A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

'Autumn Moonlight Pavillion Pure-Bud Bi Luo Chun.' Have prettier words ever been spoken aside from 'The Dude Abides'?

Maybe so, but still, while sipping this delicate, lovely tea the words all dance through my noggin and are as charming as can be. The only 'word' I left out of the description is '2015' because no-one will accuse '2015' of being a lovely word, or even a lovely year. I think we are all ready for a fresh new start, am I wrong?
Yunnan Sourcing's MPPBBLCWAUT15, (a much less poetic way of saying 'this tea' without the hassle) is a wonderful varietal of two different kinds of Bi Luo Chun, and is the smallest pure-bud tea grown in the whole of Yunnan.
It is clean tasting, floral and has a light sweet and lingering aftertaste that I am finding thoroughly enjoyable.
I was told, (or did I just dream I was told? That happens a lot lately) that this is a most delicate tea and needs to be handled carefully but I did not do so, I simply put a small handful(maybe 4-5 grams?) into my 6 ounce celadon pot and used the Keurig machines' water (175f) to fill and refill the pot. Gasps? That is not very Gongfu Cha of me, I readily admit, but come on, man! It's a Saturday, it's raining( yes, in California!) and I am stuck in the house, the rather small bungalow if you will, with many more beating hearts than I am used to and nowhere to go. Everyone from the bearded dragons, snake, birds, husband and child have their own things going on and I needed to have something of my own to do but with so many other energies in the house I cannot create Gongfu Cha at my usual meditative pace. So instead of getting uptight I consciously chose to just take it easy and just brewed to brew, made at least three separate tray messes, with trays in every room beginning with a nice spicy new sheng and once I was high from that I moved on to this delicate sweet Bi Luo Chun. This tea abides, and today, so do I.

Mountain Tea's Heritage Honey Oolong, a perfect holiday tea for grinches like me not leaving the house for the next two weeks!

Mountain Tea's Heritage Honey Oolong is a perfect tea for on-the-go. Take it to the pedicure place, take it to the DimSum joint, even take it to the mall, where you can sit in the car and drink it out of a thermos while the kids are in that terrifying place spending their ill-gotten booty. (Or is that ill-booten gotty?) In any case, have tea will travel, but you are on your own if you leave your zipcode. Personally that's as far as I myself will go in regard to exotic destinations; the parking lot of the local mall especially the week before X-mas, a holiday I am thankful I do not participate in. (Love the lights though, keep on putting those lights up every year, folks! Love those lights!)
Heritage Honey Oolong is another of those tightly rolled, super easy to drink full-bodied floral teas that seem to do well in a variety of brewing vessels, with mixed parameters.
I will not, however, offend my tea by using microwaved water (hair salon, I'm talking to you,) even if it does come piping hot, just can't do it.
So how do you travel with your tea? Write me at buddhamom@outlook.com and tell me your outlook at tea-drinking on the go. Article to appear end of January on this topic, and in the meantime, it is back to my honey oolong, settling my fat-butt into the chaise-lounge in the spotty sunshine of a December afternoon in Los Angeles to imagine, only imagine, what kind of trouble you tea-drinking-travel-bug maniacs might be getting yourselves into next week! Be well and drink on!

You can take my 1980 Shou stash out of my cold, dead hands but until then...

My own personal stockpile in case of Armageddon.

You can take my oolongs, my bulangs, the shengs and (most of the) shous. You can hand out my sencha, the tencha, the matcha and the bancha to whoever is in need but do not touch, I say, do not touch my Mountain Tea 1980 Shou Puerh. 
As a reckless Shou shopping newbie I do take the time to ask myself these questions even while I am ranting;Where did it come from, why is it so special? How come you were able to afford it? Who cares what you, a newbie dumb-dumb wanna-be tea expert hoards or hides? Who? Anybody?
And I don't know, dear readers; I do not know if anyone cares and I do not know if this is an actual 1980 shou, but if Mountain Tea says its so, that's good enough for me. They are some of the good guys, I like them, and I am choosing the believe this shou was affordable simply because they are amazing human beings and chose to bless their part of the universe with it at an affordable price.
At $17 for two ounces, I was able to buy half a pound and am nestled into my bungalow ready for anything awful that comes my way. I got the shu-pu, I got the dogs, I got the ten zillion other amazing teas, but really one taste of this shou back when it was a sample, was enough to make me know I could live for EVER with this tea on my tongue, I could ride the waves of apocalypse and I can withstand all my own stupidities and mediocrities and those of the world at large, if only I can be at home with my darlings( human and otherwise) and this damn wonderful tea.
Regardless of my fixation, I am willing to share it, but dudes, you have to come to me!
And bring cookies.

