A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Thoughts on 'Small Enlightenments and of course, Tea as Practice to WAKE UP!

 Seeing the ocean as I rarely do, it has become an opportunity to question my daily habit of defining reality before experiencing it. Wonderfully, almost teasingly, the Universe urges me to try to see at the waves with scrutiny or critique because it simply cannot be done! 

It resists my tendency to “script” my experience there—to create a personal drama of what’s happening around me. The sea is far too vast for my ego to get to penetrate these moments with its memories of beachdays past. There is just THIS ocean and THIS moment, just NOW and then gone! 

The generous Universe makes small enlightenments a repeatable gift. So go see the ocean occasionally. Look at the clouds. Sit in the sun or on your meditation cushion and Just Wake Up to this moment whatever it brings.

The mindfulness that vast water provokes is able to draw me out of the buzz of my incessant, internal conversation with myself. It urges my seeing reality as it truly is. Doing that requires being present to the moment, apart from the expectations and interpretations I bring to it. Once I stop shaping reality into a theatrical performance with myself at its center, mindfulness allows the world to surprise me. The Universe becomes delightfully open-ended. 

My Practice, as I see it, is to stay in that moment any/time I get the chance to be even momentarily astounded by beauty/pain/reality/oneness/? Wether its vast like the ocean, or small like the fading wine-colored  leaves upon my stoop as I begin another walk, another chance at seeing reality without dualism, without independent-arising mind, showing me the true connection of Inter-independent Origination.

And then perhaps I sneeze at the diesel fumes of a truck that passes and then I idly look with very little sincere curiosity at the landscaping choices of my neighbors and I think about my bodies newest complaints. And so back into Samsara I go. This is Life! 

And so then I mindfully, as a Practice create GongFu Cha Tea starting before meditation, do the dishes just to do the dishes, and I walk with intention, or I sit on my meditation cushion and voila! I begin again to be open to opportunities, to find my various paths of return to Inter-dependent Origination, that place of Oneness, of both Form And Emptiness that arises in the rare moments of small enlightenments. 

Foxtrot from Whispering Pines Tea Co!

 This has been sitting around forever and is still tasty! Sold-out status but you can put your name on a contact list should the company ever make it again!

As Larry (David) would say, "pretty, pretty pretty pretty good!" 

This pu-erh blend has a flavor profile that perfectly matches a cup of dark hot cocoa! Opening with cream and dark chocolate, Foxtrot dances across the tongue with a silky texture accented with powdery cocoa notes and an almost chewy marshmallow finish. Blended with 2012 Huron Gold Needle loose shou pu-erh, organic & fair-trade Ethiopian cocoa nibs, and hand cut madagascar vanilla, Foxtrot will have your tongue and soul dancing to the warm rhythm of bliss! Strong and warming cha qi!

A great affordable introductory Shu Puerh from Hidden Peak Teahouse


Just finishing up the last of a ten gram sample I bought over six years ago from Hidden Peak, the 2008 Lincang Shu. Every session I liked it more, did it age over this brief year and a half lingering in its little sample bag, stuck in the dark all alone in  tiny ceramic cupboard drawer? I don't know but I know my palate has evolved a TON over this time, and I know further that I LOVE this tea.

Will it still be available? That's the cool thing with aged teas, it just might! If it still exists no way can it still be a very affordable four bucks for ten grams as seen in the above photo.

It is a great introductory shu I think, and I furthermore think, I am off to buy some more! This shu is deeply earthy, dark from first flash-rinse, almost meaty in color and texture and has all that forest undergrowth mossiness I have come to love. Clean earth, great energy and of this writing, the last three grams of this teacher of a tea are still telling me tales that change with each steep, going on the 9th as soon as I finish this brief missive to you, my readers.
Visit Hidden Peak Teahouse and check it out for yourselves.
(Photo from HPTH website with my thanks. Gonna go buy me a brick o'this right now!)

Hannah's Simmer TF Down Tea!

 Oh man, did I make a masterpiece! I thought I was just making something to bubble all day on the stove for the scent only, to welcome in the new season, but damned if I didn't make an extraordinary large pot of homemade deliciousness.

Here is how it went, may it inspire you to play around too!

Used my large clay stovetop pot as seen here.

