green, Heaping, Drying
Brewing Parameters: 185F for 2 min, 5 steeps

A floral, complex and distinctive oolong from White2Tea

Just finishing a first time session with W2T's OBSX, which is a really nice change of pace from my usual Sunday morning Oriental Beauty options, and a very wakeful brewing session. I don't know much about Wuyi Yanchas but this was a good one to start to learn with. Very easy to drink, lightly floral and mineral notes both. Started with an eye-balled amount of most likely 3 grams in a 130ml hohin at 205f. Too light. Added another 'pinch' which I am guessing made it 4 grams and upped my water temp to 209, and the next four steeps were lovely. Rich golden color, wet leaves smell just great. Not a heavily floral tea, more mineral notes and really a rather sophisticated taste in my humble newbie opinion! I will not be eye-balling any more tea any time soon, I was just being lazy in not reaching for my scale this morning, my suggestion to myself and to my newbie readers is to count on your scale and if you don't have a little digital scale, get one. This is mine. Under $20, found mine with free shipping, just get one, it's actually fun to use.

From White2Tea:
The name “OBSX" is an acronym for old bush shui xian. Shui Xian is the name of the Narcissus flower in Chinese (and also the name of this type of Wuyi Yancha oolong). Old bush refers to the older age of the bushes from which the tea was harvested in Fujian province.
The obsx is complexly fragrant, with floral sweet fragrances beneath a mineral depth and medium roast.

A Vietnamese black tea called Wild Boar...

This tea is more than faintly reminiscent of some of my favorite sort of teas. It reminds me of a good Indian tea, it has a chocolate note, and it has a gorgeous coppery color that deepens with each consequtive steeping.
Made gongfu style for this first test of this tea I used four grams in a 6 ounce gaiwan, and flash brewed four steeps in succession after a quick initial rinse.
Just a warm, malty lovely flavor!

Cup created by ceramic artist David Holden of Dingle, Ireland who shares with us;

 "Although I have been working with the medium of clay as a ceramic artist and potter since 1988, my most recent work using hand dug native clay of the Dingle Peninsula has been truly rewarding. I process the clay myself in small amounts in the West Kerry Gaeltacht, and then make these organic pots and fire them in my studio. These pieces are truly of the earth, rivers and hearth of Corca Dhuibhne nothing is added to the clay, and only a few stones are removed from it. The clay when harvested is already made fine from the flow of rivers through it. The organic shapes and glazes attempt to resonate with the surroundings where the clay was found. I hope you enjoy my work."

Laoshan Pine Needle Green!

Very yummy light green tea, with the prettiest little green twists, so delicate! Rich, warm flavor, not a hint of astringency, brewed it up six times and still has flavor. Following Verdant's instructions for brewing is key, as I often tend to over-steep greens and use either too much or too little leaf. So 4 grams of tea, 6 ounces of water, temp 175f, with ten second steeps. Lovely!

This is one of the first greens I have really enjoyed in a long time that didn't come from Japan. Perhaps it is time to delve into greens more deeply, and after a easy and successful session with this tea I think I'm ready to dig through my tea-drawers and pull out some of those other greens. If they are half as good as this sweetie of a tea, I will be quite pleased!

Greenwood Studio and the most soulful vessels on Earth.

If you like the look of these you simply must allow yourself the pleasure of going to Shawn McGuire's Greenwood Studio site on etsy.com to at least look upon the photos he takes with such care of his wonderful works. At the very least, for really what you should do is treat yourself, or someone you like a lot to one of his works.
And those pictures don't do the pieces justice. I can state that now, for now I am the holder of, ( I guess 'owner' is the right word but I am feeling a wee unworthy to claim ownership for I am only the caretaker and god-willing these cups will belong in the hands of many 'caretakers and appreciators' long after I am gone) four cups from Greenwood Studios as of today. It began with this one,
(These three pics from Greenwood Studio)

which awes me so much I can hardly stand it, It has so much going on, but I won't ramble about that again, the cup got its own post which can be read here, if you care to hear my initial exclamations of total happy freak-out-ment.
Two of the new pieces certainly 'go with' the cup I fell so hard for, they too remind me of an old quarry that we used to skinny-dip in when I was a teen. they too have the colors, and depths and wetness, mossiness and rockiness that so endeared the little cup to me. I also treated myself to this little delight...

