A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Bulang Brick Beckons.

Oh, man, did I choose well for my first brick of Puerh.  Am I a happy sweaty, tea-drunk lady.
Not much else to say, Dear Readers, you know how I feel about this Bulang from my initial write up when Crimson Lotus sent me a sample. It's a complex, deep and dark proposition, ladies and gentleman, you have to be sure you 'want to go there' before you get into it.
I was, and I am, and I did. Here, in lieu of even more useless words that cannot convey how awesome all this feels, are a few pics. I even created a 'Puerh Station' in my living room. No longer a Buddhist shrine, this space is now dedicated to Puerh drinking meditation!
New Needle and new knife being used for the first time today

All Aboard for Puerh Station!

Finally after two good baths the first infusion is ready.
The heady aroma is making my mouth water and my hand shake just a little!

Lochan Tea Limited's Sourenee Darjeeling helps me to wake up and start my weekend feeling well cared for!

Subtle, crisp and well-balanced, this is a great morning tea. Waking earlier than I like and too foggy-headed and bleary-eyed to even consider handling a Yixing pot or trying to give full attention to a more complex tea, this is the answer to my sleepy prayers. My prayers only began when I started this journey of drinking good teas, when I stopped using the Keurig in the mornings to mindlessly make a large mug of something from a pod. I needed a middle path and this is it. (And never fear, Dear Reader, I haven't had a pod since the inception of this blog and my journey.)

This was a sample from Lochan Teas and is listed as 'Sourenee FTGFOP 1 CLO 2nd Flush 2015 Darjeeling Organic.'
That's a lot of words for this newbie to understand so I am just going to call this tea, Renee. My new friend, Renee Darjeeling. She is a great friend to wake up to for an early morning gathering just us two, she is easy on the eyes, delicate in her ways and I don't even need to eat anything, she is kind on the empty stomach before I break my night's fast.

And my thanks, as always when trying Indian teas goes out to my tea-guru Mr. Lochan for his continued and enthusiastic support of educating newbies like me for the betterment of my experience of tea which translates directly I believe to my experience of the world at large! I am a better person for it. Deep bows to Mr. Lochan, tireless force in the world of tea and much appreciated by thousands!

An Oriental Beauty...Cake?

A little Cake in my hand is worth.....
Those have got to be my favorite word combinations of 2015. Oriental Beauty and Cake. (I know I shouldn't capitalize the 'C' in 'Cake' but that's how much I love that word. I'm doing it anyway.)
When I opened the box from Mountain Tea last month and saw, among some exciting samples my first 'cake' of tea ever, I was almost rendered speechless. I wasn't ready to own a Puerh cake yet, but was enchanted by the idea of a cake of tea. And Oriental Beauty is my favorite tea by far. And now I discover I can have my Oriental Beauty, in a cake form? Perfect.

When Mountain Tea asked me which of their teas I might be interested in trying, I told them to choose for me, I didn't even look at their options. I want new experiences to be truly new, and not come with preconceived ideas I might get by reading descriptions or reviews. As long as I can make that happen, that is how I will choose to introduce my palate and brain to all these different teas. Such a rare opportunity at my age to experience new things so frequently, I am really cherishing it.

Speaking of 'cherishment', this Oriental Beauty is wonderful. It has fabulous colors, and even though I know my untrained hands are rending and ripping the compressed leaves of the cake, it is still trying its hardest to brew up pretty for me, and succeeding!
To me it is pure smooth cocoa.
At this point I am not picking up other flavors but it is exactly what I want it to be. My first brew was 4 grams in a 110ml gaiwan at 185f, I enjoyed four steeps before I realized it was 11pm and I was sabotaging any chance I had at a good nights sleep. I returned to it in the morning, but it had pooped-out overnight, so I started afresh. Again, chocolate cocoa perfection. Five steeps until I moved on to a different sort of tea, yes, Puerh.
Tonight I brewed fresh again, but hitting the leaves with water too hot at almost 200, it lost its subtle flavor so I turned it into a great iced tea with a little maple syrup and some almond milk. I am looking at purchasing at least six cakes of this even though I swore to myself I would make no more tea acquisitions for awhile. However I find I can't stop this horrible yet novel inner monologue from running through my head, and it's a new one, not some old tape and it says, "Oh, my god. What if they run out? What if I never get to have this again and I squandered this OB cake with all my ripping and experimenting?" I have loved a bunch of teas but so far this is the first time I have panicked a little even during the sipping session.
And that is not being in the NOW, is it? The NOW is just sipping the tea, enjoying the tea, (or not enjoying the tea, depending on the tea,) but in either case, being ONE with the experience. It is not about inner monologues and fears of deprivation and loss of opportunity! Jeez! So I had to decide; either never drink this tea again for it has the potential to create unhealthy cravings and desires or forget my small oath and buy some CAKE! Guess which way I went? Down the Middle Path as always. Two cakes, not six. And now I can steep my cake and eat it too, without worry.