Smacha's Da Jin High Mountain Oolong creates longing and desire for more and more steeps!

It's true I only write up the teas I love, or think I have the capacity to appreciate so if you, Dear Reader get tired of my praise, do look elsewhere for more true 'reviews'. However, if like me, you like to be just wow-ed, floored with pleasure and are indeed, as I am, a  light-hearted hedonistic creature of pleasure, always sought, quickly found, never sated and always ready for more, well, then, you belong right here reading this.
That being said, I am a Buddhist, and I work diligently at non-attachment. (Good luck with this one, Buddha-Mom, for when you run out, you will be feeling all kinds of attachment-related angst!)

I am only on the third steep of this tea, and for all I know it's about to get all astringent on me and end our little mutual appreciation society but right now, twenty minutes after finishing that third steep, I am still savoring the mouth-feel of this delightful little Oolong. So let's talk about what the heck I tried, shall we? This is a sample from Smacha whose tagline is 'Tea Makes A Happy Day' to which I can positively attest.

This is Da Jin High Mountain Oolong.

Here is what I know about this Da Jin Oolong from information provided by Smacha;
"Fugian, China.
20% fermentation.
Harvested from a 60 year old mountaintop tea garden, "above the clouds" and made in the style of the great Taiwan High Mountain Oolongs, Da Jin High Mountain has complex flowery aromas and a sweet, deep floral taste."

The tea coming out of the sealed bag smelled subtle and wonderful, the heated leaves in my hot gaiwan were intensely good, the lid of the gaiwan smelling even better than the cup itself. Two quick rinses at 195f, and then steeps one through three at around 190 were utter heaven.

Its now been twenty minutes since I finished the third steep and I can still feel it in my throat and in my chest cavity, a cooling tea, I am not sweating, yet my chest feels warm and my tea belch was like incense. Ok, ok, so maybe I am pushing it, but truly, not a bad belch.
This is a tea I am buying.
Like today.
Well, alright then! Clap-clap, moving right along! Time to go back into the Trenches Of Tea with this most suitable of companions! 

Greenwood Studio and the most soulful vessels on Earth.

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

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

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

My first Gardenia Oolong, a magical brew.

As my dear readers know, I am not a fan of teas that have flavoring in them. Certainly would never touch anything with artificial flavoring, but really even a good quality tea tossed post-production with Jasmine flowers is not really my preference. I like the complexities of my steeps to be about discerning the different flavors of just the tea itself, no additional distractions required or desired. But now I have to change my stance on that because I just fell madly in love with a Gardenia oolong sample from The Santa Barbara Tea Club and it is rocking my tastebuds big time. I have a call out to James, the owner of this new tea club and am awaiting information on this tea. Not much to look at visually, a brown tightly rolled oolong but the heavenly, light scent, both dry in the bag, dry in the heated gaiwan and the gaiwan's steamed lid, cup and the tea leaves themselves EVERY STEEP are just delightful.
Gongfu style I brewed five grams in a 100 ml gaiwan. First rinse at 210f, second rinse was a flash-brew, which I did not waste on the tea-pet's head but drank with a great deal of pleasure. Third, fourth and fifth steeps I did a high pour from my goose-neck kettle, hitting the leaves with water at least ten degrees cooler than the initial steeps. What can I say? It's all good. Taking a break and will see what's left in those leaves for a second round, turning the heat back up to 210f. As the man says, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is'

Qi Lai Shan, tea from a snowy mountain.

Located in a remote, pristine high elevation garden on the edge of a national forest Qi Lai Shan is close to Li Shan. Even in Taiwan, Qi Lai Shan is a still largely unknown growing region. This is because this area is relatively new to tea cultivation. Only locals who know where the best tea in Taiwan is know about Qi Lai Shan. This tea is grown at 2050m. The dry leaves have a clean fragrance of high mountains. The taste is pure and buttery with a long smooth aftertaste. This year it snowed in Qi Lai Shan during the winter, making this spring's tea "snow tea." Because of its rarity, snow tea is renowned for its excellence.
That is a bit of copy and paste for you from the website run by the honorable and lovely young man, Emilio who is a fabulous potter as well as a purveyor of some rare teas! The Jade Leaf. Tell him Hannah sent ya!

