Between Two Teapots podcast

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John_B
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Sun Jan 31, 2021 8:30 pm

A particularly interesting recent podcast interview is worth checking out, "Between Two Teapots," hosted by the Crimson Lotus pu'er vendor Glen.

The most recent guest was Lawrence Zhang / Marshal N, author of the classic blog Tea Addict's Journal. More than any other old blog--still active, just less so now--it's still relevant content, worth checking out. He's based in Hong Kong so it sort of works as local perspective from there but it's not quite that simple.



The version the week before featured Andrew Richardson, the Liquid Proust vendor, not the same high-status authority but also interesting.

To me the podcast theme is well done, not just for hosting interesting guests, but also for drawing out good input from them on tea themes, and shifting format slightly as appropriate. Glen and Andrew had a good discussion, comparing notes on vending approach and personal preferences, and Lawrence offered his well-developed position on a broad range of sheng related themes, for example on storage conditions and aging, touching on shu a little.
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Balthazar
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Mon Feb 01, 2021 12:53 pm

A worthwhile watch indeed!
John_B
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Mon Feb 01, 2021 8:02 pm

A tea friend had watched about two thirds of it (later, recorded) and said that although it was interesting none of it was new to him.

It's possible that if someone had read a lot of his posts, or was just really familiar with a very broad background, especially related to sheng, that it could all already be familiar. To me not much was brand new, not even most of his stated preferences, but it was still interesting and well worth watching. Input on tea issues at that level tend to never make it into that sort of medium.

To me it was worth it just to see him, to connect more of who he is with everything I've read of his blog. He's likeable, but also opinionated, and a bit inflexible in his views, an odd mix but it works in his case.
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mbanu
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Mon Feb 01, 2021 8:50 pm

I suspect that the audience is the 335,000 subscribers to /r/tea who have internalized a lot of his tea-quirks as just being how tea works, but without ever having read his blog or knowing who he is.

People who "grandpa style", who look for aged oolongs, who decide to collect teapots but go for Yixing in particular and don't bother with the unusual shapes, pu'er as a staple tea rather than the tea you get at dimsum restaurants, all the little things which collectively make up his online tea-drinker voice and that influenced the people who in turn set the tone on /r/tea.

For the average /r/tea person, learning of MarshalN would be incredibly helpful.
John_B
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Mon Feb 01, 2021 10:06 pm

Reddit's r/tea subforum is a really strange case, because the scope of interest there is a lot broader than it tends to be here, or in Facebook groups.

The average post is about showing off a tea-bag tea collection, with a significant sub-theme relating to people brand new to tea asking what it's all about. Then others show photos that imply relatively developed preference, onto loose teas. Questions or discussion of that scope comes up but it's rare, not much more common than the "brand new to tea" theme.

For people with some loose tea background what that blog author had to say would be interesting. For anyone not into sheng a lot might be irrelevant; he didn't venture far beyond discussing that. The most interesting things he said only work placed within a lot of prior knowledge. For example, he said that huang pian is a case of drinking someone else's trash (his wording), and that wild tea plant based tea isn't tea, it's a tisane. It's cool to consider those opinions, but it wouldn't mean anything to someone drinking Harney and Sons Cinnamon Spice (and Celestial Seasonings, etc.).

I think the most tea-experience developed r/tea participants would get a lot out of it, maybe 1/3rd or 1/4th. Beyond that it would depend on how unfamiliar information comes across, listening to ideas that you really can't place.
.m.
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:27 am

I quite enjoyed listening to this podcast.
mbanu wrote:
Mon Feb 01, 2021 8:50 pm
People who "grandpa style", who look for aged oolongs, who decide to collect teapots but go for Yixing in particular and don't bother with the unusual shapes, pu'er as a staple tea rather than the tea you get at dimsum restaurants, all the little things which collectively make up his online tea-drinker voice and that influenced the people who in turn set the tone on /r/tea.
Are these quirks? To me, it sounds like simple personal preferences, neither extravagant or peculiar. In fact most what Marshaln says and blogs about is very much down to earth. He's like the antithesis to all the "tea ceremony" style with all the aestheticization, performative spirituality, and rules on whats and hows.
Personally, i never use the term "grandpa tea" since i've never had a chinese grandpa (nor have i witnessed one sipping tea that way) so it's hard to relate to it - my grandpa would steep a teabag in an old mug that he never washed, actually, maybe not that much different style in the end, but certainly not what the online tea people mean by that term.
John_B
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:02 am

.m. wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:27 am

Personally, i never use the term "grandpa tea" since i've never had a chinese grandpa (nor have i witnessed one sipping tea that way) so it's hard to relate to it - my grandpa would steep a teabag in an old mug that he never washed, actually, maybe not that much different style in the end, but certainly not what the online tea people mean by that term.
If you did brew tea that way, putting leaves in a tea bottle or jar, drinking that without separating the leaves back out, and then refilling it, what would that be called? The "grandpa style" term seems to just fill a gap related to referencing it. It might be similar to how British people brewing leaves in a teapot wouldn't call that "Western style," because they only see it as "brewing tea."

