Reflecting on my first several weeks of my new tea life adventure

Vanenbw
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Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:06 pm

I thought I would post some thoughts on what I’m learning and how drinking tea has changed for me after drinking “western-style” for most of my life. I touched on some of this in my introduction and other posts, so I’ll keep this brief. I have always loved drinking tea. There was almost some meditative aspect of it that transported me to some blissful haven where I can be alone with my thoughts. I relished in the pleasant sensation of my hands being warmed by my bulky ceramic mug. All I ever knew when I was young, before I was turned on to Japanese loose-leaf tea, were commercial, packaged tea bags (I don’t even recall the brands I consumed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lipton was one of them). But I loved my tea, nonetheless.

When I started drinking loose-leaf green tea, I seriously fell in love. It was stronger and more astringent that other teas I had been drinking, but I loved it all the same. It’s too long ago for me to remember whether I loved the robust flavor of green tea right off the bat, or if it was an acquired taste for me. For all I know, it might have been reminiscent of trying a cigarette for the first time, or a sip of beer. I didn’t like either, but it didn’t stop me from continuing to smoke and drink until I did like it. Thankfully, neither obsession remained in my life for very long. Tea, however, became my new soulmate. We were going to be spending a long time together. I knew that from the get-go.

It’s a rare day indeed that I skip drinking any tea. It’s a part of my routine, like brushing my teeth or combing my hair. I wouldn’t go to sleep or leave the house without doing either. It’s no different with drinking tea (which for me, at least, has almost always been green tea). But here’s the real kicker. I’m very hesitant to admit that I’ve been doing it wrong all along, but I guess, truth be told, that would be fairly accurate. Still, I loved my bitter brew. And I needed my fix every day. For more years than I care to admit, this is how I drank my green tea. Even after I purchased my first kyusu a few months ago, I continued drinking like this. I scooped some tea leave into the kyusu pot, filled it to the rim with boiling hot water, and let it steep for 5-8 minutes. Now, I wasn’t using as many leaves as I do now, so keep that in mind. But still, the brew would get bitter with each successive infusion because I left the water in the pot, essentially over-steeping it. I enjoyed my tea though. It’s all I ever knew.

Then I discovered the online tea community, and I started watching some YouTube videos on how to brew sencha. What is this I thought. That’s a lot of leaves and such little water. Steep for one minute? Are they kidding? It won’t have any flavor or bitterness. But I’m a curious one, so I had to try the proper way to brew sencha. I ran out and bought some of the usual items you can imagine: digital scale, thermometer, various brands of spring water, a timer, and a yuzamashi. I don’t remember exactly how it went down the first time I tried it, but after brewing like this at least a few times, I started to get addicted to the taste of green tea. It was mellower than I ever knew it to be, not very astringent at all. It has a grassy flavor, and a sweetness I never could have detected since I always over-steeped my tea. Even though I drank Japanese green tea for years, I always drank it western-style. Now for the first time, I was tasting real green tea. And I loved it. I still like the bitter notes inherent in green tea, and I find I still want it a little stronger some days, but I don’t steep it for as long as I have in the past.

I also noticed that my taste buds are changing as I adapt to this way of drinking tea (and to drinking higher quality teas purchased from Japan). For example, I used to love Rishi tea. It was a rare treat for me because it was expensive, and I didn’t want to pay that much for tea on a regular basis, so I would only buy a box of 16 packets of tea whenever it went on sale at Whole Foods. It’s on sale this week, so I decided to pick up a box, and I brewed it a little differently this time. I poured in water that was 70 degrees Celsius, instead of the usual pot of boiling water, and I steeped it for two minutes (instead of 5+). It wasn’t all that great. Now that I have learned how to brew green tea, and I’ve tried higher-quality teas from Japan, Rishi tea paled in comparison to me. It wasn’t bad for a simple cup of tea, but I am not sure I would look forward to having it again, the way I used to.