Next up in the Puerh journey......2006 Little Gold Melon Tuo

A sample 'melon' from White2Tea. I am told by a tea friend that I am going to really like this. Perhaps a cute little sleeve of ten of these little bowl shaped melons is in my future. Off to go explore! In the meantime here is what W2T tell me...

2006 Little Gold Melon [xiao jin gua] shaped Ripe puer tea. This an easy way for new beginners to Puer tea to try ripe Puer! Creamy, sweet, and accessible, the individually wrapped 20 gram melons are convenient to carry for travel, easy to give as samples to friends, or great to grab on the run.
This quality ripe tea is ideal for brewing a big pot of Puer tea for dimsum or Sunday brunch, or can be broken in half for small sessions at the home or office. We recommend breaking apart the little melon before brewing, due to its tight pressing. Alternatively, use an extra long rinse to wake up the tea.

A Dong Ding Tea and a bit of a tasting mystery!

My initial thoughts that I jot down...Incense, black pepper, minerals, roasted corn and vegetables. Soft but definite lingering bite on the very back of my tongue. Fragrant Leaf's Spring 2015 Dong Ding Fragrant. Tight rolled balls that chime in the gaiwan like tiny bells, and even after two quick rinses still tinkle. 
Leaves are opening slowly in front of my eyes. I try not to burn them. I use four grams of the little bells in my 100ml gaiwan. The kettle says the water is 195f, I pour very high from the goose-neck Bonavita and try not to hit the leaves directly but pour around them in a clockwise motion. The smell is delicious and makes me think of fresh steamed veggies. (No carrots. I loathe the smell of steamed carrots.) 

This is odd! My experience is not in alignment with the description from the website at all!  This is a disparity that has me wondering what the cause is. That being said, I am enjoying this Dong Ding, although twenty minutes after finishing the last sip the after-taste in the back of my throat is slightly bitter, not sweet at all. The website says it is lightly floral, with hint of fruitiness and a sweet long finish! I wonder why that is. I will get on my Facebook Tea page and ask my resident tea-gods their thoughts. If you would like to join us, please do! The name is "Beginner's Mind"Gongfu Tea.

The mystery continues, and another tasting session is in preparation! A discussion amongst my Dear Readers has blossomed regarding food pairing and what I ate prior to tasting this tea. Fascinating. A more formal experiment will begin soon and happily it co-stars chocolate!

From the FLT website we read:
This medium-oxidized Dong Ding oolong tea comes from Mr. Lin's tea farm on Dong Ding Mountain in Taiwan. The aroma of this spring tea is lightly floral, with a hint of fruitiness. It has a full-bodied flavor and a sweet, long lasting finish. Careful processing of this tea is evident in all its aspects: the deep green handpicked leaves, rich aroma, and golden liquor.
The origin of Dong Ding tea dates back to 1841 when Lin Feng Chi returned from China with a gift of 12 Qing Xing (Green Hearted) tea plants from the famous Wu Yi Mountain tea growing area in Fujian Province. He planted them on Dong Ding Mountain in Lugu Township, an area ideal for growing quality tea due to its cool, cloud and mist environment. The Lin tea farm has expanded since that time and is now managed by the 4th generation Lin family, who has inherited the traditional tea making techniques.

'Big Blessing' Shou Puerh 2008, a warm embrace that lingers.

(First steep after two quick rinses)
This is another of those gems from Hidden Peak Tea-house in Santa Cruz, California. I wrote earlier about how you can buy everything they offer in ten gram samples for as low as $4.00 and this is one of those. I love this Big Blessing. It is, well, you know....a big blessing.
After two quick rinses at just under boil, the first drinking steep is just warm and delightful. Not a negative element to mention, just warming and easy and full of good cheer. Second steep, the same, flavors are changing slowly as the tea awakes. The infusion get better and better. It may not be a complex enough Puerh for more seasoned drinkers, but for a newbie this would be a perfect introductory tea into the world of Puerh. Had I started with this as my first Puerh, I would have gotten on the band-wagon far sooner instead of tip-toeing around Puerhs for months as I have been. This one is full of a smiling, happy-to-know-you kind-of Chi! And let's not 'bury the lead', as you can see in this photo this Big Blessing is a mere $4.00 for a ten gram sample.
Let's see what the Hidden Peak website has to say for themselves and their Big Blessing, shall we?


  • Vintage: 2008
  • Category: Shou
  • Format: Beeng Cha (round tea cake)
  • Leaf Grade: Blended
  • Growing Region: Tengchong
  • Seed-grown, organic plants
  • After-matured (1/2 year) and stored by the tea masters who made this tea
Sourced through a family friend in the Himalayan foothill village of Tengchong. This tea puts a smile on your face, due, in part we believe, to the jovial demeanor of the woman in charge of its production - a jolly tea master devoted to showcasing the best qualities of her region.
Grown at high elevation in sprawling, spacious gardens, the tea has the benefit of the cleanest air, water, and rich volcanic soil. A friendly tea that transports you, wherever you are, to the old world ambiance of the Himalayas.

