A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Fo Sho Yancha Oolong from Four Seasons Tea.

Wow. I got this gorgeous sample of this tea, and for a few moments couldn't remember where it came from, thanks to my ailing memory and loss of notes, but I decided to brew it anyway, without knowing what exactly Fo Sho(u?) Oolong was and how to steep it. I am happy to report I could tell right away it was a Yancha, and the scent from the tiny gold bag was crazy-making good.
I decided since I was going in blind, not to be hasty and used a very small three grams, and filled a 110ml gaiwan up only halfway. The taste is amazing and I recognized it almost right away as 'Buddha's Hand' a tea I had tried last month from another seller, but far better, even with a small three gram sample.
This highly floral, big-leafed tea has a very strong aroma filling my little tearoom even now as the gaiwan and the tea leaves are cooling. It's calling me back to steep it some more!
If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, go to Four Seasons Tea to see the prettiest website you've ever been to, the opening page alone just makes me so happy. Very immersive, very inviting, just like this tea, Fo Sho!
Find some for yourselves here.
Four Seasons tea is the long time vision of Jeff Kovac (霍天齐). Jeff’s passion for tea began while he was living and working in Sichuan, China. While abroad, Jeff devoted his free time to the practice and study of language, culture and tea. Jeff first began his study under Lu Xing Chen a tea arts master in Sichuan China, where he developed a personal relationship which still flourishes to this day.  Jeff's travels throughout China, India and Japan have expanded his knowledge and first-hand practice of many distinct and varied tea cultures. Jeff has worked in the industry for many years and is an instructor and lecturer for the Tea Association of Canada.
At Four Seasons Tea Co, we are passionate about sharing our knowledge and experience with others and believe that a tea life and tea mind is about continuous learning. Our goal is simple, we aim to make available the highest quality tea that China and Taiwan have to offer. Our teas are rare and not easily available even within the Chinese and Taiwanese markets. Over the years of living in China and travelling throughout Asia, we have developed relationships with tea producers. Through study and years of tasting, we are now able to offer something special for those looking to sample some of the best teas that China and Taiwan have to offer. We travel to China yearly to taste, evaluate and collect our teas and to acquire the latest teawares.
Our teas are very low production, handmade when possible, and of the highest quality. We don’t sacrifice ANY quality for price. If we do not think a tea is suitable for its desired flavour profile and durability, we will not buy it, simple as that! Four Seasons Tea is not in the business of mass distribution. Our catalogue only offers the teas that we have studied over the years and know extremely well. Quality comes first always! Not only in tea, but in our teaware as well.

Jin Jun Mei, 'Beautiful Golden Eyebrows' from Baraka Teas

Jin Jun Mei is a tea I have only tried a couple of times, and could not remember anything about. I was delighted to try this one from the wonderful Baraka Teas out of London.
These feather-light golden colored tiny leaves! I had forgotten this is a black tea and so was surprised when the very first steep came up a lovely and lively reddish color and the taste was thick baker's chocolate! The qi is strong on this one, two steeps and I am sweating and more than a little elated.

I used four grams in my Petr Novak shibo which I believe is 100ml, and guessed the water temp at about 208f. Flash-steeps were employed as I could tell from the second the water hit the leaves, before I had even put the lid on that the brew was going to be strong and come on fast. Even the rinse was full-bodied and delicious!

Earl Grey. Really. It can be a super high-quality, wondrous experience. Who knew?

I drink a cup of Earl Grey tea first thing every morning, way before considering the days sessions of gongfu teas. I am talking early-early in the morning here, half-blind with no glasses on, hands barely working yet, heading for the machine. And Earl Grey is my last hold-out in my easily abandoned thirty year long habit of tea-bags. Earl Grey. Don't even know what it is, never asked what kind of black tea is used, but the word 'Bergamot' is in there, and I like it with.......dare I say? *Mocha Mix. That's a non-dairy creamer that is nice and thick like cream, is not 'flavored' and its how I have always had my Earl Grey teabags. And, sad to admit, tea-pods, since we also own a Keurig and I am guilty of creating my share of pod-waste-plastic from a couple years of Earl Grey pod style.