I’m also starting to understand and appreciate the charm of drinking tea in small amounts and multiple infusions. I knew nothing of this way of drinking before a few months ago. I’m even learning about stacked infusions, and pouring each back-to-back infusion off into a pitcher, and then drinking it from the pitcher, in either small cups, or a larger one. I never before infused tea more than once. This was a novel concept for me when I first saw it done. Now I always drink at least three infusions, and I appreciate the varying flavors and strength of each infusion.

I truly did not get the small teapot thing when I first saw it. Yeah, the 100ml teapot looked cute, like a baby elephant (who doesn’t think those little dumplings aren’t cute?), but come on, 100ml? That’s a sip, not a cup of tea. But I’m understanding it now. You might want to stack your infusions, or pour each one off and take your time sipping 45ml, 70ml, or 130ml. Or you might want to have a nice, large 8-12 oz cup of tea one day. You can drink any way you want according to your mood, of course. But I’m beginning to see the light. The idea of drinking tea in smaller quantities is what gongfu cha is all about. I’m very interested in Buddhism and meditation, and I always understood the essence of chadou (Japanese tea ceremony). It’s as Zen Buddhist as you can get. It’s about being in the moment, and doing one thing with all of your concentration. We all know the buzz word today, which might be a little trite because everyone’s talking about it, but it’s being mindful. There’s the traditional meditation we are all aware of, but there is also walking meditation, and eating meditation. There is one where you can take up to an hour to eat a single raisin.

I didn’t get it at first, watching people drink tea from 30ml cups, and brewing tea in 80ml teapots. But I’m starting to understand what it’s all about. I’m gaining a true appreciation for drinking tea, and I’m eager to branch out and try other teas. I just bought my first gaiwan, and the five teas for $5 offer to new customers at Verdant Tea. I also purchased a 160ml kyusu from Artistic Nippon, and a 160ml Junzo Maekawa kobiwako houhin. Even just a month ago I wouldn’t have seen myself doing that.

It’s been an interesting journey thus far. I’m eager to see where it takes me. Thanks to everyone who has been supportive and answered my questions. I’ve learned a lot from all of you.
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debunix
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Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:25 am

Vanenbw wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:06 pm
I scooped some tea leave into the kyusu pot, filled it to the rim with boiling hot water, and let it steep for 5-8 minutes. Now, I wasn’t using as many leaves as I do now, so keep that in mind. But still, the brew would get bitter with each successive infusion because I left the water in the pot, essentially over-steeping it.
Exactly!
When I first tried various green teas, I could not understand, and could not tolerate my bitter concoctions. I read about the sweet and delicate flavors of the finest green teas, and abused the ones I bought so that any fine qualities they did possess were masked by my 200 degrees and 5 minute single infusions with an infuser in a mug. I bought teas from Chinese markets, and international groceries, and health food stores, and fed most of the contents of those tins and bags of tea to my worms in the compost bin after these failures. Even the teas sampled at tea shops were made with water that seemed to be just off the boil and were steeped what seemed like a long time (but of course I wasn't timing them). It wasn't until I found an online forum a bit like this one that I finally started to learn a better way.
Vanenbw wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:06 pm
I also noticed that my taste buds are changing as I adapt to this way of drinking tea (and to drinking higher quality teas purchased from Japan). For example, I used to love Rishi tea.....Now that I have learned how to brew green tea, and I’ve tried higher-quality teas from Japan, Rishi tea paled in comparison to me. It wasn’t bad for a simple cup of tea, but I am not sure I would look forward to having it again, the way I used to.
It is hard to go back! I think Rishi sources some quite decent tea, but without refrigerating and/or nitrogen-flushing and/or vacuum packing the freshest teas, and having unpredictable storage conditions in wholesalers' warehouses and perhaps long waits on store shelves, it's not coming to you in the best condition.

But I still regularly drink the SeaDyke traditional roast Ti Kuan Yin that was my first tea love, because it is reliable and tolerates being tossed into a thermos as many other teas will not.

