What an exciting couple of months it's been. Up until a couple of weeks ago I'd been slaving away at finishing the recording project I started in November. Toward the end things got quite busy--long hours recording, mixing and writing some notes about the lyrics for my facebook music page. In so many ways the process has been amazing--it's the first multiple-song project I've actually finished since 2005, it's been a great opportunity to catch up on the material I've written since 2006 in attempts to get more current, and it went well enough that I'm planning to do a bit more recording and release a full-length, professionally-produced CD later this summer. Between music, work, Mandarin class, running and enjoying the occasional gorgeous spring Seattle day in Discovery Park, I've had precious little time for gong fu tea. In some ways it's been great--I made it through April with nary a tea purchase to be had, which is always easier on the pocketbook. On a more personal level, it felt good to relax my tea obsession, which at times over the past three years has eclipsed my supposed 'passion' for music and become a sort of crutch, diverting my interest and energy while some health issues prevented me from being able to sing (long, long story). Diving deep into this project reminded me where my most intense fulfillment comes from--when bringing the recordings to fruition I honestly could barely have cared less about tea and the sessions I took were more out of necessity than true attention (can't work with drowsiness or a headache!). So, I'm glad to have achieved more balance in my interests--I celebrated the end of my project goals by polishing off the 50g of 1970's Guang Yun Gong pu-erh that I special-ordered from Jing Tea Shop in October. It was certainly aged to full maturity, but not as complex as the 60's Guang Yun Gong I've had from both Hou De and Nada Cha/Essence of Tea. The sessions were always very pleasant, relaxing and good drinking and brewing experience--after all, you can't really make claims or assumptions about the age-ability of young pu-erh if you haven't experienced mature aged pu-erh, right? I'm always happy to expand my minuscule portfolio of aged pu-erh experience with another tea, especially when I can get ahold of 9-10 sessions worth to understand the tea better.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, I also briefly vacationed in Barbados. Not a lot of tea drinkers in Barbados, although the lingering British colonial presence (now often in the form of lily-white or lobster-red tourists) undoubtedly means that there's some leaf on the island. My recent traveling MO has been to bring along my gourd and some yerba mate--it involves far fewer accoutrements than gong fu and allows me to enjoy a beverage that I rarely drink these days. I once spent a summer painting houses in Walla Walla, jacked up on mate listening to Captain Beefheart, Love and John Fahey, so mate's earthy sweet flavor and potent caffeine buzz always takes me back. I'd love to hear a Chinese or Taiwanese tea aficionado describe the qi of yerba mate--it's certainly not subtle when you drink out of a 2/3 full gourd.
Now I'm looking forward to the spring offerings--Dancong, Bi Luo Chun on the way from Jing Tea Shop, a few Chinese greens including a favorite--Xu Fu Long Ya--from Teaspring, and eventually a wee bit of Taiwanese gaoshan, Essence of Tea cakes, and some fresh yan cha...and that's just the fresh stuff! Hopefully I'll be back soon with some ideas I've had slowly brewing--it's been longer between posts than I'd prefer, but I'd rather post infrequently when I actually have something to say than just to keep up appearances. What have you been drinking lately?
For Westerners without the means to travel to Asia, our knowledge and experience of tea comes second-hand, with a healthy dose of mystery. Therefore, it's tough to really know anything for sure, let alone make claims about being any sort of expert. Instead, we can only enjoy and learn from small tastes of something ... smuggled in ... hopefully building a reliable knowledge base and maybe even scratching the surface of truly great tea.