OK! That was cool. What else is here from Hidden Peak we can read? How about this?

"The Big Blessing has complexity in its nature due to the distinctly unique raw materials in the blend. We have found, through gung fu manipulation, that you can exalt different elements as you wish - once you get familiar with it.
Wet Leaf:
rust colored, highly dense pressed leaf showing heavy fermentation • visible blend of broken, coarse leaf and young tip shoots


ripe, dense, thick • unctuous liquor with some suspended substance • taste is generous and full-bodied •fruity, woody, mineral-rich with date flavor • butterscotch with ginsing 
this tea is benevolent, descending in you like a Himalayan sunset • electric and alive, while passive and contemplative."

Damn, really? Ok, I am not there yet, so while I don't know how 'electric and alive' it is, I know I love it, and frankly, it kind-of feels like it loves me back, so yes, alive I can see, contemplative we shall find out. At only the fourth steeping it is just now coming into its own, who knows what contemplative things it might have to say to me. I am all ears. And, of course, open lips!

And lastly here is steep four, my new best friend of the day...

"Tell me about the White2Tea Company" you say? Well, here is what I am learning right NOW!

From the website at www.white2tea.com we read:

The White 2 Tea Company was created by passionate puer devotees.

We conduct business with a simple philosophy: If we would not drink it, we will not sell it.

Our approach to sales is minimalist.
No flowery descriptions of flavors. No fairytale stories about monks and tea masters. No bullshit.
We provide the tea. The experience is up to you.

(Man, do I love that last line especially. This is a company with my own aesthetics at heart!)

So,I just got an unexpected box from White2Tea. I don't think I ordered this, I haven't had their teas yet, nor do I recall emailing with them or meeting one of the owners on my many trips around 'The Universe.' I could be wrong, I might be freaking out over tea I bought and just don't remember buying. That sort of thing happens. Ask my family. I thought it only happened during my alcohol drinking days, but I have learned it happens regardless of my sobriety. Even in tea-ism, I am still super present now but don't recall yesterday well unless I try awful hard and hurt my poor brainy-bits. Oh well! I am happy to be in the HERE AND NOW, BIG TIME. You might have noticed that about me. It might be one of the many, many reasons you like me. It might be the main reason you find me obnoxious. I'd like to tell those of you who feel the latter that Dr's are working on it 'round the clock but it is not the case. As Popeye says, 'I yam what I yam!' Anyway, I will track down how this came to be but in the meantime the opened box in front of me reveals the glorious following items:

Next posts in regard to White2Tea will have some reviews, first impressions and undoubtedly more tea-drunk ramblings.
Til then, Dear Reader
I bid thee,
( waves vintage handkerchief at you with wild abandon)

A truly nice find, 2014 Organic Winter Concubine Oolong

Mellow, mild, warming, Winter Concubine Organic Oolong, supplied by Tea Masters Blog, is a wonderful tea for an all-day drinker. One of my favorite teas to use in my 'large' Jian Shui black teapot which holds 7 ounces, that's a LOT of tea for Gungfu parameters for one person! Six grams of tea, 7 ounces of water, one long rinse and the mellow pleasure begins and keeps going for.....actually I haven't reached the end of a steep yet! This is a tea which reminds me of toast and butter. Not very floral but astoundingly fragrant, it smells lovely in the tea caddy, warming in the hot gaiwan, with the first rinse and gets stronger and more effervescent as the leaves wait in the pot for the next infusion.

As I spend the afternoon being beaten by a child at Rummikub, at least I have this to ease my loser's sorrow, TIE GUAN YIN.

Dear Reader,
Are you in a dull situation? Are you having no pleasure at all right now? Is hedonism your goal but your backside is stuck to your desk? Do you want to feel deep joy very quietly that will trouble no one yet soar your soul to new heights? Tie Guan Yin. Really try any of them, any vendor at all, just try the Iron Goddess Of Mercy tea and feel the warmth in your belly grow and lift your spirits! It isn't pure heaven but it's a step in the right direction.

If you would like to know exactly which Tie Guan Yin from which company I am drinking, click here.

What every serious tea explorer needs? A truly helpful and sophisticated TEA JOURNAL.