As I'm writing this, I'm enjoying a session with the last of Obubu's 'Wind' sencha, infused to my taste in my 150 mL iron-rich clay kyusu from Petr Novak, with multiple steeps, increasing infusion times and temps (except for the second infusion, which is always shorter). It is a relatively coarse-appearing tea, with lots of stem left in, but it has been well-grown (in fields I had the great joy and privilege of visiting), carefully steamed, rolled, dried, stored and shipped, and my infusions are fresh and pleasing. This tea gives me extra pleasure because I am supporting the farmer directly, albeit at the cost of not choosing the specific teas I get from my subscription.

I'm sure I would have hated even this lovely tea if I'd encountered it in my 212/5 minutes/infuser-mug days!
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bentz98125
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Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:00 pm

This thread beautifully illustrates how appreciating tea is a learning curve. Immediate gratification of a first impression based on uninformed assumptions do not serve deeper appreciation of any great human achievement- music, painting, literature, etc. included. The passage of time and accumulation of experience is necessary for all the deeper satisfactions of life. Further, this thread illustrates evidence for my favorite axe grinding, which is the opinion that tea culture in the west has yet to do its homework if it wants to appreciate never mind judge, asian tea cultures. I hope that modern communications and transportation continue to expand the audience for eastern tea cultures without increasing its cost of admission. Oxymoron? Careful what you hope for!
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Bok
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Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:34 pm

@bentz98125 I’m not worried about that too much... good tea is already too expensive in the East, so that it wouldn’t sell in the West with the added import/etc. costs even now. Let alone even more expensive if demand would rise. It is and always has been a niche and luxury item for the wealthy.
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Bok
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Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:23 pm

@Vanenbw Thank you in turn for writing such an extensive summary of your journey, always good to hear that our combined efforts here do help others :)

I think most, except the ones growing up in tea-drinking households, will have had a similar journey…

Sencha in particular is a terrible first-timer-tea, it can be so god-awful when not brewed right and in addition I find lower quality Sencha more difficult to stomach, then say a black or Oolong tea. I do remember browsing the China town tins of greens and oolongs a long, long time ago. Not to forget the ubiquitous Jasmine tea! If I think how much I consumed of super market Longjing and Jasmine tea, I find it a wonder my stomach is still intact.

Or Camel brand Gunpowder, a staple anywhere in the world - except China, haha!

It is a long journey, but it can be accelerated by meeting the right people, or moving to the right place (in my case).
faj
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Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:43 pm

Bok wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:23 pm
Sencha in particular is a terrible first-timer-tea. I do remember browsing the China town tins of greens and oolongs a long, long time ago. Not to forget the ubiquitous Jasmine tea! If I think how much I consumed of super market Longjing and Jasmine tea, I find it a wonder my stomach is still intact.
It is surprising how access to products changes one's journey.

In my case, there was no supermarket Longjing or Jasmine Tea. There was only black tea in bags. Nothing else I had local access to. I had a vague notion that loose leaf tea existed, I could not even tell why I knew that, but I had no idea what it looked like, let alone tasted like. It is something I had wanted to explore for a long time, though I had never made it a priority. I had never researched loose leaf tea on the Internet, which makes no sense as I, like most people nowadays, will turn to the Internet as a reflex for information about anything I might have an interest in. Although I order all kinds of things online, it kind of never dawned on me that this (dry, ultra-light and expensive) product could be easily ordered from all over the world. Go figure!

Then, on day, I came across a tea shop during a trip to a bigger city that had a decent selection of teas from Asia. I went in with my life partner, we tasted a few teas, I made a first purchase, and went overnight from teabags to decent quality Chinese, and soon Japanese, teas. Quite a shock! Due to how I was introduced, the search for proper temperature and infusion time became part of the routine as soon as I started with loose leaf teas.

So for me, it was an all-or-nothing affair. I never had a phase where I drank tea I considered any good while being unaware of how varied and deep the world of loose leaf tea is. I just lived with teabags I did not like much for far too long.
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Baisao
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Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:10 am

Tea had been part of my life since the late 80s but not in any large way: it was something I enjoyed while studying. Alcohol was my beverage of choice as I could noodle on the aromas and pick out the herbs used in decoctions. That was my joy.