Time to feed the hippo.

I really like this guy. I mean, he is everything I ever wanted in a teapet; chunky in my hand, big black soulful eyes, a body I can run my finger over, and pour tea upon from his fat little head all the way down his hide. He and I shared a little Tie Guan Yin last night and really bonded so I wanted to accomplish a couple things this morning. One, get as high as I could to get myself up and moving after the election results and two, bless and welcome this chunky little bastid in the finest possible fashion. For these two objectives my choice was actually really easy. Yunnan Sourcing's Guan-Dong stored wild arbor raw 2005 Mengu Zheng Shan Daye.
I used seven grams in a Jian Shui gaiwan and with a Jian Shui sipping cup as well. Everything looks so swell together. Since I've written about this tea already I won't repeat myself but will direct you to the original post here, to read my notes on this amazing cake. I was literally moved to order soon after watching Denny and James discuss it on teadb.org and I bought two cakes, one to indulge in and one to store. Happy to share it with my new tea buddy while all the other teapets, especially the spoiled fat frogs look on from the window ledge. It is a bit pricey cake for me at $58 but well worth it for a 400 gram cake. Like camphor, chinese medicine shop weirdness and an intense head-buzz? Check it out.

From Mountain Tea out of California, a Silver Needle Puerh. I love it. He hates it. So what else is new?

( My inner vision of me forcing tea upon my less than enthusiastic spouse.)

I haven't revisited this tea in at least eight months until just a few minutes ago, was surprised, in fact, to find it in my Puerh closet. I think I may have been more surprised to see it now than I was back then when all things Puerh were new to me. So a loose leaf Pu was just another weird tea. Now that I have a closet full of Pu teas, both cakes and sample and bricks, shengs and shous, raw and cooked, so on and so forth...now this crispy loose leaf tea makes me really wonder. Also after first steep I am high as a kite kinda happy.
I brewed up 5 grams in a 160 ml celadon pot at 210f and the flash rinse yielded so much color and viscosity I had to drink it and it was good. The rinse. Was. GOOD.
The second steep I allowed the tea to sit for maybe 15 seconds and the ruby red color and thickness of the broth was amazing. So amazing I stopped after this first real steep, and made my husband try it. Yes, yes, he hates Pu and never says anything nice and this time was no different. But he's a half-crazed visigoth with no tongue for the stuff, and what he said was not surprising but almost poetic and certainly worth repeating. It is the sort of description that had I heard it would make me buy the tea. He said, "This is like a smoldering cigarette in an ashtray was put out with warm, flat RC Cola. And then at some point you dropped some Honey-Nut Cheerios in it and let it sit for awhile longer and then you put it through a strainer and made me drink it."
Yeah, it's that good.

I am on Mountain Tea's website now and see no sign of it so I cannot pass more information onto you at this point but rest assured, dear readers, I have emailed them already for an explanation because, really? What IS THIS? I love it, I didn't know what I had in my hot little newbie hands when I got it and now I do and I want MORE of the same please! At least and education on what I am drinking because this is amazing, dark as coffee, warm, earthy and lovely stuff right here.

My favorite Tie Guan Yin ever. Find me its match and win my best tea-pet!

I had my first Tie Guan Yin a little over a year ago, at the start of my tea journey. Loved it. Floral, light, gorgeous aroma, I was hooked. Since then I have had many other Tie Guan Yins created in many other ways but this one remains my favorite. So it is sad that today I say goodbye to the last of my Zheng Wei Tie Guan Yin from Teavivre. And, of course, it is gone now but I know I will find its match soon. Light, insanely floral, high mountain-grown, very lightly fermented.
I love Shan teas and this one was one of the best!
I pose a quest for myself and my friends. Try to steer me towards a Tie Guan Yin that closely matches this one as much as possible. Convince me to buy some and whoever suggests the perfect match will be gifted with my beloved Tea-pet, rabbit in tea leaf canoe!
To enter your  suggestion and to 'win' this buddy as my thank you, write to me directly at buddhamom@outlook.com

Floating Leaves 'Farmer's Choice Bao Zhong Spring 2016' Really ties the room together.

Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! I have a beautiful feeling, Bao Zhong is coming my way! Damn, man, tea so good it's got me singing songs from Oklahoma at 8 am in the morning.
Seriously though, leaving nasty old musicals behind and moving right into my Lebowski-groove, this amazing Bao Zhong from Spring 2016 really ties the whole room together. This dude will be abiding with this tea until at least noon, then I am going to move on to a new teacake recomended by James at www.teadb.org where I expect to get even higher. Who needs pot and White Russians, dudes? A little tea, a little improvisational musical theatre and I'm ready to start the week!

How a Tea-Side HTCH/0801 2006 Sheng brought out the goofy Jew in me and a little Salt-N-Pepa too.

Well, I pulled myself away from the after-wedding festivities long enough to write about this. How this small sample of Tea-Side from Thailand's Sheng HTHC 0801 2006 somehow turned into me giving my best tea-pet-buddy, Orson, the gift of a bride and then marrying them, with me presiding of course and instead of breaking a glass, I doused them liberally with tea, no kidding, see video below. What an adorable couple!
The tea itself did not lend itself to this foray into silliness, but rather I blame the bagel. The Costco//Einstein Brother's 'Everything' bagel I finished eating just as I was setting up for this session in my usual gong-ringing, focused and mindful way. Suddenly I belched a little caraway seed and was inspired to put on the late, great Irving Field's album, 'Bagels and Bongo's and thus changed the um, 'vibe' in the room. And that's where the goddamn magic happens, isn't it? when you change things up?

In any case and moving on this Sheng from Tea-Side is a mild and sweet delight and perfect for toasting( and drenching) the happy couple. This is a great Thai tea with strong qi. Tastes of 'raisins, tea-bark and spices' says the written description on their site and I totally agree on those flavor notes. The brews are immediately a lovely dark amber with a super nice clarity of the broth and a balanced and mild, yet long-lingering aftertaste.

Six grams in a small gaiwan at 210f, after four steeps took a break to write this up and now going to go push it, push it good. Uh Oh, I feel a change of music venue coming on.
And now back to the steeping party!

Let's talk about Pu.

No, not this Pooh.

And no, not this poo either.
Pu. Puerh.
It's a tea.
And not a pinkies-in-the-air-Earl-Grey-kind-of-tea, not a mix-it-with-milk-and-sugar-kind-of-tea, but a tea that if it had an equivalent would be mezcal maybe? If it's really good, heroin? (OK, maybe not heroin. I don't know from heroin,) but Pu, for me, can BE a 'heroine' by which I mean a goddess-like mythical feminine experience who lifts me up, gives me great pleasure, shows me a hint of the sublime and gets me high as a kite.
You know what? I don't feel like talking about it anymore.
It's like verbally dissecting great sex after you're done. It's a ridiculous exercise, (so is the sex) in self-indulgence. Let us just say that I become one with the universe for a few moments when a truly great Pu is sipped after being mindfully and ritually prepared in a meditative state, including, YES, including the use of my Tibetan bowls deep reverberating chime as I wait the ten or fifteen seconds for that steep to create the elixir.
Talking about it cheapens it somehow.
More soon on the actual Pu I had today that brought me to this point. For now, I'm just going to stop thinking, writing, talking and go chill and feel the residual tingles as the sweat cools my body and the tea-drunk buzz leaves me, head- pounding in search of an Advil. Hell, intense pleasures have a price to pay, right?
Here at least is a picture of the tea in question before I took my (sharp goddess-like ritual) tools to break the cake...
For your edification... find the tea that inspired this mini rant here.

Smacha 2016 Jing Mai Maocha.

This amazing, long stick-like tower of leaves is a Jing Mai Sheng, Moacha. As you probably know, Moacha is unpressed Pu Erh and so every leaf is intact. Jing Mai borders Myanmar on the south and west and is the home to several tea-making and tea-loving ethnic minorities. 
My big fat nose smelling the still dry leaves in the pre-warmed gaiwan.