We tea-heads have our tea blogs, we have our notebooks, some of us use index cards, some of us recipe books, some of us use blank books. None of this is worthy of our efforts. Our efforts in regard to tea are measured in monetary expenditures, which can run hundreds a month, and the time, effort and mindfulness we bring to experiencing each tea we work with, get to know and become intimate with. And not just one steep but all the various options for each single tea we often wish we could easily write down but can't in a reliably consistent way. Tea amount in grams, tea temperature, ounce size of vessel used, clay pot, or porcelain, how many seconds tea is steeped? Time between steeps? And more!
It is my hope, and I will let you know very soon that Italian company MOLESKIN might have created what we, both men and women would use. Not for tea-house notes, but for home tea session notes. And to have a option other than Teavana's rather ridiculous tea journal offering is much needed in our community. No one I know would use anything that says 'Teavana' on it!

More to follow once the journal is used, which as my Dear Readers know means at least 4 times a day, since I am constantly steeping something new!
We need and will use something better than index cards or electronic typing in regard to this ancient and revered practice of Gungfo tea we steep ourselves in multiple times daily. As for me, I am tired of writing in a blank book that's pink, and has flowers on it. Enough I say!

Organic Yunnan Gold from SerendipiTea. Now Monday can officially begin!

A nice full-bodied Yunnan Gold is a great way to start a cool morning. This generous sample from SerentipiTea has enough tea in it that it needed its own tea caddy for further steepings throughout the next week. I used four grams, in my 100 ml gaiwan and kept the temp at 190. Flash rinsed, first infusion not much there but the warmth and the body began to show itself right after that, and continued to be, if not full of nuance, full of warmth and a clean desirable consistent taste through the next six brews! All of which were done in under ten minutes of course! This is a wake-up tea and I need to wake up as it's 6am on an 'almost' chilly Monday morning in California.
Note on the photo of the sample packaging how wonderfully green this company is, that goes a long way for me when deciding where to purchase my teas and the best part, this is an organic Yunnan Gold!
All in all this Yunnan Gold stands head to head with the three others I have tried which are all highly lauded in the Gungfu world and I am delighted to have met SerentipiTea through this initial morning session. Deep bow of gratitude, I am ready to face the day!

From SerendipiTea's website we read:
Exquisite black tea hailing from the cherished Ancient Tree Tea plantation located near the heavens on Jing Mai Mountain in Yunnan province. Approximately 6,000 feet above sea level, shrouded in mist, it's romantically reported that Tea grown here has been cared for by local hill tribe groups for a thousand years. The Ancient Trees have grown wild & naturally, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers - Mother Nature alone reveals herself in this broad, golden leaf. The smooth, full-bodied tea is reminiscent of lightly roasted sugar cane & finishes with the distinct cocoa notes of fine Yunnan.

Jade Oolong + 翠玉 = LOVE.

This, Dear Readers, is my next tea purchase. I have now had quite a few green oolongs and this particular Jade Oolong from Mountain Tea is my favorite, especially for evenings after supper. It has elegant floral flavors no matter the temperatures I choose to brew it. My favorite temperature right now is a low 185f.  Mountain Tea says that due of this teas forgiving nature they recommend Jade for tea lovers who enjoy experimenting with their steeps, sometimes using lower water temperature for longer, or adding hot water for a quick sixty second steep. I totally concur with this analysis!
I am brewing quick brews, Gongfu style 5 grams for 110 ml gaiwan and playing with temperature spectrum. It seems no matter what I try, (aside from just under boil which I will not do), this Jade Oolong produces what Mountain Tea calls, 'a fragrant pale green-gold liquor with exceptional clarity.' Totally true.
So far this is the most flavorful and verdant Jade Oolong I have sampled. It tastes of multiple sorts of flowers at different moments in the mouth. Its grassy fresh, slightly vegetal qualities work well with the strong floral notes. You will taste that vegetal more on the lower side of your steeps. This is a high quality tea and well worth getting your hands on. I know that's my own personal intention. This tea sits lovingly on my tongue long after the session has ended, in a subtle and gracious fashion.

Tea-Side Jin Xuan Red Tea from Thailand.

The aroma that wafted from the bag was glorious, all roses, almost overwhelming. Opening this generous sample was like walking into a florists.
I put the sample in a jar for storage and kept the empty bag next to my desk for hours, literally just deeply inhaling the lingering scent from the empty bag. Having made an all-day commitment to working on a Puerh sample I did not try this fragrant tea until the following day when I could dedicate my full attention on what was clearly going to be an interesting and refreshing new experience.

 The following day I prepare to sample the tea and notice the scent coming out of the jarred tea is not as strong as it was in the foil bag but the strong buttery floral tones come right back as soon as the long stick-like leaves are immersed in the warmed gaiwan. First few steeps are reminiscent of Oriental Beauty, which I didn't not expect, but this is brighter, flashier, with more fruity undertones than OB. The first three brews are so bright and crisp I leave the four gram sample in the open gaiwan for a later hour in which to reintroduce them to the water. I have a strong feeling this will steep 6-8 times, but don't know as of this writing. We shall see!