But after meditating for some time I came to see that alcohol wasn’t good for my moods and I decided to stop drinking it. This left a hole in my life and for two years I didn’t have anything to take the place of alcohol.

One day my wife was having some fruity “tea” beverage and I was having a simple cup of Keemun Hao Ya. I was astonished that my tea smelled so much more fruity than her drink with tea and flavored syrups. Seriously, I was amazed. I knew right then that I had found a replacement for the beers and liqueurs I had forsaken.

It also was a good fit for my meditation practice: I chose teas that kept me alert but relaxed. I could make a tea and focus on the tea, listen to what it needed, and adapt to make it better. I love gardenias and working to get gardenia fragrance from gaoshan was the perfect exercise in focus and adaptability.

I can’t imagine my life without tea in it as it had enriched my life so much from easing daily tensions to strengthening relationships with friends & family.
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lUKAV28
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Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:39 am

My go-to tea used to be twinnings green tea with lemon with occasional loose leaf tea I bought or got here and there. So it felt natural to start my tea journey with sencha. I remember during that time that I wanted only tea from Japan. I read as much as I could on the old tea forum about Japanese greens, bought my first kyusu and another, ordered tetsubin from Hojo, ordered sencha and gyokuro from Japan and … ugh, it was such an unpleasant experience. Similarly to @Bok's. With gyokuro, it was even worse. So I tried out different waters, parameters, etc. But I simply couldn’t get myself to love this tea. For the next three years, I completely lost interest in tea.


One chat with my coworker at the office party made me realize how much passion I still have for tea. So I decided to try it out one more time. This time I started drinking pu-erhs, oolongs, hongcha, heicha, basically anything I could get. I was ordering tea from different vendors, subscribing to monthly plans and as I really like tea pottery this switch in tea drinking opened a different world of pots for me. Yixing pots, European potters, etc. This switch also made me realize how much I do like sencha and gyokuro. Slight bitterness that I once hated with Japanese greens became the desired element. So does grassiness and nuttiness. I still don’t drink Japanese greens as much as I should. Every time I brew myself a cup I am asking myself why I don’t drink it more regularly. But I am in a phase when I just want to try out different teas and narrow down what I like. I realized It has much to do with seasons too. Although I could drink young sheng all the time during the summer In the cold months it doesn’t sing for me at all. I prefer aged pu, Liu bao, phoenix oolong, and yancha.
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Bok
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Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:23 am

@lUKAV28 yes and no. My encounter with Gyokuru came in a quite advanced stage of tea appreciation. For my taste it’s just a rather one dimensional kind of tea, compared to others. I know heresy for some, but that’s how I see it, more of it for others!
Vanenbw
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Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:18 pm

