A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from September 2008


September 28, 2008 · 3 Comments

On the rocky cliff of the Jade Snail Peak of the East Mountain in Dongting, there are a few wild tea trees. Every year, locals would carry bamboo baskets to pick the leaves for daily use, and have done so for decades with nothing uncommon. One year during the Kangxi period, they went again at the usual time, but this year there were more leaves than usual, and the bamboo baskets were overfilled, so they had to carry some leaves in their arms. The leaves, because of the body heat, started to emit a strong aroma, and the tea pickers all said “xia sha ren aroma”. “Xia sha ren” is the local dialect of the Wu region, and so the tea came to be named as such.* Thereafter, every year when it was time to harvest the tea, the locals all take a bath and go en masse, and instead of carrying them in bamboo baskets, they carry it by bare hands in their bosom. A local called Zhu Yuanzheng was especially skilled in the ways of making this tea, and tea coming from his family is renowed as particularly good, selling for 3 taels of silver per jin. In 1699, when the imperial tour arrived at Lake Tai, (an official) Song bought this tea as a tribute. The emperor Kangxi thought the name is not very elegant, and thus changed it to Biluochun (Jade Snail Spring). Thereafter, local officials always bought it as tribute, and people who sell it often use fake tea to fill as real. After Yuanzheng died, the method of making the tea was lost and even the real Biluochun was no longer as good.

* Xi sha ren almost literally means “very frightening — to the point of death”

The above story is taken from an early 18th century text — some random jottings of a scholar who was talking about various subjects. A few interesting tidbits for the tea drinkers among us — the fact that biluochun was, in fact, slightly pre-fermented before kill green, that the trees were wild, that it was really quite expensive (3 taels of silver was a lot of money) and that there was already fake tea running around back in 1700.

Food for thought.

Categories: Old Xanga posts
Tagged: ,


September 23, 2008 · 4 Comments

I’ve been rather busy trying to pretend to write, so things like blogging and, really, drinking tea the usual way, has taken a bit of a back seat.

That doesn’t mean I’m not drinking tea — plenty of it, in fact. I’ve been downing my aged baozhongs in a mug, which has all the benefits of an easy to brew tea that will never get bitter, while having none of the problems of, say, a black that will make my head hurt.

Now all I need is a tea that will make me work faster….

Categories: Misc · Old Xanga posts

Black tea headache

September 20, 2008 · 22 Comments

I had some keemun yesterday in a mug. Nothing harmful, I thought, but at the end of that, I could start to feel a little of that same headache creeping in. It was not yet a major concern, nor the rather annoying headache that I’ve had recently after drinking blacks, but nonetheless… it’s there.

It’s a strange thing. I’ve never had a problem like this before, where drinking one type of tea leads to a headache. I deliberately used less leaves than usual and maybe that’s what allowed me to avoid a full on headache, but the mere presence of it is disturbing, to say the least.

Then I drank some of my aged baozhong, which always serve me well in a pinch….and no problems.

What could black tea have that causes this? Pesticide?

Categories: Old Xanga posts
Tagged: ,

The fizzing pot

September 19, 2008 · 5 Comments

I have an incredible fizzing pot

This thing is a little strange. It fizzes when I first pour hot water into and over it. What is it is that there are some smallish holes on the surface of the pot that will, essentially, expel air as it expands with heat. The pot will literally fizz when I first warm it up. Subsequently, the fizz won’t happen, or is at least a lot more subdued.

You can sort of see the holes in the closeup. I think this pot is not made with yixing clay, but something else, as I don’t think Yixing clay generally has such low density. It has definitely turned darker over time as I use it more — I’ve been brewing young puerh in it, and it has worked quite well for me.

There has been some hullabaloo recently on Teachat about pots made with clay that’s not from Yixing…. but last time I checked, non-Yixing clay can make good tea. You have Japanese clay pots of various ilk, you have Shantou pots, and then you have mystery pots like this one…

As long as the tea comes out good… does it really matter?

Categories: Objects · Old Xanga posts
Tagged: ,

Continuing experiments with silver

September 17, 2008 · Leave a Comment

These days I’m drinking not much more than traditionally stored puerh, cheap Wuyi, and the like. I am pretending to be busy with work…

What I have been doing though is sometimes starting out a tea with the tetsubin, and then switching over to the silver kettle later on. It’s an interesting contrast, and predictable in its effect. The silver kettle water makes tea that comes out cleaner with much higher fragrance. The tetsubin water is always heavier.

I do need to test this out with, say, a stainless steel kettle in order to have some sort of a control to see what comes of that. I have also been told by a friend who has tried different silver kettles that they seem to have different effects — thinner silver, he says, makes better water, which is an interesting observation.

There is one hazard with silver kettles though — they are VERY hot to the touch, which makes sense, since silver is a fantastic heat conductor. It does mean that when using it, it’s easy to burn yourself if you’re not careful, and water will cool very quickly if it’s not kept warm.