My initial feeling is this is a lovely tea and I hope to see some subtlety come in with the later steeps.
The TeaSide web site can be hard to find so here is a little help for you! www.tea-side.com

From the owner of TeaSide we read:
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.

I am totally charmed by her words, and others on the site and look forward with great anticipation to trying a lot more tea varieties from Thailand.

Photos from my gaiwan of TeaSide's lovely Jian Xuan Red Tea!

A Puerh created by the Tea-Gods to get you hooked! A unapologetic cowboy! A inducement towards hedonism!

Smacha Tea's Jing Mai Old Tree Puerh 2011 will 'getcha. It will make your tea pets practically jump out of their little clay skins to get bathed in it. It will tell you to do bad things, and you just might.
Or, alternatively, it will just talk to you, in an 'outside-voice' for sure, about its rich chocolate subtlety, it will fill your quiet kitchen with shouts no one but you and the tea can hear, and it's the tea talkin' and it's saying, "You like that, don't you? Well, and so you should! You're a relatively intelligent gal with a blossoming palate, you should just keep it up, ol' gal, drink! Drink! Drink!" (And it has a Dallas accent. How did that happen?)

In any case, many, many good things come from Smacha Tea company out of Bellevue, Washington and this tea is sure 'nuff one of them. Subtle, it ain't, but after a days worth of fresh, super young Puerhs who thrilled me with their giggling, whispered chatter of sunshine filtered through tall trees and leisurely hikes through clear, neat pathways, this is just the tickety-ticket!
Dark, rich boisterous. And all mine.

Mantra Tea's Wen Shan Bao Zhong. A second write-up as I finish up the last of this wonderful tea.

I just realized as I am sadly ending the last of my steeps with this Bao Zhong that I really, really love it. It is the only tea, (aside from a 2014 Summer Oriental Beauty) that I have made odd noises with while drinking. Sounds of the 'Nom, nom, nom' variety. I also caught myself whispering ''Yummy,Yummy,Yummy." And so there you are. This one goes on the 'buy' list.

Below are notes from Mantra Teas website on this worthy and gracious tea.

Award-winning Wenshan Bao Zhong (Baojong, Pouchong or light oolong), TAP Certified by 6th Generation tea masters, who arrived in Nan Gang district, Taiwan, in the late 19th century. Nan Gang is the original and premier Bao Zhong growing district of Taiwan, and the site of Nan Gang Tea Research and Development Laboratory.

Bao Zhong is a lightly oxidized Oolong, so you will be glad to know this tea is vacuum-sealed at the farm, and comes with a patented re-sealing device to maintain freshness.

Bao Zhong, if you have never had it, is famous for its aroma. That is easy to say about many teas, like it is about wines. But the scent of our first tasting of this Bao'jong lasted till nightfall, and then we had a dream about it. It is a truly astonishing experience, can be compared with the aroma of the Ginger Lily, which is the national flower of Cuba and a famous ingredient of perfume in Spanish colonial times.

Turning up my nose at a tea-bag. Or not. Tea Ave's Tie Kwan Yin Oolong proposes to confuse me.

I said I wouldn't get tea-snobby. And I reckon I don't consider it tea-snobby that I now disdain tea-bags. But it looks as if I won't have to worry about that because apparently tea-bags can hold good tea. Most of you know this I bet. I didn't. To me tea-bags are something I find at the bottom of my satchel that have been there for years, never even considered an option, something I did because my mum does it, throws Morning Breakfast or Earl Grey tea-bags in her purse. With me it was 'Horny Goat-weed' or 'Holy Basil'. But I never used them, even before discovering the world of good teas.
But enough about me.
So, I just opened a small sample from Tea Ave, which surprised me by unveiling its contents as a tea-bag. I huffed and sniffed at it a bit, just to see how it felt to be a bit of a tea-snob, said, 'What the hell' and put the bag into my pre-warmed Jian Shui oolong pot. I even let it sit in the pot for almost three minutes! That felt weird but I like to follow instructions. The package is an astounding color of blue which should have been my hint the contents were not loose tea, Tea Ave's loose-tea samples have been in gold 'foil', and instructions for brewing were on the back. There were directions for gaiwan, tea-bag, teapot and cold-brew.
Anyhoo. it's not bad. It's not amazing, how can anything not done Gongfu style really show its stuff but for a tea-bag it is very nice. I could see myself actually taking a tea bag in my purse with me and actually asking the waiter for hot water and then using it.
Like my mom does with Twinings and Lipton. Oh my god, I'm turning into my mother. Damnit!

However, I will do it with a far finer quality of tea-bags should I go that route which I am sure I inevitably will to some degree. That being said, I will not become a tea-bag fan, I have my travel gaiwan, and I am sticking to the best kind of tea there is stylistically, the Gongfu Way Of Tea.
I'm off now to brew this bag two more times, to see if can give me a little more than this initial steep. I am tempted to break the tea leaves out of their thin-veiled jail cell and let them roam free in the pot!

