A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

The 'Tea Pairing Experiments' get ready for round four with another hopeful contender, The Bites Company out of Westport, Connecticut.

What, if anything to pair with teas? Some teas we already know demand no other digestible substances be anywhere near them. We know those teas, they tend to be aged, fermented, rare, crazy-pricey and so full of otherworldly nuances; shoe leather, peat-moss, grandpa's sock, basement.....well, you just can't add a nosh to that, you have to be there for the ride sans the helpmate-sweetness a biscotti or a short-bread cookie might offer.
For other teas though, Oolongs, Darjeelings and so forth I have found I am lightening up my stoic stance on never eating while in a tea session. I am finding there is sometimes a middle ground.
God forbid I give up the meditative, intense focus of Gongfu ritual and turn into an English tea drinker with trays of finger-foods, but there are occasions, (like EVERY MORNING) when I feel a high quality goodie would only increase my enjoyment. And is there anything more important than my pleasure? Pul-leese.
So the search began about four months ago, starting with a series of blog posts, and biscotti bites from companies very boutique and small to a company that sells their biscotti from Costco in enormous plastic tubs (too much fennel!).  On a recent visit to a Home Goods shop I espied a small little bag of Lemon Biscotti Bites from The Bites Company and tossed them in my cart with the same high hopes I give to anything with the word 'biscotti' in the name, although three months ago I had never had biscotti, and thought it was a 'coffee thing' and since I don't drink coffee, had never troubled myself. But as I learned from that mom-and pop biscotti company out of southern California, biscotti, the right biscotti is a great pairing for tea.
So with that I grabbed this little bag of 'round' biscotti lemon cookies and headed for the long check-out line. I was hungry on the way home, and began to think I wasn't sure lemon biscotti would be a good match for my afternoons planned session of a Taiwanese high-mountain bug-bitten, organic, honey-roasted oolong, a tea which would broach no test cookie at its side and so.... well, I ate the whole bag in the car on the way home instead!

When I got home, and after my tea session I searched out the online presence of The Bites Company to see what else they might have to offer that I could pair with teas as my experiments continued and I found their cocoa bites and their almond bites. I now have a package of all three and will begin shortly. As you know, if it doesn't work for me, I won't be suggesting it, but after eating that entire bag of lemon bites in the car, I am indeed hopeful that in the cocoa or especially the almond I may find a good nosh of choice when serving certain teas. Let the experiments begin!
(Which one would you choose to try with this lovely spring 2015 Dong Ding Fragrant from Floating Leaves Tea out of Seattle?)

Changing my mind on W2T's Huang Pian 2014 as I pack up the old bungalow to move to a slightly better bungalow.

Rather emphatically did not like this W2T sheng when I first opened a small portion of the cake many months ago, and so it is now many months later, and I find I have a serious hankering for a sheng as I am already sweating and cursing under my breath, and packing and making-ready the rental bungalow of six years to move the hell out of....and for the first time that orange wrapper looks like it's actually calling to me and so I gently pry six grams of pretty leaves and (almost) boil 'em up and its perfect. Not sure I should imbibe too much of this stuff in one go and with an empty stomach to boot. Honestly I don't know anything about these teas, but thought I heard a whisper some time back about a stomach-liner-eater. Three steeps in and my tummy feels just fine.
It's good, not subtle but I think the astringency and bitterness in the back of my throat is a good thing, far better than the bile I am having to swallow back while watching a circus-parade of crazy-rental-home-seeking-nutters wander through my half-packed bungalow looking into my linen closets and stink-eyeing the ancient grout.
More tea, please.

Smacha's #27 Red. And me with no-one to smooch!

Someone kiss me quick!

What a taste, and what an artful lingering! Ah, the sadness of not being able to share it with another soul! To smooch with this 'Smach on my lips, such a shanda this shayna maidle has no one to share the bracha with!

And now, more lucidly, we turn to
information from the Smacha family:

Smacha #27 Red is an exclusive creation which starts with leaves from a Taiwanese Oolong variety, fermented like a fine black tea and processed as an Oolong Tea. #27 Red is robust, sweet and fresh, with a fruity fragrance and a lingering floral finish. This unique creation combines the best of fine black teas with traditional Taiwanese oolongs.