debunix wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:25 am
When I first tried various green teas, I could not understand, and could not tolerate my bitter concoctions. I read about the sweet and delicate flavors of the finest green teas, and abused the ones I bought so that any fine qualities they did possess were masked by my 200 degrees and 5 minute single infusions with an infuser in a mug. I bought teas from Chinese markets, and international groceries, and health food stores, and fed most of the contents of those tins and bags of tea to my worms in the compost bin after these failures. Even the teas sampled at tea shops were made with water that seemed to be just off the boil and were steeped what seemed like a long time (but of course I wasn't timing them). It wasn't until I found an online forum a bit like this one that I finally started to learn a better way.
Definitely a similar path to the one I'm following. It's been a lot of fun playing around with water temperature and steep times, and tasting the difference by making slight alterations. Keeping a log has been a lot of help.
bentz98125 wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:00 pm
This thread beautifully illustrates how appreciating tea is a learning curve. Immediate gratification of a first impression based on uninformed assumptions do not serve deeper appreciation of any great human achievement- music, painting, literature, etc. included. The passage of time and accumulation of experience is necessary for all the deeper satisfactions of life. Further, this thread illustrates evidence for my favorite axe grinding, which is the opinion that tea culture in the west has yet to do its homework if it wants to appreciate never mind judge, asian tea cultures. I hope that modern communications and transportation continue to expand the audience for eastern tea cultures without increasing its cost of admission. Oxymoron? Careful what you hope for!
It's so true. I sculpted and painting for many years, and I remember my struggles in the early days. I wanted to be able to create works of art like the artists I admired, but my skills weren't there yet. Getting to be that good seemed like an impassable terrain. I wish I could say it was very hard work that finally got me to the point where I considered myself a decent sculptor and painter; it was a little of that, but really it was time and trial and error. Mark Twain said, “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” I had to brew the wrong way to eventually learn the right way. And how can I truly appreciate the sweet, vegetal taste of sencha if I never knew its concealed bitterness, brought forth by inexperience?
Bok wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:34 pm
@bentz98125 I’m not worried about that too much... good tea is already too expensive in the East, so that it wouldn’t sell in the West with the added import/etc. costs even now. Let alone even more expensive if demand would rise. It is and always has been a niche and luxury item for the wealthy.
This was shocking to me at first. I had no idea good tea was this expensive. And then, when I learned about the high leaf to water ratio for some teas, I couldn't believe it. I thought, Wow, so what are people spending on tea here? Could easily be several thousand a year if you drink a lot of the higher-end teas. I'm trying to have a balance between organics, conventional, higher-grade, and slightly lower, so I don't spend an exorbitant amount on tea every month. After all, it would be nice to have a little nest egg when I retire (but alas, it's 2020, the world has changed; I might never retire).
It is a long journey, but it can be accelerated by meeting the right people, or moving to the right place (in my case).
Well said. I actually wanted to move to Japan years ago. I even got my CELTA certification to teach English as a second language, but it wasn't as easy as I thought to find a real job, and I was a little older at that point, so it didn't happen. Actually, I did find a job teaching in Busan, in South Korea, but I pulled out a week before my flight when I read some conflicting information in the contract that did not sit well with me.
faj wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:43 pm
Although I order all kinds of things online, it kind of never dawned on me that this (dry, ultra-light and expensive) product could be easily ordered from all over the world. Go figure!
I also bought regular supermarket boxes of tea bags years ago. I did have access to Japanese loose leaf teas, it turned out, but I knew nothing about it until later. I'm fascinated by the surprises one uncovers as they set out on a new journey. I had not considered purchasing tea online either until a few months ago. I bought all my loose-leaf Japanese tea from a Japanese or Korean supermarket in my area. But they didn't sell organic loose-leaf tea, and I wanted to try it, so that's when I looked online and lo and behold, I found this tea subculture I didn't know existed, plus a bunch of online suppliers of organic teas, as well as a variety of cultivars I had never heard of before.
Then, on day, I came across a tea shop during a trip to a bigger city that had a decent selection of teas from Asia. I went in with my life partner, we tasted a few teas, I made a first purchase, and went overnight from teabags to decent quality Chinese, and soon Japanese, teas. Quite a shock! Due to how I was introduced, the search for proper temperature and infusion time became part of the routine as soon as I started with loose leaf teas.
Interesting. I had brewed sencha incorrectly for a very long time. I never even read the instructions on the back of the bag. I just scooped some tea leaves into my Daiso tea bags, poured boiling water on the leaves, steeped for several minutes. I figured, Hey, I like broccoli rabe, which is rather bitter (at least when I steam it), so this astringency doesn't bother me at all. Now that I learned how sencha is supposed to be brewed, I feel like someone handed me the key to unlock a door I've been standing outside for decades, not even wondering all the while what's on the other side. Now I know, and I like it.
Baisao wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:10 am
Tea had been part of my life since the late 80s but not in any large way: it was something I enjoyed while studying. Alcohol was my beverage of choice as I could noodle on the aromas and pick out the herbs used in decoctions. That was my joy.