An Evening Engagement with Chambre De Sucre

Last night I was drinking a strong Puerh and eating chocolate at midnight. Intervention, please!
Needless to say I did not sleep well, and tonight, though I wanted to indulge I was looking for something softer, safer, still a new experience but a mellowing one. I got lucky! I found, pinned to my cork-board just waiting to be tried, a little black foil pouch holding a sample of 'Evening Engagement,' a perfect match for tonight.
Imagine this. Organic everything. A Chinese white tea called Ba Mu Dan mixed with Rose petals and Chrysanthemum. Not a tea to be flash brewed in a gaiwan so I pulled out my infuser and watched the petals and the leaves dance. This is what I was in the mood for and what my body needed, after last nights Puerh sessions, and honestly, today's Puerh sessions. I needed a new companion. One I could make a large bowl of and enjoy while sitting across the table from my child playing a board game. One that would allow me to indulge my sense yet get some rest.
I found this a totally mellowing tea, I am now ready for bed, but first! First I shall brew up another 16 ounces of Evening Engagement and put it in a pitcher to enjoy tomorrow afternoon. This is a tea for any time of day your in the mood for a white tea with a floral touch. Regardless of the charming name, don't wait for evening to try this one out.
(Photos property of Chambre De Sucre. I was too busy drinking this tea to stop and photograph it!)

Where can you get high quality 10 grams Puerh samples for as low as $4.00? Welcome to Hidden Peak Teahouse.

Hidden Peak Teahouse, in Northern California has made their samples so affordable I was able to order pretty much everything they had on their website! Today I tried Mang Fei Shan Shou 2003. It was a full ten grams for $4.50 and I used exactly half in my 140ml Yixing Xisha Puerh pot. At this writing I am only on the second steep after two rinses, and I already like it, nice flavor, no bitterness, not funky, and very warming. As my Dear Readers know, this is worth mentioning because just weeks ago I couldn't drink any Puerhs yet! My palate is really opening up and I am delighted to find that this Puerh fits right in there with my blossoming newbie sensibilities. I love it and am going to follow their lead and play with it all day!

Here is what they have to say on their gorgeous website;


Mang Fe Shan is refreshingly well made. It hearkens back to times when quality was all we knew, and everything had primary, vital importance. It speaks of unpretentious care in a craft.

Wet Leaf:

beautiful, large, dark, coarse leaves • exuding much glistening juice.


thick and dense • much structure and body makes this a stand-your-teaspoon-in-it cup


alive with equilibrium and sustainable energy • this tea is comfortable while artistically creativeA satisfyingly hefty brick for the seasoned connoisseur. This Mang Fe pu-erh meets the criteria of a well cared for tea. Each brick has such effervescence; playful and alive. A dark stout-like brew or a clear amber hue - this tea has versatility and likes you to tinker with it
There are very definite layers in this tea. We recommend that you take note of different characteristics as you become familiar with it and test your gung fu, trying to showcase them.


  • Vintage: late 1990's
  • Category: Shou
  • Format: Fang Cha (square tea brick)
  • Leaf Grade: Unblended/large
  • Growing Region: Mang Fe Shan
  • Old tree

Haiku for Crimson Lotus' 2008 Bulang Ripe Puerh Brick

You taste of old shoe
Of mildew and ripe wet earth
I turn my back now.

You call me again
Mildew has warmed to honey
I still taste old shoe.

Bulang is your name
I learned it out of respect
You change your nature.

Show me how to change.
To go from brown to golden
From acid to wine.

From acrid to fine
subtle shifts and your gorgeous.
Lush and damp and real.

I want to do that.
I want to be like this tea.
A constant surprise.

I finally chose and purchased my first two Cakes of Puerh Tea!

Very pleased with myself for making some choices regarding Puerh. For working through my initial and total dislike and finding a path I can travel of Puerhs that has led me to this point which I will call Point A, which to me means the point where I can purchase my top two.
I've tried a lot of Puerhs the last four months, some of which I bet if I tried now I would have totally different experiences of since my palate has now been introduced to Puerhs. I will retry many of them soon.
In any case my purchase choices for my first cake/brick are as follows:

Smacha Tea's 2011 Jung Mai 'Old Tree' Ripe Puerh  200 gram cake at a cost of $32

Crimson Lotus'  2008 Bulang Imperial Grade Shou/ Ripe Puerh 250 gram brick at a cost of $30.

I like the Old Tree from Smacha somewhat more than the Bulang but I feel like I am meant to have that Bulang and I do not dislike it, I just don't savor it in the same way at this moment. I do think we have a future together nonetheless, it takes me places, and I want to go!
I like both these companies, both are run by people who have been super helpful and communicative with me, and I am certain I come off as a mind-addled nutjob, so kudos to the dude-os* for putting up with me so far!

