Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

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How My Brain Made Me Love Chinese Green Teas (Again)

Well, it’s spring again, and with it comes warmer weather. That’s how it is in the Pacific Northwest. I’m . . . not a fan. The reason? With warmer weather comes seasonal chronic migraines; a fun little diagnosis I received back in 2017. And it puts a heck of a damper on my routine tea drinking.

Every year is a little bit different. I have to spend a couple of months tinkering with my tea drinking rituals so as to avoid triggering a headache later in the evening. This year was particularly upsetting because everything seemed to be a trigger, even my yearly love affair with first flush Darjeelings.

So, it came as quite a surprise that I fared better when I switched over almost entirely . . . to green tea.

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A Tea Pairing from One Wuyi Artisan

For those that have tuned in to my li’l corner of “the In-Tea-Net”, folks can tell I have an affinity for talking about where the tea comes from. I have focused a lot of text-space to estates, gardens, factories, and the farmers that supply their wares to them. Less frequent, though, are my forays into focusing on the ways-‘n-means of the artisans.

Image owned by Seven Cups.

Mainly because . . . the opportunity hasn’t arisen.

Until Austin Hodge of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas contacted me.

Austin Hodge; Image owned by Seven Cups.

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A Tea Pairing in the Sky

Let me tell you a little about my “Tea Uncle”, Austin Hodge.

Austin and me

Austin Hodge and I. Photo by Nicole Schwartz.

Why is he wearing a Zhong Shan Zhuang, and how did someone convince me to wear a suit? I’ll get to that.

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Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 7 – “Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis”

Da Hong Pao (“Big Red Robe”) . . . my old nemesis . . . we meet again.

Now, I’ve gone on record several times over the years as saying that Da Hong Pao was one of my least favorite oolongs. Sure, I had a few I liked, but the amount I disliked far outweighed that. That all changed in November of last year when I had an original “mother bush” Qi Dan Da Hong Pao. And for some reason—as I stated in earlier entries—it forever changed my palate. Wuyi oolongs were now welcomed to my tea tray.

However, I still remained hesitant toward commodity Da Hong Pao. What’s the difference? Allow me to explain.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

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Lao Cong Shui Xian Oolong . . . or Wulong

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 6 – “Lao Cong Shui Xian Oolong . . . or Wulong”

A thought occurred to me while I was doing this Wuyi oolong-fueled, seven-blog stretch. I haven’t once referred to “oolong” as “wulong”. Granted, I never do, but it’s a particular sticking point here . . . because Seven Cups refers to them as wulongs. And, technically, they’re right? It is “wulong”, or rather . . . this, in Traditional Chinese (Mandarin) . . .

wulong characters

Basically “woolong cha” or “black dragon tea”, which is the coolest name, ever.

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Searching for the Cinnamon in Rou Gui

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 5 – “Searching for the Cinnamon in Rou Gui”

Rou Gui holds the distinction of being the first—and a long time ago, only— Wuyi oolong I liked when I first got started. Of course, in the last year or so, my palate has since Stockholmed its way into acceptance of most Wuyi oolongs, but Rou Gui will always be the first that opened the floodgates. Part of that might be in the name; Rou Gui literally means “cassia” in Chinese, which is a type of local cinnamon—Cinnamomum cassia.

Cinnamomum cassia

This is the first Wuyi oolong I’ve sipped this week that didn’t have a name that sounded like a call-back to a piece of Hong Kong cinema. Curious that a bunch of folks in the Qing Dynasty would want to name a plant for . . . another plant, instead of tea drunk, kung fu monks or Taoist wizards. I wonder why that is? Let’s dig into the tea itself to find out.

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Ba Xian: Oolong of the Eight Immortals

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 3 – “Ba Xian: Oolong of the Eight Immortals”

Ba Xian literally means “Eight Immortals” in Chinese. The name refers to the tea plant cultivar used to create this particularly odd Wuyi oolong, but it also has a legend attached to it. Don’t they all?

The name is a direct reference to eight legendary heroes in Chinese mythology, particularly the Taoist tradition.

Eight Immortals (Ba Xian)

Ba Xian or “Eight Immortals”

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Bai Ji Guan or White Rooster Crest

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 2 – “Bai Ji Guan or White Rooster Crest”

Bai Ji Guan—translated as “White Rooster Crest”— earns its name from the color and shape of its leaves.

Bai Ji Guan

Image owned by Seven Cups

They’re rather yellow and crest-like. According to legend, an old rooster died near a place called Hui Yan Rock. The locals buried the bird under a tea bush, and the following year, the bush’s leaves grew in yellow. It’s as likely a story as any coming out of China.

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Seasoning A Boob-Shaped Yixing Teapot

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 1 – “Seasoning a Boob-Shaped Yixing Teapot”

In December of last year, I shattered my boob-shaped yixing teapot.

shattered boob yixing

Yes, it was boob-shaped once. Not . . . accurately boob-shaped, but definitely figuratively. It had a whole story behind it and everything. (The story in question can be found HERE.) At the time, I was reaching for a gaiwan, and the li’l guy fell from the top shelf of my bookcase. The base completely ‘sploded, likely because I hadn’t seasoned the pot properly.

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Obligatorily Weird Thanksgiving Tea Post

NaNoTeaMo, Day 26: “Obligatorily Weird Thanksgiving Tea Post”

I think it’s mandatory that if one is going to post a blog on Thanksgiving Day, they actually have to give thanks to something or someone. And, trust me, I will do just that. But not right this second. You see, I have a weird Camellia species to talk about first.

Photo owned by Seven Cups

Photo owned by Seven Cups

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