Of course if I do put leaves in a tea bottle and drink it while still mixed together on the road (as an example) it's long-winded to type all that out as a reference, if I'm inclined to discuss having done it.
.m.
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 10:08 am

John_B wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:02 am
.m. wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:27 am

Personally, i never use the term "grandpa tea" since i've never had a chinese grandpa (nor have i witnessed one sipping tea that way) so it's hard to relate to it - my grandpa would steep a teabag in an old mug that he never washed, actually, maybe not that much different style in the end, but certainly not what the online tea people mean by that term.
If you did brew tea that way, putting leaves in a tea bottle or jar, drinking that without separating the leaves back out, and then refilling it, what would that be called? The "grandpa style" term seems to just fill a gap related to referencing it. It might be similar to how British people brewing leaves in a teapot wouldn't call that "Western style," because they only see it as "brewing tea."

Of course if I do put leaves in a tea bottle and drink it while still mixed together on the road (as an example) it's long-winded to type all that out as a reference, if I'm inclined to discuss having done it.
Honestly, I don't have any other term for it, and I completely agree it's a needed term and perfectly functional since it's been largely adopted by the tea community. Nevertheless I do feel slightly uneasy with it due to the different cultural referencing. Maybe I'd call it "chinese grandpa style". :D
When at work or travelling I usually steep tea in a simple glass jar (e.g. from tomato passata), insulated with a sock, from which I pour into a cup - not very aesthetical solution, but functional and I prefer it in that setting to a teapot for the simplicity. That's a bit different than both "grandpa style" (where one drinks straight from the steeping vessel) and from "western style" (where teapot with strainer would be used and the leaves would be taken out of the teapot after some time). Essentially it is a "thermos style", but I call it "pickle jar style". ;)
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mbanu
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 11:04 am

Gaiwan style would have been a somewhat clear way to explain this, but then people started selling gaiwans primarily as a gongfu tool. It may be too late to change this term online. I would like it if they added adjectives to grandpa to describe whether the tea is added before pouring in the water or afterward, as these are considered separate brewing styles in Chinese (下投法 vs. 上投法). Maybe Grandpa Style and Great-Grandpa Style, as Great-Grandpa is more forgetful. :D
.m.
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 2:27 pm

My impression is that the way the term is used is pretty ambiguous, kind of like "gongfu style" seem to refers to any kind of brewing using small teapot or a gaiwan used as teapot, "grandpa style" seem to be mainly characterized by the lack of teapot...
26uk
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Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:58 pm

John_B wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:02 am
If you did brew tea that way, putting leaves in a tea bottle or jar, drinking that without separating the leaves back out, and then refilling it, what would that be called?
It's just called brewing tea in China. It's so default that they didn't give it a name. And because its so common, he would have noticed his gpa doing it and named it as such.
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LeoFox
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Tue Nov 23, 2021 9:17 pm

Came across this amusing commentary of the video.

http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2021/0 ... n.html?m=0
John_B
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Wed Nov 24, 2021 2:45 am

It was interesting reading that summary, thanks. I saw that podcast then, so I vaguely remember it, but details about what someone said 9 months ago don't stick with me. It was especially interesting hearing comments on how it was portrayed, or if setting up and comparing an old school and new school is suitable.

I tend to agree with most of what Lawrence Zhang says, and to relate to almost all of it. I'm more open to strange wild origin pu'er than he is, but I get it why he might just naturally prefer a different and narrower range. It does seem a little stranger to not drink much in the way of younger sheng, as that implied about him. Maybe it just came across that way in that summary and he was and is more open to sheng of different ages than that made it seem.

The cool part about his opinions is that he is so opinionated, and sees everything as kind of black and white, and it still sort of works, even being about a subject that's really subjective. Calling huang pian trash or wild origin teas tisanes are examples of where he might seem to go too far, but even that works, because he's obviously talking about what he doesn't like (even the tisanes thing; that's just how he communicates).

I didn't necessarily follow the comments in thinking that all of what was said really rejects what was only very indirectly referred to as "new school," a focus on sheng made in styles to be drank young (mostly). It was about preference, even though it would naturally slip into what is objectively better here and there, or the overstated phrasing could be taken in different ways.
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