His prices are more than fair, that's for sure. I am not a rich woman so buying things like this are careful decisions, and I truly feel that I am in lucky possession of some truly magical pieces of art.
Deep bows of gratitude to Mr. McGuire. I can feel, and even smell him as I unwrap these cups, and he feels and smells good, and decent, and kind and full of an energy that travels from his studio in New York all the way to my suburban bungalow in Los Angeles!

Floating Leaves Dong Ding Fragrant, Spring 2015.

I'd like to rant and rave but before I do that, I thought perhaps I should see if Floating Leaves even has anymore of the Spring 2015, and alas, she does not.
So I will refrain from raving and moaning and groaning about how perfect it is.
I will keep this a short plug for Dong Ding Fragrant Oolongs in general.
I've been asked about a hundred times in the past month which is a good sort of tea to begin with and my top two suggestions are Oriental Beauty and Dong Ding.
Of course there are many kinds of both teas, different harvests, different locations, and with Dong Ding perhaps even more variants with different kinds and levels of roasting. Frankly, I don't have a clue.
But in any case. If you are reading this blog regularly, you are a newbie. You want to try some newbie-new teas. My suggestions remain. I also suggest for a good trustworthy US source with amazing affordability to visit Floating Leaves Tea located in Seattle, but with a terrific online presence.
And now some small tokens of my esteem for all of us by sharing small pictures of animals drinking tea. For that is what we are really, isn't it? Small animals sipping tea hoping to get to keep on keeping on without being plucked by the jaws of death in the form of a winged predator or called by the pasty-faced angels to come sit at the feet of some inattentive god while he prattles on about how great he is?
Bugger that.

Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling, a total change of pace and a rare treat.

I wanted to drink something this early Saturday morning, after a rather rotten night's rest but felt I deserved something at least semi-special, even in my sleepy-eyed state. Once I chose this sample and opened it, I knew I had made a mistake. This wasn't semi-special, this was a whole new ball-game. Even without my glasses and half awake I was smart enough to say out-loud to myself, "What exactly is this? This is not a basic black morning tea." First of all this is a Darjeeling, so that should have made me pause before assuming this was something I could mindlessly dump into my infuser and 'use' as a 'tool' simply to awaken my senses. Then I saw the leaves in the bag and woke up real quick, because there was art in my hand. Full leaf colorful, gorgeous ART. I decide perhaps I should back away from the tea, leave the kitchen, put my spectacles on, get out of this ratty old robe, and come back to the room in a more appreciative state. This tea, whatever it was clearly demanded my full attention.
All that being said and done, and with amazing alacrity for one so arthritis-achy, I made all haste to get back to the kitchen dressed and freshly-scrubbed and ready to look again.
Yep, this is special alright. Lochan Teas has been kind to me with this one, I can tell as I brew it. No gongfu brewing style for this tea this morning,no gram scale brought out, no small gaiwan or tiny teapot. For this I want a glass infuser so I can see what the leaves do as they awaken. If the tea is this pretty dry, I know it's going to be a lively parade when the leaves start to dance. For it's that kind of tea, not one to simply hang in the water or sit on the bottom of the brewing vessel. I know this before I even pour the water.
And I am not wrong.
After the first brew I am on Lochan's site to see if I can afford a 100 grams or so of this. I want to start every morning with this tea. It's simply perfect. Let us read together the description on Lochan's website for this lovely and light, pretty Darjeeling I am now enjoying even as I type...
"Produced in very limited quantities during the 2nd Flush (Summer) season, this tea is crafted with the utmost patience, dedication and skill. 
The cup brews a light golden liquor that goes very well in showing just how delicate this tea from Darjeeling tea. The aroma is very floral and light but commands complete attention from the drinker at all times.
The leaves are beautifully long and tapered with unbroken tips. The gentleness of rolling is shown here completely with the complete absence of smaller, broken leaves so common in modern Darjeeling and Assam teas. In short, this is a tea to be enjoyed, not just drunk."
And all I can add to that well-worded description is 'Ditto!' from Buddha-Mom Tea and thanks to the universe for bringing me such bounty!