Once I began to drink  good loose tea, I never even thought of Earl Grey as an option for that new style of tea drinking. I am pretty strictly a tea-purist in that I don't do flavorings, so I assumed Earl Grey was not something I would be making loose. Ever. Obviously over the past year I have learned much; how without using oils or fake 'flavours', I can indeed enjoy teas that have been tossed with Rose bits, Jasmine flowers, and today I learned, Bergamot zest.

Smacha's Earl Grey is a fine grade Keemun, with what I have been told is Bergamot zest. All I know aside from that bit of info, is it looked gorgeous in the bag, smelled wonderful, but far more subtle than the Earl Grey's of my 'youth' and it brewed up super delicious in my Smacha auto-tea brewer as pictured here.
Uncertain of parameters I used 7.5 grams and the first 'pot' was a delight.
This is a wake up call. This says I don't have to keep those Earl Grey tea-pods in stock at the house, this was just as easy to make, yes perhaps a little more effort will be required to clean up as I have to wash out the infuser, but so very worth that one minute of labor.
Honest to gawd, I am never buying Earl Grey in a pod or a bag again. Ever.
This may seem a small thing, but it is just as imprintable an experience as when I first tasted good quality high mountain Oolong a year go and said, 'never again will I drink shit tea', so too, this mornings first loose EG experiment has changed how I will do things in a permanent way. I am finally fully free of the bag and the pod! Praise Jeebus!

(* Ok, so I just forced myself to see what exactly Mocha Mix is made of and there is no way I am going to be using it now that I am drinking a good, loose-leaf Earl Grey. I am a heathen, not an idiot.)

A Sheng AND a Shou and a Whoop-Dee-Do!!!!

Oh my word I am high as a kite. What kind of over-indulgent moron has both a intensely good shou and an astoundingly intense sheng in the same afternoon? And after the sheng session was done, (twelve steeps so far) I went back to the shou, for that was the taste I wanted lingering on my palate for the remainder of the afternoon.
Tea-high report as follows: There is a mixture of a mellowing sense of self-satisfaction with a bit of a Cheshire cat grin (I sense it in my 'soul,' rather smug and a bit ugly, but there it is) and part just even more than my usual animation and enthusiasm for everything, especially the things I loathe and judge, so there are tangents galore. It's hard to not be a clown when you're an old lady in a friggin' muumuu with a horrible limp who can't stop talking. God bless my family. Really. I hope there is a god for how can these people not kill me when I get like this? Folks. I went on a vegetarian tirade, pro-vegetarian, you understand, while eating an enormous plate of lasagna and meatballs of beef and veal. Yes, I did. That was the sheng talking. The shou on the other-hand, makes me philosophical and overly contemplative. Its at that point when ego kicks in, so I have to seriously watch it with the shou. I feel SO connected to the world when I drink an old shou like this. One that whispers hints of ancient buried roots, of peat moss, and gardening sheds, and stables and old leather. Fire and old-man socks and decay and the glorious simplicity of each of these things on their own somehow individually shining through the brew.
Uh-Oh, here I go again.
Ok, I will simply share the teas I had. No further elaboration on their qualities will be offered for what do I know? Bubkes, that's what.

( That is steep 1, after an initial rinse there on the left, and steep 2, believe it or not, seconds later, on the right! Both 'flash-brewed at 210f.)

The Shou is 'Iron Egg' from The Jade Leaf. It was a sample gifted to me and although I was sampling the 1998 which is not for sale the 2008 is available and I am told it is lovely. It can be found here.

The Sheng is 'Jing Mai Ancient Tree Raw Puerh' and came from Smacha. It came in gorgeous chunks that I swear had personalities of their own, reminding me, as in this photo of a meeting of generals preparing an attack on a castle.

                                            (Game Of Thrones watch much?)

Both of these teas were to-die-for wonderful and I spent my entire Saturday with them, I'd steep a few steeps, then back away and then come back for more. Once the Sheng was exhausted, the Shou was returned to, and so forth. If and when either of them gives up the ghost, I'll let you know!