  • 000m
  • ORIGINAnxi
  • Fujian Province
  • China
  • OTHER NAMES27 Red, 金萱紅
      • Directions: Automatic Tea Brewer:
        Tea Leaf: 7 grams
        Water Temp: 205°F

        Glass & Porcelain: (6oz)
        Tea Leaf: 7-9 grams
        Water Temp: 205°F
        Infusion: 30 sec - 1 min

        Yixing Teapot: (300ml-350ml)
        Tea Leaf: 7-9 grams (cover bottom of pot)
        Water Temp: 205°F
        Infusion: 30-45 secs
        Notes: Pre heat the teapot before placing tea inside.

Pottery From Holly creates one of a kind pieces with individual flare that delights.

How many textures can you touch while holding just this one Hohin vessel? I have not found the end of the textures yet, that's how individual this piece is. A true artist who is surprisingly accessible, a California wife and mother, yet the pieces I am holding in my hands today speak volumes about maturity in the art, intense intention, and high artistic aesthetics I didn't expect to find in a unprepossessing etsy shop simply called, PotteryfromHolly. Geez, Holly Who? Let's get least a last name, and someone give this artist a gallery show or something!
Holding this, if asked, I would have guessed an artist working side by side with such luminaries as Shawn McGuire and Petr Novak, but here she is.
It will be my pleasure to watch her shop and reputation grow, hopefully with offerings from her kiln that will enhance my own gongfu sessions even farther for I love these colors, this weight, these multitudinous textures both visual and at my fingertips.
Check her out at her Etsy shop.

An after dinner green tea that wipes the palate clean! Baraka Tea's Indonesian Pearls.

God, this is a good green tea. Baraka's organic, hand-crafted, tightly rolled balls open with ease and are gorgeous big leaves when they unfurl. I steeped four grams of these gems in a small gaiwan of 5 ounces at a fairly high temperature for a green, approximately 185f. Light, floral, very slightly vegetal and softly sweet, the aroma of this tea is the perfect way to end a day of rather rapid, and most certainly vapid, activity. A very calming infusion but one that I know will also pick-me-up for the evening's anticipated entertainment, un-subtly hinted at here...

Mellow high from He Kai sheng puerh, Autumn 2014 harvest

It's hard to write a blog post when nothing is going through my mind aside from 'Nom, nom, nom.'
Ok! I will take a quick break, I will stop steeping for a moment, after the fifth short infusion long enough to tell you the following. (Pardon if I rush, but I have to get back to the next dozen(?) steeps!)

This lightly-packed, easy to gently break up sheng has a lovely dry scent, looks awesome, and has no astringency. It wakes up after the third steep into a lovely brew that makes me wonder more about it. I can tell, even in my newb head-space there is potential for this tea beyond my understanding. Research must commence and luckily for me, this particular tea came from a research heavy source, Jeff Fuchs of Jalam Teas.
I knew instinctively I should not rush through this sample, but that I might want to hang on to some of it for aging. After reading about it, I am delighted to report I was correct. I think my nose and instincts are improving, as I go into the end of my first year as a tea nut.
Here is what I learned from Jalam Tea's information page on the He Kai:

  • He Kai Sheng (Raw) Puerh
  • Region: Menghai County southwestern Yunnan
  • Type: Mid-Altitude Puerh (1300-1400 meters)
  • Harvest: Summer and Autumn harvests have a little more bit because of unusually high heat and loads of sun in 2014 which is good for the tongue and palate. It also means that for some less time is required for steeping.
  • Harvesters: Lahu people

The Bulang Mountains are bastions of rich soil and heavy red-orange clay content, which is perfect for our good friend, the Yunnan Big Leaf species/Puerh. This batch is a little more on the heavy flavor side simply because the family that produced it left it out in the sun drying period longer than usual while the shade drying portion slightly less. More sun drying increases the drying times and brings up the ‘bite’ a little bit speedier.

 He Kai is a great tea to age over time as it will mellow slightly but has the strength to remain a wonderful tea for the next 1,2, or 10 years. The wonderful aspect of teas is that even when it isn’t necessarily a an ‘old tree tea’ it can and will age beautifully if produced properly and remains unsprayed.

When a Sheng 'makes you' say and do things you always wanted to say and do but didn't. And then you did.

