May 16, 2010

Sugar in the gourd

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?


Bret said...

Captain Beefheart, Love and John Fahey? You have quite good taste in music as well as tea. Forever Changes is a classic in my book although Ive heard it so many times it's not unlike listening to Sargent Peppers "Not Again" John Fahey Ive always thought was brilliant but not always enjoyable to listen to, a little go's a long way. Ditto for Captain Beefheart. With these guys as an example of what you listen to I,d be curious as to what your music is like. Let me know when you have your project finished so I can buy a disk from you. How old are you? If I may ask. Most people under 40, well for that matter most people over 40 would be saying Captain who? Never heard of em.

Sir William of the Leaf said...

Yerba Mate is my daily morning drink. I actually prefer it to tea in the morning!
Although I do not use my gourd very often.
I make loose leaf mate through a drip coffee brewer. I quite enjoy the taste either way though!
I hope you had fun on your vacation and with your musical endeavors!
Cant wait to see some tea reviews on here though! =]

Zero the Hero said...

Don't get me started on Forever's amazing how few people have actually listened to it, despite its critical reputation. Arthur Lee was really touched when he wrote the words for that album--Four Sail and side A of Da Capo are good, but nothing touches the passion of Forever Changes. Fahey is great--it's tough for me to choose between him or Robbie Basho, then there's Davy Graham and the more experimental guys like Fred Frith and Derek Bailey--solo guitar is a hell of a genre. I never found Trout Mask Replica as difficult as a lot of people, but I wouldn't use it as background music.

Zero the Hero said...

Good to hear I'm not the only sacrilegious occasional yerba mate sinner on these tea forums...

Yeah, I'll see what I can come up with for tea reviews--there are a few fun ones I might have coming up, and I feel another yixing post or two coming on. How about that 2003 TGY from Jing Tea Shop?!? Not the most amazing roasted TGY I've ever had, but for the price and quality one of the better values...I've got 100g on the way. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

What brand of yerba mate do you like? I just tried Ximango ("erva mate" from Brazil) and it was not so good, so I'm looking for something better.

Bret said...

I always got the same response from my friends when it came to Blind Joe Death and Trout Mask Replica, what is this crap? Well, I loved the crap outta those two albums. I think most people require something you can tap your toe to (4/4) time and preferably in the key of C. I thought Trout Mask was pretty easy listening for Beefheart. Arthur Lee was definately (inspired) or what did they used to call it? LSD I think. It's weird how the same drug that could bring about so much inspiration can and will destroy you in time. I think the only modern day band that ocassionally approached that level of insiration was The Teardrop Explodes "Wilder" or Julian Cope "World Shut Your Mouth" Lp's But, that's enough about music. How bout some tea?

Zero the Hero said...

Hi Anonymous,

The mate I have lying around is "Frutos de la Tierra" from Argentina. It's a few years old but still tasting good--they offer standard, no "twigs," and extra strong, and most (if not all) are organic. When I used to be buying mate a lot I would go to --the only downside is, like many tea vendors, the mate is sent from South America so shipping takes a bit.

For "song" Fahey, my top pick remains DEATH CHANTS, BREAKDOWNS AND MILITARY WALTZES, but then again, the long-form stuff like FARE FORWARD VOYAGERS - SOLDIER'S CHOICE is just as good in its own way...ah yes, tea...Drinking some aged pu-erh samples and still waiting for the postman to knock with my Jing Tea Shop order.