But after meditating for some time I came to see that alcohol wasn’t good for my moods and I decided to stop drinking it. This left a hole in my life and for two years I didn’t have anything to take the place of alcohol.

One day my wife was having some fruity “tea” beverage and I was having a simple cup of Keemun Hao Ya. I was astonished that my tea smelled so much more fruity than her drink with tea and flavored syrups. Seriously, I was amazed. I knew right then that I had found a replacement for the beers and liqueurs I had forsaken.

It also was a good fit for my meditation practice: I chose teas that kept me alert but relaxed. I could make a tea and focus on the tea, listen to what it needed, and adapt to make it better. I love gardenias and working to get gardenia fragrance from gaoshan was the perfect exercise in focus and adaptability.

I can’t imagine my life without tea in it as it had enriched my life so much from easing daily tensions to strengthening relationships with friends & family.
Love that story. Thanks for sharing. I love stories of people's journeys in life. I always loved tea, but then I got interested in Japanese green tea, and the Japanese culture in general because my ex-girlfriend was from Japan. I also have been interested in meditation and Buddhism (still am). I was never a heavy drinker by any means, but I stopped drinking altogether several years ago when I saw no point in drinking alcohol. I felt it dehydrated me, altered my perceptions, and I couldn't come up with a good reason to drink in general. It always seemed I would have a drink to "loosen up" or relax. And that wasn't a good enough reason for me anymore. Then I eventually became a vegan, and then an even stricter vegan years later. Tea is very much a part of my life (and life style). It keeps me grounded, gives me a purpose, relaxes me naturally, and helps me focus. I, too, cannot imagine life without tea. I drink it every day, and it's one of my favorite pleasures.
Vanenbw
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Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:51 am

lUKAV28 wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:39 am
I still don’t drink Japanese greens as much as I should. Every time I brew myself a cup I am asking myself why I don’t drink it more regularly. But I am in a phase when I just want to try out different teas and narrow down what I like. I realized It has much to do with seasons too. Although I could drink young sheng all the time during the summer In the cold months it doesn’t sing for me at all. I prefer aged pu, Liu bao, phoenix oolong, and yancha.
Sorry, I must have missed your post earlier. I drink only Japanese greens at this point, but I did order a sampler online at Verdant Tea. For $5 you get 5 grams of each of the following: Laoshan black tea, Laoshan Green tea, Wuyi Oolong, Anxi Oolong, and Wild Arbor tea. I also plan on purchasing some items from Red Blossom (some of their teas and their summer gaiwan).

I'm just learning now about certain teas for certain seasons. Who would have known. You never stop learning.
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bentz98125
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Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:19 pm

Bok wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:34 pm
bentz98125 I’m not worried about that too much... good tea is already too expensive in the East, so that it wouldn’t sell in the West with the added import/etc. costs even now. Let alone even more expensive if demand would rise. It is and always has been a niche and luxury item for the wealthy.
Does "good" tea for you qualify as an "affordable luxury" like artisanal coffee, beer and wine? Their popularity where I live has so far eclipsed my expectations, any confidence about anticipating their demand left me a long time ago. Also, I was told that the very best, truly unaffordable teas in asia rarely sell outside the control of influencial people who use them as gifts on formal occaisions. Does that ring a bell or was someone entertaining themselves with a tall tale?
Last edited by bentz98125 on Wed Jan 15, 2020 11:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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rdl
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Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:01 pm

It's been very enjoyable reading journeys through tea and the inverse, tea through journeys. Good writing about others will inevitably teach the reader something about one's self.
I recall occasions where a dog owner would proudly demonstrate the tricks their dog could do. That pet/owner relationship was none of my business, but I always felt an unease, of control that the dog had no say in; it was acted upon, not acting.
So it is with my tea journey. I never sought to train the tea to perform, neither by water, teapot nor temperature. I looked for nothing more than to let the tea express itself. Meaning there were parameters, pairings, things of that sort, but to the extreme of having a circus dog perform for me, I never chose that preparation.
It may well be my lack of understanding, or lack of dare and exploration. Or maybe I was convinced that with less effort more preordained expectations would arise. Nor am I saying that I am correct. Neither arguing for one method over another. The good soldier, with marching orders I made and drank cup after cup. Content with my provisions. I didn't think to suffer a loss to later gain an appreciation. Maybe I can change; as I keep reading, the possibilities seem to have created worthy adventures.
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Bok
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Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:33 pm