Filled with water, I used tap water today, I then added Fresh Cinnamon sticks from Sri Lanka, half a ball of Jaggery also from Sri Lanka, large chunks of slightly crushed fresh ginger and a dash of nutmeg, (sadly not fresh and not from Sri Lanka), and thanks to my favorite farmer’s market, this Louisville-based spice merchant, CEYOLANKA SPICES supplied the other two luxuries, the Cinnamon and the Jaggery.

 Find them online at the above link!

I let that come to a soft boil and then I added, just spur of the moment, a large glass of iced Houjicha from DEN’S TEA which I had made yesterday and put in the fridge for today. That added a subtle roasted flavor that makes this brew so balanced. Well, I might have gone a bit overboard with the crushed fresh Sri Lankan cinnamon, but it is SUCH an amazing flavor, far, far better than the Cassia based stuff we are all used to.

And yes, I am talking to YOU, Saigon Cinnamon, you less than fabulous competitor!

I am calling this brew, which is perhaps a little overly warming on a rather humid Kentucky day, my Simmer The F*{* Down Tea. Even though it’s making me sweat I’m off to make another cup!

How to determine which Shou Puerh to order from my favorite Hidden Peak Teahouse in Santa Cruz, California?


The answer is a HUGE and FOCUSED session spanning five Shous, over 12 hours and the answer was pretty easy!

Big Blessing 2008 for the win! Again! I did this same comparison six years ago and Big Blessing was my favorite then too!

There is a strong camphor element in Big Blessing that the others I tried just do not have.

I had rather hoped I might fall in love with one of the less expensive ones, but it was not meant to be. There are still a lot of Shous I would love to try from Hidden Peak Teahouse  but for now I’m going to avail myself of their sale and order some Big Blessing today. Check it out for yourself at hiddenpeakteahouse.com and also here are some notes from their website. I’m just thrilled. They still have it as I think I ordered this tea a long time ago.

Someday I hope to live a block away from this teahouse as I am a native Californian, but I’ve never been to the actual brick and mortar before. I left Los Angeles for Louisville Kentucky five years ago and this teahouse and their wonderful website are one of the tenuous holds I still have on my love for California that keeps me sane.

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.



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 bud character



this tea is benevolent, descending in you like a Himalayan sunset • electric and alive, while passive and contemplative.

( its all that AND a box of camphor crackers!)

Trust me! I am Buddha Mom Tea, baby!

Revisiting Mandala Teas Temple Stairs from 2014


After nine years my remaining grams of this lovely Shou Puerh seems to have aged well, and if possible have become even more mellow, smooth and sweet! Heavy-handed as I tend to be when feeling this excited I used nearly seven grams in my 110ml Yixing teapot, the one which is reserved for Shou Puerhs only and which will be seeing a lot of action with winter coming, I hope, eventually, to this ridiculously hot place where I now reside. For those of you who know me as a native-born Californian may know that five years ago we moved to Louisville, Kentucky. But we won't linger on that, for wherever you are, damnit, there ye be, am I right? It is a decent enough place to grow old which I am doing with a certain lack of aplomb and good taste. That means weight gain and Muumuus, my friends.

Next tea adventures on the way with more Puerh being delivered this week and perhaps a new Nepalese tea company to check out!


A gorgeous Assam from the Mangalam Estate from ZENTEA.com


What a nice treat to meet an Indian gentleman (tea) like Assam Mangalam!

Gentle, deep voiced, hearty and full of warmth, this is a good follow-up to some tasting sessions of things too sweet for me, and I welcome this Assam into my home.

Dark leaves with reddish tips, warm rich color, scents of rich chocolate, malt and a little pepper during the later steeps.

This is a tea to brew in a larger vessel, not a tiny gaiwan, I used a 'large' seven ounce pot with 3 grams of tea, very full-bodied but not a hint of bitterness to be found. I can see this tea being enjoyed with milk and sugar but as for me? Who needs it!

This particular Assam from the Mangalam Estate is from Zen Tea and I find their description perfectly fitting;

Golden tips evoke the hot sun of the early June Second Flush Harvest. One of finest producers in the region delivers a beautiful example of what is possible under the right conditions. Slightly heartier and creamier than some whole leaf Assams, this selection picks up deep malty notes of cocoa and subtle fruit.