(The gorgeous chunks say 'bye-bye!)

Things I thought I would use, but don't. The Dude Abides and laziness and pure pleasure prevails.

There are a handful of valuable (to some) items and things I either bought, found on the net and printed out, like the above wheel, carefully pinning it to a cork-board...and then never used. An expensive black leather tea journal, far more suited to true tea tasters than my sensibilities. Tossed it out after staring at it with suspicion for six months. I found that just like with bird-watching, I don't really want to learn to identify the bird in too much detail, happiest sightings are experienced with a sharp intake of breath, a feeling in my belly, the words BEAUTY hitting me in the heart and the colors and sounds of the wings as they flit by. Yes, much like this sort of childish appreciation of birds, so too do I find myself a tea-blogger who seems to push away from over describing. I keep this blog, partly due to vanity for it pleases me to see people visit it, but mostly to keep for myself a record of teas that moved me, one way or another, and always in unexpected ways. I may not be using the language and nuance of a true Gongfu Cha expert, but I am growing closer everyday, to touching the true heart of my own tenderness for the Earth through the touch, taste and feel of teas from around the world. And that's pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good for a neurotic-striving-consumer-wanna-be-Dudeist-buddha-mom.

Four Seasons Tea and a delicious white tea cake to treasure.

Want to see a beautiful website? Want to have an amazing immersive experience both online and in your tea-space at home? Look no farther than Four Seasons Tea, which has got to be, hands down, the prettiest website around. And the quality of the teas (thus far in my limited experience,) matches the intention and design of the whole enterprise. Every time I get to sip one of their teas, I want to try more, I feel intuitively that I have stumbled upon a source of great value, both monetarily in that I can afford their offerings and in the love and care the owner/s must feel about their chosen profession in the world of cha.
The tea cake linked here has got to be one of the best teas I have ever tasted, and I am told it will age beautifully, not only by the sellers but by other tea-heads who are familiar with it.

Fuding Bai Hao white Tea Cake, aged four years is not only a gorgeous looking cake, full of lovely colors, it also, right out of the package tastes amazing.
The leaves, much like a good Liu Bao are crisp, thin and hold their density and texture even when wet, the scent is floral but in a muted, subtle way. The tea reminds me of both a Liu Bao and an Oriental Beauty in its complexity, softness and taste. Silky, buttery on the tongue, it is just such a winner. I am going to buy a second cake of it just to store for I know that as large as this cake is there is no way I wont be drinking it all this summer! If a whole cake isn't for you, four Season tea's offers a decent sized sample of 25 grams for under $7.00! All I had to do was try that sample and I got online and bought more. Yes, it is THAT good.
Do it. Be it. Feel it.
(God, it smells so good!)
And let me know when you do your thoughts, or rather your lavish words of thanks for telling you all about it! Gift cards, and flower deliveries demurely accepted!

A little Shi Feng Longjing green to start the day. Consternation, brain-fart and finally perfection. Compliments to Verdant Tea.

Verdant says to steep this tea at 175f, but when the kettle hit 162-ish, I decided to start with that. Very light of course, but so sweet and mellow. Next I put the kettle back on and brought the temp to 175f as directed. Far less pleasurable with a fairly strong astringency and aftertaste on the roof of my mouth. This may be because I  used all 4.8 grams of the sample in a 100ml shibo, when the directions on their gorgeous site state a 6 ounce vessel, but truly, who gongfus 6 ounces? Oh wait, everybody does. I DO. Damn, I have been enchanted by this little shibo. Ever since I got this Petr Novak shibo, maybe 100-110ml I have literally forgotten I own quiet a few plain white gaiwans and my medium one, is indeed 6 ounces. until a week ago I used it a lot. Brain farts abound when Novak is in my hands. Nothing else exists.
My bad.

So what I'm gonna now is move these wet leaves, as pretty as they look in that shibo into the gaiwan, follow the Verdant people's advice and try it again...

Ok! Used Mr. Dragon-Head tea-scoop-dude here to move the wet leaves from the shibo to the gaiwan, leaving behind what I guess is about a gram, making the gaiwan closer to the prescribed parameters of 4 grams in 6 ounce gaiwan. water right at 175f. Ahhhhhh, much better!
A pretty, verdant tea fresh and flush with color. Nice.