Siji DongPian Oolong from Chayo Tea

Thanks to my friend, Robert Coons, for encouraging me to try this years harvest of this wonderful green, organic oolong. Here is what I learned about it from him:

"The tea is grown in Muzha, in northern Taiwan at the base of Maokong mountain.
It is typically made into a low price organic oolong, but in the winter, fresh growth occurs on the bush and during this flourish (early January) the farmers collect the buds and make a very floral green oolong tea.
It is called Siji Dongpian.  Dongpian literally means 'winter pieces,' since the small sprout material is so small, it seems like a bunch of little pieces. This is about as close to fresh green tea as oolong gets and is a specialization of Taiwan, especially Muzha, which is where the cultivar was discovered."

I've just finished my first session of this tea, using a shibo of about 150ml water at 205f. I used four grams of this tightly rolled oolong, which very quickly opened up and filled the gaiwan. The scents of the wet leaves are lovely, the flavor buttery, smooth and a little peppery. Just an awesome way to start my day! The price is beyond fair at 75 grams for $20! You can find out more and check out this passionate,(to say the least) vendor at Chayo Tea.

Misty Peak One Family Sheng Puerh from Autumn 2013

A really nice raw tea, far easier to drink than I had expected, and by far my favorite of Misty Peaks teas thus far. I only wish I had more than this small sample of it, as I would like to have 'researched it farther' and really pushed the limits but I can report that using my 100ml hohin, and an unknown grammage, (as my scale wasn't close enough and I really was in the mood for this sweet smelling sheng session to start!) lasted me 15 steeps so far. All flash-brewed with water just under boiling, very nice indeed.
Nicholas has been so welcoming to me since I started exploring teas this summer and I am delighted to have found this one, many thanks to my tea-head friend who told me to give it a go, it truly is a easy and pleasing yet vibrant sheng.

A Darjeeling Arya white tea in Petr Novak shibo set.

A Darjeeling first flush white tea is a special and rare thing indeed. And my new shibo is perfect for it. I used only 2.5 grams, with water at barely 180f. The vessel from Petr holds 160ml.
The leaves are gorgeous. Pale jade shades, and the scent dry is light and slightly nutty. the broth is full of hints of apricot and what is either a little vanilla or my imagination.
For a white tea of such delicacy, it has a strong and slick mouth-feel and a lot of personality without a hint of astringency. It is delicate a good 'tribute tea' for my Petr Novak and it was to him I raised my cup ( part of the matching set) and enjoyed three infusions
before this wonderful tea gave up the ghost. Not long lasting, but very present while it is with you! some teas you don't push, but just appreciate every moment of instead of having ambition for longer sessions. This is such a tea. Tea sample by Teca Tea.

Da Jin Rock-Style Tea from Smacha!

So delicious, my favorite rock style tea so far! 

This offering from Smacha Tea is from Fujian using Wuyi Rock Tea varietals but is made about 150 miles south of the actual area called Wuyi Shan. Smacha calls it a Rock style tea, which is a med/high fermented and med/roasted strip style Oolong Tea. Phoenix Tea is similar in some respects but is from Guangdong Provence which is south of Fujian. Also, the tea is made from other varietals of Camellia Sinensis med/fermented but not generally roasted.

These tea trees were planted in 1955 during an "everybody is employed" phase of Mao's regime. Over 2,000 workers toiled for several years to clear a mountaintop across from the Da Jin Buddhist Monastery in Fujian, about a mile high, in the rich red soil. After clearing and planting, national priorities changed and the newly planted tea gardens where abandoned for over 50 years, virtually forgotten. The gardens were leased five years ago by a wealthy Taiwanese hotelier who pledged to bring them back to active production. The tea trees were by that time over 10 feet tall and their root systems were deep and strong. They were cut back almost to the ground and the resulting growth produced very impressive results. The tea is processed in both a rolled "High Mountain" style as well as a "Twisted Leaf" Wuyishan style. A new state of the art processing facility was completed three years ago. The complexity, strength, flavors, and aromas are brought to their peak by a team of Taiwanese Tea Masters with over 150 years of tea making experience.

(At this point the Rock Tea Style is only available in Smacha's brick and mortar store but I am told it will soon be for sale online. I will update this post or create a new one as soon as this happens so my newbie friends can try it too!
At that time I will discuss the parameters I've tried so far and my thoughts for future steeps.)