FTGFOP1: highest quality grade (Note: A number 1 at the end to indicate the very finest), often hand processed and produced at only the best plantations, roughly one quarter tips.

Origin : Mangalam, Assam, India

Grade : FTGFOP1(Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1)

Steep : 1 heaping tea measuring spoon(3g) per cup. Boiling water. 3 min.

This is also an organic tea which I appreciate as well as the visually fine quality of the leaves.

Creamy and delicious, I will now be going back to see how many steeps I can get before he moves on from my mouth and into my memory! Luckily for me, the sample was over seven grams so we can meet again, perhaps tonight, under the warm, Californian moonlight.

Zen Tea may no longer be in business after the pandemic so I am on the hunt for new suppliers of these sorts of wondrous elixirs!

Living Tea’s Soujourn! And a quick thought from Bodhidharma!

If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both.


Wuyi teas capture the ideal growing conditions of the region, surrounded by massive granite cliffs, rivers, and waterfalls. Masterfully hand-processed in the century-old traditional method, the ancient processing brings out the true spirit of Wuyi Mountain, an area with the perfect terroir for this special tea. Sojourn goes through four rounds of roasting with alternating indoor and outdoor drying. The flavor is smooth, rich, sweet, and maintains a pleasant hui gan, or cooling sensation in the aftertaste. With a slight astringency and great patience, this unusual tea offers a complex experience that is perfect for a warm summer afternoon.

The above rings mighty true for me! It is 90f in Louisville, KY at midnight and I am outside having a session with this unusual Oolong which I am dedicating to Living Tea!

Uh Oh! I just fell in love again….

TEAVIVRE  and with this sample, (a generous 7 grams of which I used just 3). This is a Taiwan ‘Monkey-Picked ( Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin’ origin being Lishan Mountain with the following summation:



Lishan Mountain, Taichung, Taiwan


Spring Tea

Harvest Date:

May 18, 2022

Dry Leaf: 

Rolled to semi-ball shape


Toasty and aromatic with a slight floral aroma


Bright golden in color


Smooth, baked flavor and sweet fruity notes of peach,pleasant fragrance and sweet aftertaste

Tea Bush:

C. sinensis cv. Tieguanyin

Tea Garden:

Qibang Tea Garden


Moderate caffeine (less than 20% of a cup of coffee)


Store in airtight, opaque packaging; keep refrigerated

Shelf Life:

24 Months

 Now I must write briefly here and then Google like heck trying to track down this exact tea if not at TeaVivre, then with another vendor, preferably shipping from stateside. Kids, this is a very good tea and I may just be in an extremely good mood the rest of the day thanks to this session and I doubly love it when the tea says ‘monkey picked’ because it sparks my imagination, I am loving this tea, and I’m only three steps in. The rinse was delicious. Almost a little peppery. 

Tightly rolled and opening up fast on the third steep. Water at 195f and falling with each steep.

I wish I had an outlet here on my back porch to keep the kettle hot. Do you think I’m making a mistake by letting the temperature fall? Text me and let me know!

This sample is from the lovely people at TeaVivre .I just bought a nice quality and decently priced 180ml Jian Shui pot to replace, after three long years, my other Jian Shui which is no longer a teapot but part of an art installation about impermanence and the transient nature of all things. (Yes, I broke it.)

Off to search this tea online and perhaps explore Lishans specifically! Of course, my first visit will be to teavivre.com to buy it from the vendors who sent it to me in the first place. Keep your Beginner’s Mind like me, never KNOWING, always learning. Always becoming one with the tea.

Once again, my hat is off and my bow is deep to this 1998 raw basket Liu Bao.

 I will keep this short as I’ve written about this already and very recently. I had forgotten that I had written about it, and just saw it when I was looking at my recent blog posts. But no matter, this tea deserves a little extra praise. I have a pretty decent aged tea collection, but nothing I like as much as this. It hits all the places in my throat, my brain and my Qi to make me relaxed, alert and ready to live fully, forever if possible.

Every single time I drink it, I remember the first time I ever had it. I remember what I was wearing, what room I was in and in which of the dozens of houses we had rented in California over the years.