The team of implements having done their jobs admirably, take a break to congratulate one another on yet another fun and delightful tea-session!

Saying goodbye to my two favorite things forever, 'cause they ain't coming back so I need to get the f#*k over it; Floating Leaves Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty and the 9th Doctor.

Floating Leaves Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty. The first tea I gongfu'd. Just a year ago. I've never had an OB yet that beats it.
Years and years of western tea and ten good years of a good education in high quality Japanese teas, and yet until last year, right around this time, I didn't even know there was such as thing as Gongfu Cha. Thought Chinese tea (never even considered Taiwan) was a jasmine scented pot of free stuff that came with the MuShu pork.
But this post isn't about how stupid and slow I am, the less said about that the better, and certainly not necessary for my long-term tolerators, um, I mean readers....

Today's post is a goodbye to a tea that not only am I now totally out of but it is gone, like forever, sold out, bye-bye. It is just hitting me as I empty my last twelve grams into an airtight and special jar, that for the first time in a year I can't just get online to Shiuwen of Floating Leaves Tea and order another ounce or two. OMG, this hurts so much! Shit, maybe I just dreamed it, dreamed that Shiuwen told me the 2014 was gone. That happens, right? I do get confused between the two 'realities' I live in, the waking and the sleeping, and its always horrible little things like the tea I love being gone forever....so maybe?
 No, not maybe. I don't f'ing dream about tea. I'm not that crazy, shee-it.
You know what I dream about, over and over? I dream about being stuck at Disneyland unable to find an exit, or I dream of being stuck in the 'backstage' area of Disneyland unable to find an exit into the consumer part of Disneyland. Or I dream that I am stuck in a parking garage at Disneyland and can't find my car.
So far I have not dreamed of beloved teas lost to me never again to be tasted. Because basically no matter how much I may gush, I don't really care THAT much. There are millions of teas yet to try. Far more teas than I have years left on this Disney-infested planet.

Ok, so moving on. How does the 9th Dr. Who fit into this? Well, I'll be good and goddamned if it isn't the same feeling, or more specifically the 'feelings' I have about never seeing Chris Eccleston as the Dr. again and never EVER getting more of this specific 2014 OB from Shiuwen at FLT, are very similar and its about WANTING MORE. Not very Buddha-like of me, but very, very human.
I don't think I'd even be this irked if the last In-N-Out closed its doors or the only copy of The Big Lebowski was destroyed by evil morons running the world who banned the 'F' word. ( The delightful 'F' word or a variation of it is used a whopping 292 times in the film.)

Believe it or not, nerds, I didn't even watch Dr. Who until a year ago. Nope, never.
Then last year I finally starting asking friends out of desperation to find a show or two we could watch as a family and which season we should start with and the feedback was clear from many to start with the 9th doctor! The re-boot. I didn't even know what that meant, re-boot, but there is where we began and there I found my favorite Dr.
(Just as an aside and to be honest, as I sit and moan nightly at the dinner table about how much David Tennant bugs me and how "He's no Chris Eccleston," my husband and kid eye-rollingly remind me (I have no memories of this) that I hated Chris Eccleston the first few episodes I watched, that I hated the whole show. They also suggest if we had started with the 10th doctor, that spitting shrieking David Tennant fellow, it would be Tennant that I loved and Eccelston that I disliked. The same has been suggested to me about my total and utter devotion to FLT OB 2014. Pattern or coincidence?
Shiuwen says "Relax, Dude!

I am so emotionally drained, and even though it seems my sadness is more about Eccelston, at least with Who Doc Nine I have re-runs. What have I got left of the 2014 Oriental Beauty when those last grams are gone? Bupkes, that's what! Memories!? Memories fail, memories are not memories but simply a recollection of the last time we tried to remember something. Useless, sentimental and not good enough. This usually abiding dude-woman, this buddha-mom of a tea-head simply wants what I always claim to never care about.
Goddammit, I want more.