I do wonder how Japanese used it back before electric ways of heating things — did they keep it on a charcoal brazier? Without heat? What happens?

Categories: Information · Objects · Old Xanga posts
Tagged: ,

The first step to recovery is admission

September 16, 2008 · 4 Comments

I know, this blog is called A Tea Addict’s Journal, but it’s hard to come to terms with your addiction sometimes.

Today I finally realized that I should drink my tea much earlier in the day, instead of very late in the afternoon, because

1) I am far, far more productive post-tea than pre-tea. Good for writing

2) I suffer pre-tea depression

3) I might actually sleep earlier if I do that

Not exactly Earth shattering news or anything… but it was remarkable how much better I felt after my tea today about my research. Scary.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Three years old tieguanyin

September 13, 2008 · 2 Comments

This is a tea that I bought on the very first trip I made to Maliandao, three years ago

Time flies. I still remember it being rather exciting, seeing so much tea for the first time. Although many of the stores sell pretty much exactly the same things, the first time you visit you don’t know that. Before that, all I’ve seen are stores that exist on their own — that’s how it works in Hong Kong. The concept of a tea mall was rather foreign to me, and it was fascinating to see literally hundreds of stores that sell tea that are together. While Beijing is far from the ideal tea shopping area, it was good enough.

I remember I stopped by this store that sold mostly Fujian oolongs, and there was this rather friendly and very young looking girl who was the salesgirl there. My then girlfriend (now wife) was with me, and we sat down to drink a number of teas. I settled on this particular tieguanyin, along with a few others. I took it back, and it stayed in a jar while getting the occasional visit from me. Then I was off for two years.

It’s nice when I actually label my tea, which I don’t always do. It’s like a little piece of my personal tea history.

So how was the tea?

It was light, airy, a little thin, perhaps, and less bitter than it probably was a few years ago. It’s probably also slightly blander, but I honestly no longer remember what it used to taste like. Pleasant enough, and still worth the money I paid for it (which was not that much). I don’t really buy teas like this anymore, so it’s hard to say if I will buy something like this again, but I’d imagine if I have to give somebody a recommendation, this can still make the list.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Local selection

September 10, 2008 · 16 Comments

This is my local selection for tea — at a decent grocery store around here.

Photobucket Image Hosting

Nothing to write home about, obviously, and nothing, I’m afraid, that I might even consider getting. I messed up the setting for my camera, but I think in some ways the overexposed and rather awful lighting sort of complements the teas nicely.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Tea party without the tea

September 8, 2008 · 9 Comments

Yesterday we were invited to someone’s tea party in the afternoon. We went, and to my slight surprise, there was no tea to be had — there was wine, and lemonade, and water, but no tea. There were also lots of food.

I have to say it was the first time I’ve been to somebody’s tea party, and it was therefore obviously the first time I went to such a gathering that served no tea. Apparently, it’s not that uncommon — I just didn’t know that was the term that was used. This got me thinking. The United States is a place where, I think it’s safe to say, is not particularly friendly to the tea drinker. They love coffee here, but tea takes a distant second place. I’m never quite sure why that is the case. Some have suggested to me that perhaps the Boston Tea Party killed any interest in tea, but that is plainly not true as the traders of New England and other places obviously traded tea among many other things with China during the 19th century. I also read how for Taiwan, exporting to the US was a big part of their tea trade in the early 20th century. Clearly, somebody was buying the tea here.

somehow, though, tea has basically dropped out of public consciousness and is largely drunk as iced tea (usually with tonnes of sugar nowadays) or seen as something that either old ladies or health nuts drink. It’s frightening to me when somebody says they only drink two infusions of a certain tea because it’s been shown that the third infusion contains very little nutritional value in the form of antioxidants, etc….

There’s certainly a bit of a revival in interest in tea here, but most of it is directed towards the health aspect of tea. I’m sure we’ve all seen the ads that tell you how much stuff there is in tea that will cure your cancer and make you live 200 years. They also come in funny flavours. Other than English Breakfast, the most common tea I’ve seen sold in shops that actually carry leaves is probably something like “Raspberry Earl Grey”.

Am I biased in my thinking? Do Americans drink more tea that I imagine?

Categories: Old Xanga posts
Tagged: ,


September 6, 2008 · 5 Comments

It’s odd. I had some Yunnan gold today, and a slight headache showed up a little after I drank the stuff.

That is, in and of itself, not too interesting. Afterall, there are lots of things that can cause a headache. What’s odd is that I normally don’t have headaches, and I noticed that last time when I drank a bunch of black teas (i.e. when I was drinking those Keemuns) I was suffering from headaches during the day.

I have no good explanation for it, except that they seem to be correlated — and drinking those teas seem to precede the headache. Too much caffeine too quickly? Too concentrated a dose? Something else?

Categories: Old Xanga posts