(*That means, YOU, Glen and Andrew!)

Sanne Tea's Oriental Beauty offerings from 2014 and 2015 and they come with a story to tell!

Some of the prettiest leaves I have seen thus far come from this 2014 Oriental Beauty

Today I was the beneficiary of two Oriental Beauty teas from Sanne Tea. My love for Oriental Beauty grows and it seems everyone who knows me even a little knows this tea is what I care for most!
I love what the farmer calls a 'soft fire'. I love the way he and his family work, the irregular hours, the care, the instinctual intensity. I am brewing both of these teas today with no hesitation. I am ready for a new Oriental Beauty experience!

Lulu, the passionate owner of Sanne Tea tells me the following.
"These Oriental Beauty offerings are from Mr. Chen Shi Yi. He is an Organic farmer. Organic agriculture is still developing in Taiwan. He is currently one of only 22 organic tea farmers in the Pinglin area, New Taipei City. To become a qualified farmer, he has to put incredible efforts into making sure that his teas have zero pesticide residue.
The Taiwanese organic certification is typically not recognized by many Westerns, but the Taiwanese organic standard is, in fact, amended from similar regulations in the USA and Europe. Some standards may even be stricter than the US’s, like the fact that 5% pesticide residue is allowable in the USDA certification, but zero residue is allowable in the Taiwanese organic standard. Some farmers are eager to push the government to broaden the zero residue standards to include an allowable amount of pesticide residue, but, right now, most Taiwanese still believe that any organic product should have zero residue.
I would love to share more about Mr. Chen Shi Yi and his family. 10 years ago, he found his neighbor, another tea farmer, had fainted on his tea farm from breathing in too much pesticide. This accident made him rethink the danger of pesticide. He intended to gather his neighbors and get everyone to practice the new cultivation methods together. Unfortunately, his neighbors declined. They worried that the profits would not be enough to support their families. He had once told me “I am lucky that my only son has a secure job, so I only need to take care of my wife and myself. My wife and I agreed that we should put our health first, and make only the teas we love for the rest of our lives”.
Mr. Chen has a soft heart and strong will, as do his teas. His teas are very elegant, smooth, and capable of many brews. When brewing, his teas have a clean smell that lingers long after drinking, which is achieved from a time-consuming process method. He believes that a soft fire makes sweet malt. When making his teas, he takes extra effort to make sure that every process is fully completed before going on to the next. There are no regular working hours. He, Mrs. Chen and his daughter-in-law have to take turns working through the night to make sure everything is done at the correct times and nothing is processed too long or too quickly. When I drink his teas, I feel they are always sweeter than other teas."

The 2014 is brewing up to be one of the prettiest looking teas I've ever seen. I know I am a newbie and haven't seen hundreds of teas and perhaps only a half dozen Oriental Beauty teas but this one is just as pretty as my favorites. The smell in the warmed gaiwan was the sweetest I've come across, like roses! Just amazing. Woke up the leaves with a rinse, first steep was so light I had to consider it a second rinse, and realized these babies want to open up slowly, unfurl and be tasted in their own time. I lowered my temp to 180 and let the leaves 'do their thing' for 5 steeps. Wonderful, floral and so soft and loving! I almost hate to burn these sweet leaves with the water, so I am taking it down to 175. Yes, I am in a maternal state of mind with a new puppy and a pre-teen daughter in hormonal throes, but this tea is not undeserving of my compassion either. 
The 2015 will have to wait for another day, I am spending the day with Sanne Tea's 2014 Oriental Beauty with much gratitude towards all those who made it possible. I am reminded of the following and I quote;
This cup of tea in my two hands, mindfulness held perfectly.
My mind and body dwell in the here and now. Tea is a gift of the earth, the sky, 
numerous living beings and much hard work. We shall drink with mindfulness 
and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

( A brief non-tea related review) The Squatty Potty

(Pssssst..... Here is a secret that's really no secret we are learning as our tea practice develops into all-day sessions.)
Being a tea lover I pee a lot. This simple device helps me so I don't end up back in there peeing yet again ten minutes later. It is not just for "number two!" A helpful and smart addition to this tea-drinkers personal hygiene and furthering health.

The dark, intense, yet full of joy feelings I get from this 2008 Bulang Shan Shou Puerh.

