of the Lazy Literatus

Category: Tea Musings Page 1 of 23

Thoughts and commentary on all things tea.

A Year of Weird and Wonderful White Teas

Toward the end of any year, content creators, influencers, media pundits (social or otherwise) are encouraged to create look-backs or listicles of the year-that-was. Throughout my long and industrious “career” as a tea blogger, I’ve made such reflections in the past. Usually commenting on how weird the year was, or how wonderful some aspect of it turned out. 2020, though . . . ?

Yeah, I don’t wanna.

It was a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE year by all objective measures. I won’t even go into detail as to why, I don’t have to, most of you reading this have felt the “Terrible” in your own lives. While I got away from feeling most of the brunt of 2020, my mental state did not. To the point where I took an unintended hiatus from writing anything for close to three months.

The result of that was a rather unwieldy backlog of tea stories I had yet to tell. Some I may not even get to, come to think of it. So, to close the year out (almost a month after it ended), I thought I’d egress—not with a story—but with a theme. For you see, over the course of the year, something(s) weird and wonderful did chance by me. White teas, quite a few weird and wonderful white teas.

Gifts of the Doke River

In July, a very 2020 thing happened.

I shattered a gaiwan lid. Even “funnier”? This was the second such gaiwan lid I’d shattered this year. My luck with even the most basic teaware was middling at best. Like any “softboi”, I posted this guy-winey gaiwan lament online. First person to comment on this tragedy was Rajiv Lochan.

He basically said, “I have a gaiwan for you, just send me your address.”

Surprised, I tried to dissuade him. Anyone who knows Rajiv can tell you . . . there’s no dissuading him once he gets an idea in his head. Especially a generous one. On top of that, he also wanted to throw in some tea surprises. From Doke Tea, of course, the garden he owned and that his progeny operated in Bihar, India.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan.

Not one to argue, I gave my mailing address again. A couple of weeks after “The Shattering”, a package arrived. In it were three teas, and the brand-spankin’ new gaiwan.

First tea I used to break it in? Doke Black Fusion. Second Flush, 2020. As he had hoped.

This year’s version was very chocolaty. More so than it ever had been before. I wondered about this to him, and he gave a coy reply about “more water” that year. Whatever that meant.

In later days, I dug through the other teas he included. One was another Doke Black Fusion version he really wanted me to get to.

In 2014, Rajiv took some black tea they made, and stuck it in an earthenware pot. Just to see what would happen. Six years later, he took some out … and sent it to me.

I remember the 2014 batch quite well; very honey-nut-spice-y. Man, it REALLY changed over the years. Some of the young profile was there, but it got really earthy. Like a Dian Hong, but still sweet. Not stale at all. That and it made me feel very relaxed.

I’m never relaxed.

And I certainly didn’t appear that way for the next few months. No clue why, but my anxiety for most of the last summer/early autumn was in overdrive. Nothing in particular was triggering it, at least  as far as I could discern. A tea friend in Canada—Phil Holmans— in particular took it to heart. So much so that I received a package from him a week or so later, via his Halifax-based tea operation—World Tea House.

Among the teas included were my favorite Assam, a few Darjeelings I favored, yellow tea from the Great Mississippi Tea Company, and—as if by sheer serendipity—more Doke garden teas. Not that I was in any shortage of them. Still . . . ?

Again, at Rajiv’s  urgings, I dipped into a tea he recommended. This time, the Diamond Green. As I’ve confessed on this blog before, their green tea was rarely one I liked. He said this year’s was much different. Again, he said, it was because of the water.

It was damn near perfect. Probably the best iteration, yet. I don’t ever recall it tasting as sweet as it did in my cup that day.

However, the biggest surprise was the Doke Rolling Thunder “oolong” from this year. The Lochans changed up the recipe several times over the years. Most of the time, it just resembled any other Assam; malty and nutty. This year was markedly different.

Not sure how or why, but it tasted like a Darjeeling. Keep in mind, it’s made from assamica leaf, so that shouldn’t have been possible. But there it was, muscatel notes on a semi-oxidized assamica tea. Yet again . . . Rajiv credited the water.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan

I looked again at the note that World Tea House Phil had included with the tea gift.

Throughout 2020, whether with merit or none, we’ve all gone through some mental anguish. Some more than others. In terms of tragedies, I’ve experienced very little throughout this trying/travailing year, but even I experienced bouts of mental and emotional exhaustion at the constant upheaval. One of the few centering activities I held on to was tea. That and talking to tea people

And, to date, I haven’t found a more caring circle of friends. No matter what corner of the world they hail from.

Must be something in the water.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan

Bordering on Sheng Puerh

Let’s talk about border sheng.

As long-time readers already know, I’m a bit of an old hat (and advocate) of sheng cha produced outside of Yunnan province, China. I’ve devoted the last decade or so to trying sheng cha from countries along (or near) the Yunnanese border. The Phongsaly region of Laos, the Kokang region of Myanmar, the northern provinces of Vietnam, states of eastern India, and—finally—the hill countries of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces in Thailand.

However, while my palate was definitely well-rounded, my reference to these products as “border sheng” might’ve been incorrect. Or even worse, misinformed. And this clarity came about because of an unassuming tasting of two factory-specific Thai “puerhs” that fell under the brand: Hong Tai Chang.

Meet Herb

Meet Herb.

Herb is a tea pet. What’s a tea pet, you might be asking? Well, it’s a long story, and—honestly—one I haven’t taken much interest in. Until now.

“And Who Is My Neighbor?”

Trigger Warning: The following article discusses religion and race. So, consider yourself doubly warned.

In my Bible readings, there is one aspect I keep coming back to. In the Gospels, Jesus conveyed his teachings through the use parables. Short, fictional stories that often left the listener with more questions than answers. He gave his reason for doing so in Mark 4:10-11, when his disciples asked about them: “He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables[…]”

These vignettes weren’t just moral lessons, they were the only way Jesus could convey Divine wisdom, and his role in greater world. Some even straddled the line between allegory and fable. Oftentimes, they possessed more than one meaning. Such is the case with the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.

The Good Samaritan by Jacob Jordaens, c. 1616; mooched from Wikipedia

Tea in Star Wars

Episode 1

The Rise of the Steam

The kettle boils! A tea geek, locked in his room during quarantine, casually watched an episode of some Star Wars cartoon, and—lo!—a tea pot appeared into view. At first, he thought it was a mere happenstance, and didn’t think that tea played a part in the lore.

He was wrong.

Biography of a Bing Cha

I’ve often expressed my ambivalence to the tea category that is puerh. Sometimes, though, a story about it demands my attention. And most of those times, the story isn’t even mine. Even stranger still? A few of those stories focus on the puerh itself, and the journey it went through.

This is one such story.

Tea Love in the Time of COVID

Strange times we’re living in, huh?

“I Don’t Want the Game to End.”

Like many with nerdlinger tendencies, I was camped in front of my computer to catch this:

The first episode of Star Trek: Picard.

It was roughly 10PM on a Thursday, and I resisted for all of ten seconds before purchasing a subscription to CBS All Access. All for the sake of nostalgia. I even brewed up some Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey for the occasion. Decaf. (It was late, and I’m too old for caffeine at night.)

Steeped in Selah

2019 was a very weird year for tea.

Or rather, a very weird year for how tea was covered in the press. And by “press”, I mean, mainstream media, not the usual tea or beverage-centric haunts that won’t hire me that cover tea. I’m talking about The New York Times and Thrillist, just to name the most prominent.

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