(The Sheng made me do it!)
Could intense 'Sheng-High' be used as a defense, if not criminally, than familiarly? As in, "Parental Unit #1, I am (not really) sorry that I finally said all those things that needed saying, albeit with great elegance, compassion and compelling honesty but that you are never supposed to just go ahead and say, (or in my case, write)."
Can one say it was the sheng that made me do it?
You go through thirty, forty, fifty or more years being teeth-achingly democratically polite to the people who 'brought you up', and then (you decide to say the) tea brings you a clarity and an intensity that allows you to commune with others, in ways that may or may not be entirely comfortable for them, and you speak the Sheng-Dang Truth!
Sheng Dang-It!
Fabulous. Scandalous perhaps, uttering the unutterable but if done in the kindest possible way, using those 'I-statements' you learned in therapy as a kid, then what a opportunity for honesty and consciousnesses one can create with the help of a little seven grams of mellowing yet intensifying Sheng as a helpful conduit. In my case with Crimson Lotus' Whispering Sunshine 2015 harvest.
I can feel the sunshine in my soul, I tell you what!
I said when I began this blog only eight months ago that tea was going to be a focus and a guide into this second half of my life, and so it has been, and so it continues to be.
And I will reiterate again that this is, as I stated last year, a whole lot better than booze! No remorse at all.
Use the power of the Sheng wisely, and see where it takes you.
Tea not only revives, it also can lead to elevations of consciousness, intention and pure spirit you had prior-to not known.

TEA, because you don't get to use dangerous sharp weapons with coffee.

Not to forget the most excellent tool of all, the temperature control Bonavita Goose-Neck kettle.

My first bing hole, and what a hole it is! Jalam Teas Bulang Shan Sheng

Jeff Fuchs of Jalam Teas was an angel and sent me a few of his teas to try and I am feeling all lit up and feisty with this Bulang Mountain Sheng from the Autumn 2014 harvest. And I got my first bing hole, neat! That's good luck or something, right? I went lighter than suggested by Jeff using 5 grams in a 70ml hohin at 209f, five steeps thus far.

Tangy, a good vibrant astringency, this is a different kind of tea, perhaps far more sophisticated than my newbie palate can appreciate, but I am diggin' it for sure!
Gave it an hours rest as I made and fed my family dinner, ( don't ask, its never good) and about to start in on it again. See how it does with another few infusions just off-boil. And the result?
WOW. Still kickin' it! This is a bare-knuckled zowee-wowee punch of a sheng! If you get a chance to get your hands on some, do let me know what you think!
( Found this photo on Jalam Tea's page on the originas of this tea picked by the Bulang minorities, assume this was taken by Jeff Fuchs)

My first views of Jalam Tea looks and smells pretty, pretty pretty pretty good!

Jalam Teas out of Ontario, Canada has sent me three hefty, rather gorgeous looking Puerh Samples and I cannot wait to explore. I don't have to even taste them yet to want to write about them, the sample size and weight and shapes of these samples are more than pretty good. They are pretty good times five.
While I start my research on the three offering Jeff was so kind to share with me I will show you exactly what I got....... and here we go!

I will be writing on, hopefully all three of these teas as I experience them. I say hopefully, for as you know, dearest readers, I only write what I either love, or that which fascinates me, though I might not blindly 'love' it. I am hopeful all three of these will capture my attention, and frankly from looking at the website and the info on each of these teas, I'm pretty sure they will. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty sure.
More to come as I decide which of these to try first.

Quantitea's Qiao Mu Lao Sheng Cha!

Quantitea's  QMLSC ( because I am too exhausted from typing it once to type it twice) is a delicious sheng. First and second steep are both deep rich amber, sweet and earthy, slightly smokey with a touch of camphor, but just a touch.

From Quantitea:

Qiao Mu Lao Sheng Cha is a Sheng Puer from 2001. It was harvested in the mountains of the Yunnan Province in the spring and is processed into maocha then aged. Naturally occurring microbes ferment the dry tea leaves over time causing a shift from a young sheng puerh into a well-rounded, complex tea.
This tea is earthy, notes of bark with a hint of cinnamon, herbaceousness like geranium greens, oak smoke, camphor, and subtle green grapes, with an underlying rose fragrance
Plant: Camellia sinensis var. assamica
Type: Sheng Puer
Origin: Yunnan Province, China
Harvest Date: April
Plucking Standard: bud and first leaf
Process: wither, fix, rolled, dried, fermented/aged
Brewing Parameters: 205F for 1.5 min, 7 steeps

Smacha's Auto-Infuser once again has my deepest gratitude.