So my thoughts are as follows. Wet Autumn sidewalk, damp earth forest trail, camphor, and the soil in which mushrooms sprout densely at the base of some ancient tree.

I like LiuBao far better than any Shu I’ve ever had, hands down and my digestive system highly agrees!

Find some at yunnansourcing.com or contact me for a in-person session. (Yes, in KY. Needless to say I will most likely not be creating any GongFu Cha sessions for anyone other than myself and local friends any time soon!)

Creating tea from Liu Bao Hei Cha that I can steep all day and add a little sweetness to by way of goat milk and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs.


Long ago the wise tea master Lao Cha was on a pilgrimage through the mountainous ranges of Guangxi province, China, when he stumbled upon a tired farmer:

— Shifu, do you have something for me that is comforting like a thick rice porridge, yet sweet and robust like coffee that will help me tackle all this work. 
— Of course, young one! Let me share with you a woven basket of Liu Bao. 
Path of Cha's legend:) 

The best inspiration for me to make large pots of Liu Bao Hei Cha!

Many of the types of tea we drink nowadays are nothing like the tea that was drunk 1000 or even 200 hundred years ago. The tea sages that we nowadays admire, like Lu Yu, drank tea that was processed and prepared in a completely different style from the tea we know and love today.


Liu Bao, on the other hand, is a tea of history. It is one of the oldest styles of tea preparation that is still preserved and drank to this day. It is an excellent example of the trade routes that existed many years ago when the nomadic people of faraway places used to depend on the tea supply received from the warmer climates of China. The fermentation that the tea undergoes helps it survive the long journeys.


The name alone — Liu Bao — is full of history. "Liu Bao" literally translates as "Six Castles," which refers to the forts in the specific part of Guangxi long ago. The tea took on this name because its production first started in the Liu Bao village of Guangxi Province.

Liu Bao dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). Of course, its production and drinking ways had very little in common with the Liu Bao we know today. Later during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912), it was one of the most highly prized teas. Nobles would drink it daily for health and beauty or gift it to visitors and travelers.

In recent history, Liu Bao was exported to Macao, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, where it was consumed mostly by mineworkers. For this reason, the tea slowly gained a reputation as an everyday tea. Only recently has it started getting more recognition by tea connoisseurs worldwide and earning the appreciation it deserves.

 The processing methods of Liu Bao served as the base for modern-day Ripe Pu-erh preparation (which developed fully only quite recently — the 1970s, to be exact). The two teas go through very similar processing partially because they are both part of the Hei Cha tea category.


  • First, the raw tea leaves undergo gradual pan-frying, rolling, and drying stages, becoming the loose-leaf Mao Cha. 

  • Next, tea leaves are piled and exposed to high humidity until reaching the desired fermentation level.

  • Finally, the leaves are steamed and pressed into their iconic large bamboo baskets. After the tea leaves are packed into the baskets, they are left to air-dry for several months and then aged even further. 


Liu Bao used only to be sold in 40 - 50 kg baskets. However, after gaining popularity, Liu Bao recently started to sell in smaller packings. And not only in baskets but in various compressed shapes much similar to its cousin pu-erh.


The Historical Tea Processing Method:

When Liu Bao was first developed, it was made individually in homes. The residents of Guangxi would cook the leaves in a wok with some water and hang them to dry above their kitchen oven. They used pinewood for their fires, which would give the tea a bit of a smokey flavor. Although this form of tea preparation is rarely in use anymore, one can still find it from time to time in some homes in Guangxi that wish to preserve this ancient tea ritual.

guangxi tea

Guangxi Province


Health Benefits of Tea: Liu Bao 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Liu Bao has exceptional properties. It can hold both cooling and warming qualities depending on its fermentation level. Liu Bao has the effect of removing excess heat and clearing blood. At the same time, it warms the body by eliminating excess dampness.


It is an excellent tea, acting as a probiotic of a sort and clearing our intestines. When drunk after eating, it helps break down heavier foods and aids digestion. We also find that drinking some Liu Bao has a calming effect that clears the mind and prepares us for a day of work. Many notice that drinking this sincere tea is both comforting and motivating. In a sense, it is a tea of contrasts, which is indeed what we love about it.