Collectively, the ancient tea plantations of Jingmai Mountain in Yunnan form the largest cultivated tea plantation in the world. More than a million ancient tea trees, some more than a thousand years old, and most between ten and 30 feet tall, grow in the understory of the rain forest.  Jing Mai Mountain was part of the Yunnan trunk of the ancient Tea Horse Road, the legendary network of China-to-Tibet commercial routes. There were multiple pathways in the “road,” which gets its name from its primary use in the 11th century as a way for China to trade tea for Tibetan horses. At the time, the going rate (set by the Sichuan Tea and Horse Agency) was 130 pounds of tea for one horse.
(Borrowed liberally for Nat Geo)

For my first adventure with this tea I used five grams in my Jian Shui gaiwan at 200f, First two steeps were good but a little mouth-weak. Kicked up the water temp to 209f and ZOWIE. Awesome. Full back of throat Sheng flavor, no astringency, sweet and tight and with a strong Qi which is waking my ass UP!
(Remember that scene in 'American Beauty' after Kevin Spacey gets high with that kid with the amazing eyebrows? And later he goes to the kid to buy some weed and he asks the kid if the weed the kid is selling him is the weed they had smoked the previous night together? And the kid says, 'This is the only one I ever smoke.' Well, that's how I feel right now. Like if I had to choose one tea, ok, make that one SHENG, this would be IT.)
Damn. Who knew? 2016 Jing Mai Maocha from Smacha Tea. Not even on their website yet. Get some when you can. Keep an eye out, dudes!

HongTai Chang aged shou 2006. At 8pm on a Tuesday night. What am I, nuts?

Well, forget sleeping. Truly I had no intention of starting a session at 8pm. The plan was to spend an hour going through my Puerh drawer, seeing what I still had some of. Not my Puerh closet which is where I store my now overly large (and mostly worthless) whole cakes, but just a little peeking, a little sniffing of the small mason jars, and then I opened the jar of Tea-Sides HongTaiChang 2006 loose shou and got all 'entranced-like.' Ya know? Like when you've been drinking, looking at, delving into nothing but rolled oolongs for what seems like weeks, and then you stop and smell a shou? And it just kind-of takes over your senses?
Like that.

I only did three steeps, I swear to god, but by the first steep, after initial rinse it was so richly colored, so dark I knew just a couple hits of this was going to do me in. I chose my smallest gaiwan at 70 ml, and used four grams of leaves, big chunky, sticky, twiggy loose shou pieces, lovely as hell, and now it's 10pm and I am wide awake.
"Ten pm?" you ask, "That's so early!" Well, not for Buddha-Mom it ain't. Shee-it children, I get up at 4 am, eat some cookies, read a bit and go back to bed....til 6 am when I get up to mainly do nothing until 8:15 when I take the kids to school. I'm on old-lady-time, me and the dog both, sleeping lightly at night, deep napping during the day, the kind of naps you take for twenty minutes yet wake up groggy from, pillow drooled upon, having to pee like hell because you drank all that......SHOU!
Well, who cares? It's worth it. And although many of the amazing things for sale at Tea-Side are beyond my means, this nice loose shou is not one of them, its a bargain is what it is, and to the man who makes those decisions, I bow deeply in gratitude. (Now where did I put those emergency Zanax?)

A 1997 CNNP Ripe Brick Fermented Shou Pu. What's it like, you ask?

I feel like I’ve been French-kissing a mule with an old leather bit in his mouth. And yes, I like it, of course I do. I like it because it is not floral and light or fruity and delicate or rocky and minerally. It’s spit and leather, it's old barn, and molding hay, it’s a brick of earth that’s been peed upon then wiped clean with the wet tears of nature's rain. It's Shou pu!

Not the best, and certainly not the worst I’ve ever had, I am stopping mid- steeping session as eight is enough to have my head pounding, and the windchimes aren’t the only bells I am hearing right now. This tea is a doozy. Produced in 1997 by manufacturer CNNP, this is a ripe, fermented brick of tea in which I had a ten gram rock-hard nugget of. It's very smooth in that specific way an old shou can be if it hasn’t gone fishy on you, and the liquor is a gorgeous and rich sable turning to chestnut series of hues. Typical, I am told for a lightly-wet Hong Kong storage. Get your penny ten gram sample, plus shipping here.

I made such a mess of it trying to pry the nugget apart.