Did I happen to mention I am moving, rather suddenly in three weeks? Wasn't even looking for a new house but the house practically came to ME! I only mention this because I decided, two days after signing the new lease, to take on a baby Lovebird who needs to be handfed a warm gruel every five hours lest he die. Ok, a little dramatic, but I mean to imply I am either some sort of saint, an idiot or both. ( Hint; its both.) And the further implication is I am BUSY, I have my HANDS FULL! All this to say thanks, in my 'off-handed' way how grateful I am this morning, Saturday at 7am for Smacha's auto-infuser. No way could I handle Gongfu tea right now. First of all I have a screeching bird pooping on my head. Secondly, I want a LARGE cup ( in gongfu terms, 'large' meaning maybe 6 ounces!) of something FABULOUS, so the autobrewer is a savior once again. Have you guys seen these designs for making easy quality tea when there isnt a basket handy and you dont want to use a western style mug? The design is nothing crazy, just a perfect sized hole in the base, a good filter and a deep enough basket that i can put 5-7 grams of something in it and re-steep for hours. Anyway, here are some pics of the basic design.

The Mountain Tea Co's Amber Oolong....... I'm not worthy!

No way do I deserve this much enjoyment out of a cup of tea this morning. Mountain Tea's Amber Oolong is way too awesome for this newb, but at least I'm smart enough to know how much better it is than I am! Roasted lightly and tasting toasty and warm this is an Oolong I will share with other newbies to tea for sure. an easy, pleasing tea with a lot of personality, all of it gracious and loving.
Look at that photo above, that's the rinse in the cup and the first steep, flash-brewed in the fairness pitcher! First brew and will you just look at that color? Seriously. So perfect. Four grams in a 160ml gaiwan, hotter than usual at 209f, and I bet that's why its even more awesome than usual, the hotter temp. Tea- guru and online helpmate, Nancy Togami pushes me to push those temperatures higher and with many good results I happily admit! This is a totally different tea at 209f than it is at 190f.
Anyhoo. My lessons obviously continue. Mountain Tea is a solid source for good teas, especially Oolongs, go take a look for yourselves!
(Leaves haven't even unrolled halfway yet and it is already fabulous.)

Fengqing Golden Buds from Zen Tea. Sanity in a cup.

World is going crazy, right?
Need a bracer? Listening to the evening news, hearing some things that make you feel a wee weak-kneed? Dudes, me too!
What to do, since a martini is not a viable option? Already been through an awesome sheng this morning, a mellow yellow from Thailand, and a 2014 Bai Hao Formosa, but listening to the news about 'Super Tuesday' results, well, hell. I need something to bolster me, yet not make me go through the roof as a dark Puerh might be inclined to do.
Grabbed a nice dark black Chinese tea, Fenqing Golden Buds, a good roasty, thick feeling intense yet comforting Dian Hong.

I there anything more energizing yet mellowing than a decent Dian Hong from Zen Tea? Me thinks not. Newbie readers, contact me directly as usual for more info if this isn't enough to whet your appetites!

"High-altitude-grown Golden Needle provides a totally new Yunnan black (Dian Hong) tea experience! Yunnan Pure Gold (金芽滇紅茶 ) varieties are considered the best type of Dian Hong tea (Classified in Orange Pekoe grading from TGFOP to SFTGFOP). It contains only golden tips, which are usually covered in fine hairs. It looks very similar to expensive Silver Needle White tea (Yinzhen) aside from the golden color. This tea produces a brew that is coppery gold in colour with a woody, sweet aroma. Brewed tea has a full-bodied, sharp nutty, and brisk tobacco taste. Totally luxurious with clearer and sharper tastes than other Yunnan black teas. This tea has a magic that will keep you coming back to this pleasant and unique experience over and over again! 

Origin: Fengqing, Yunnan province, China"

Harvest: 2015 Spring