bentz98125 wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:19 pm
Bok wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:34 pm
bentz98125 I’m not worried about that too much... good tea is already too expensive in the East, so that it wouldn’t sell in the West with the added import/etc. costs even now. Let alone even more expensive if demand would rise. It is and always has been a niche and luxury item for the wealthy.
Does "good" tea for you qualify for the "affordable luxury" category like artisanal coffee, beer and wine? Such consummables thrive so much where I live that any shred of confidence I used to have about guessing their future demand died a long time ago. Also, I was told the truly unaffordable teas in asia rarely escape the grasp of influencial people who exchange them as gifts on formal occaisions. Does that ring any bells or was someone playing with my gullible provincial imagination?
I am talking about the tea just above affordable luxury and before the premium sector.
Vanenbw
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Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:51 pm

rdl wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:01 pm
I never sought to train the tea to perform, neither by water, teapot nor temperature. I looked for nothing more than to let the tea express itself. Meaning there were parameters, pairings, things of that sort, but to the extreme of having a circus dog perform for me, I never chose that preparation.
It may well be my lack of understanding, or lack of dare and exploration. Or maybe I was convinced that with less effort more preordained expectations would arise. Nor am I saying that I am correct. Neither arguing for one method over another. The good soldier, with marching orders I made and drank cup after cup. Content with my provisions. I didn't think to suffer a loss to later gain an appreciation. Maybe I can change; as I keep reading, the possibilities seem to have created worthy adventures.
Your rumination on the subject is intriguing, and while I partly agree with you, I also think one must be flexible and learn to yield. Experimentation doesn't necessarily eschew convention, and seeking nothing doesn't mean one is stubborn and unbending. I think it's easy to become obsessed with guidelines on how to brew tea. A newcomer can easily become overwhelmed, and a veteran might become set in their ways with all the minutiae surrounding the topic of brewing the perfect cup of tea. I don't think it's such a good thing to become so rigid that one is not willing to experiment any longer, or drinking tea becomes an exercise that requires too much effort.

I'm having fun weighing tea leaves, measuring, and recording the water temperature, because it's helping me to learn how the tea reacts to different conditions, and therefore, giving me varying degrees of flavor and intensity, that I can control at my whim once I know how each criterion interacts with the others.

I wouldn't say I'm trying to control the tea, but rather I'm learning how how to drink tea according to my fancy at the moment. This morning I drank 6 grams of sencha to 9 oz of water, and had three infusions, before I left for work. Now, I'm breaking in my new 160ml kyusu. I'm enjoying my third cup of sencha brewed with just one gram less than what I used this morning, but for 150ml (approx. 5 oz). Sometimes I want my tea a little stronger, so I might use hotter water or steep for a few minutes. Sometimes, I want to taste the mellow sweetness of the tea and really appreciate all of its vegetal notes. I'll use lower temperature and steep for only one minute to achieve to extract the flavors I'm seeking. I'm still learning myself. Before a month ago, I was pouring boiling water on my tea leaves and steeping for several minutes, then drinking my bitter brew in a 12 oz Starbucks mug.

I think you have a valid point. And it's but one way to enjoy a good cup of tea. It's just not the only way. The Buddha spoke of the middle way, which is a happy medium between two extremes. I have always liked that notion, but then again, I also like having some control. I'm pretty easy when it comes to tea. I never tried to control it before, and it always gave me pleasure. I wouldn't say I'm enjoying tea more now than I did before I started to learn how to brew sencha. I'ts just a little more fun for me now. I always looked forward to tea time each day. Now there is just a little bit more eagerness bubbling beneath the surface.
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