To Prepare Liu Bao:

Similar to pu-erh, the darker the tea — the better. A quality Liu Bao won't be phased by a bit of extra tea leaf, using boiling water, or even oversteeping. On the contrary, it might make it even more robust and delicious. Try adding a bit more leaf than you are used to, or steep the tea a bit longer. Aim for a tea liquor with dark, intensive color.


A typical preparation method is bringing the tea leaves up to a boil in a pot then letting them steep while cooling. The hot temperature doesn't harm the tea or extract any bitterness; instead, this method only enhances the tea's nutritional value. Liu Bao is a very easy tea to brew and can be both cooked and steeped as usual. 


What makes a good Liu Bao unique and different from all other teas is its distinct aroma — one that reminds us of betel nut. The taste of Liu Bao is also like that of betel nut, and it has a prominent lingering sweet finish, one that is sought after in many teas.  


Literally meaning “black tea” (or "dark tea"), Hei Cha is different from the "black tea" we know of in the West, which is actually called “red tea” in China. 

Hei Cha tea leaves belong to the post-fermented category. It means the tea leaves of the finished product continue to transform under the combined action of various bacteria, yeasts, and molds. The wet fermentation process exposes the tea leaves to high amounts of moisture under higher temperatures, taking Hei Cha a step further from black tea.

My all time favorite kind of aged tea! Raw Liu Bao


The best time to drink it is right now. And I don’t mean that in a general sense, I’m speaking directly to myself so that I can remember this. Sunday morning, 6 AM and outside, of course. Liu Bao tea has always remind me of both the smell of warm cement during the first rain of the day, wet moss, and going back again to the cement theme, those aromatic walks home from elementary school with a light rain misting all that warm Californian earth, and fragrant sidewalk. But let me tell you what Yunnan Sourcing themselves say!

This is a raw (not wet piled) Liu Bao tea aged for more than 20 years already!  It's ultra clean tasting and steeps 10+ times while keep flavor.   It's not a graded Liu Bao, meaning it was picked with leaf and buds together and was never separated into different leaf grades.  This means you get the tea in the form that has the most depth and completeness with this tea!

Taste is strong but not overpowering, with notes of tropical hardwood, betel nut, osmanthus, and incense.  There is not even a little bit of mustiness at all!  There is very long lasting mouth feel with this tea and the cha qi strong!

If you are looking for a clean aged Liu Bao or just want to try an excellent 20+ years aged tea then this will surely be a worthwhile choice!


A GREAT Dong Ding Oolong from Eco-Cha

 I love this company! Presentation, quality of leaf and super fun to drink multiple infusions of.

Dong Ding Oolong is a medium oxidized, heavily roasted tea with a hearty, complex, and robust character.

The initial steeping brings forth a complex bouquet of roasted vegetables, pine, and a touch of smokiness. On the palate, you get roasted sweet corn, nutty/fruity notes, and a tangy, heady finish with just the right touch of astringency.

Eco-Cha's source of this tea is representative of a Dong Ding Oolong from the original source of this type of tea. It demonstrates the broad spectrum of character and flavors that can be captured by refined roasting techniques.

My favorite Shu Puerh

Clean & fresh - made from choice raw materials - with a comfortably ascending energetic profile. 

Usually what is the most noticeable about this tea, or at least the most talked about, is its energy. The frequency is high and crystalline. This is due in part to the old arbor raw material used in its crafting. The roots of the mature plants are more able to source the deep nurturing chi of the subterranean landscape. Combined with the organic growing practices, clean air and water, and the adept hands of a master, we have the resultant masterpiece.


Ingredients: tea

If stored properly, vintage teas can continue to age over time.

  • This tea is still relatively young, and as such, has the slight edge that younger shous can have on the first couple of infusions. In this case, it is reminiscent of chicory or raw cacao. It then totally smooths into a graceful, well-structured, highly refined broth hitting on all points you want it to (and more). Dark and elegant - refined and smooth.



    large meaty leaves with perfect uniform brown/black tone • aroma is elemental with floral and legume notes



    very lively and bright liquor with gorgeous hues of cherry amber and copper • ripe, dense, and full-bodied



    as stated earlier this tea's chi is most noticeable • if a “reset button” experience is what you need, give this cake a try • the energy is quickly ascending then branching in a fan-like radiation - a common energetic descriptor is “crystalline