 The beginning hours of drinking this ripe, dark viscous Puerh was as if I had wandered alone, yet feeling watched over and safe, into a heavily forested, humid mountainside. I taste soil, damp wood, the natural scent of organic decay. I feel intrigued and confused, turned on and turned off, uncertain of how to feel, just lost, yet happily and full of curiosity in a vast lush world of trees and fresh living earth. There is no musty attic or fetid basement here, this is an outdoor wonder-world of distinction. I have no idea if I 'like it' or not. Doesn't really seem to even be a valid line of questioning. This is not the time for questions, this is a time to teleport to somewhere I have never been. I close my eyes, sway a little, my husband asks me if I am OK. He refuses my kind offer of taking a second sip of this transportational magical brew I now began to rant about to him. (Dude thinks I am a witch, I just know it. A neurotic, Jewish, liquid-obsessed witch. God only knows what my twelve year old thinks.)
To try to bring my husband in on the curiosity I tell him I think many connoisseur of aged whiskeys, bourbons, whatever, are turning to teas of this sort with open hearts and passion, but honestly, I might be making this up.
Ah well, it's a solo journey, is it not? Be it tea or life itself, we can share what others allow us to share and be there when we can for others to share their own journey's but ultimately my taste-buds, memory-triggers and passions are my solitary own. And with teas like this, it is sufficient. As the Jews of old say,'Dayenu!' (Enough!')
The first two steeps are at near boiling point and are flash rinses, so dark! The smell coming from my pot is the truly transporting agent, the taste is quite aggressive compared to the subtle hints of all those dark forests the leaves at the bottom of my pot, steaming and waiting for more water are whispering about.
Here is the third brew.
Darker than coffee and full of a chi that makes me feel a third eye opening up in the middle of my forehead. OK, not really, but there is a definite intense buzz coming on and it is centered right in-between my eyebrows, my sinus get very open and I begin a light sweat. Two more steeps and I am done for awhile.
I pick the journey back up long after supper, after sundown, and the brew is lighter, milder but still with its presence of intensity. Two quick steeps and I leave it for the night, cleansing my palate with a little Bao Zhong before bed.
I awake at 6am and head right for the kettle. I don't know which steep this will be for this hearty Bulang Shan Shou, I am guessing nine.
It's a fine way to start this Sunday morning but no quick trips into a humid wonderland of forested mountains await me, it is simply a nice, slightly sweet, dark amber tea now. Two more steeps and I am ready to bid the leaves good bye. A 250 gram brick of this is still available for only $30 from Crimson Lotus and I am thinking seriously about buying, what would be, my first brick or cake Puerh purchase. For those interested it is called 2008 Bulang Shan Imperial Grade Ripe Puerh and the Crimson Lotus website has more information about it, including the owner, Glens thoughts and a great video link to TeaDB where they talk about this tea and Glen shows the boys his Jian Shui pots, which I wasn't expecting to see and which thrilled me to no end, being a new Jian Shui obsessed pot owner.
Off to brew one last steep of this Puerh and then my sample is truly gone. I am relieved to have finally had a dark Puerh that I could 'handle' and am now ready to venture further onto the path of Puerhs to see where else it will lead me. I am even more open to finding myself in an old man forgotten sock in a mildewing basement with charcoal smoke stinging my eyes and a mouthful of shoe leather. Whatever. Let's just go!

Enjoying a long morning session with Crimson Lotus' 'Whispering Sunshine' Puerh.

At my desk. Which is in my house. In my kitchen. Sweet.
Already having written my initial thoughts at this wonderful Puerh offering I only post now to share my joy at being able to have an ongoing session while sitting at my desk listening to lectures online, writing emails and edit notes to new clients, and generally having the time of my life!
I missed having a desk after leaving the theatre sales director gig after fifteen plus years. I always loved puttering around my desk with my 'stuff', doing 'things' and once desktop computers were 'invented' and supplied on every desk, well, even better!
Having recently discovered this wonderful company Crimson Lotus and their unique offerings of Puerhs, and being very new to Puerh in general I find it vital that I can continue a session as long as possible sometimes. If it's 'working' and I don't absolutely loathe the tea, I don't want to stop, I want to go for the full ride! To my Dear Readers who have told me they haven't tried Puerhs yet, I recommend this attitude whole-heartedly. Do it up! To that end I bought a Zojirushi brand 2.5 cup thermos, (though they call it a travel mug) and thanks to its presence I have not had to leave my desk for two hours, and am on my ump-teenth steeping of this lovely brew. Now, if only I had someplace to go; I have my travel Gaiwan set I'd love to review, and along with this thermos I could see myself actually leaving the house! What a thought!
Buddha-Mom generally stays home, in the perfection that is her Southern California rental bungalow, surrounded by her 'stuff', most of which are breathing, living entities, and surrounded by her tea-ware and her sweet little family, but now with this Puerh? Which, by the way, I first saw as a post by Crimson Lotus in a photograph they took of it in a clear glass thermos while they were on a hike.

("Imagine that!" I remember thinking. "Going out and still having tea?" And that is, of course, how I ended up buying this particular Puerh, a travel gaiwan set and a thermos, so THANKS, CRIMSON LOTUS for the inspiration!)
The gorgeous photo from Glen at Crimson Lotus that got me thinking.