Saturday, April 21, 2012

Starting Out

Greetings teafolk.  I have toyed with the idea of starting a blog for at least a couple of years and it is finally time to dust off the old keyboard and begin sharing some thoughts about tea.

While not averse to a second flush darjeeling or a fresh gyokuro, I am a lover of Chinese tea in particular.  When I first became enamored of Chinese tea, in the heart of Chinatown in San Francisco, it was, in part, because I felt presented with a challenge.  The world of Chinese tea seemed exceptionally arcane.  I had (have) a lot to learn.

First there was the sheer variety of forms of Chinese tea. The semi-oxidised teas in the oolong family alone seemed (and in many ways still seem) pleasantly daunting to comprehend.  Then there is the fact that I live so far from the places where such tea is grown and made.  And I didn't know anyone in my locale who had much experience with Chinese tea.  Finally, the tea literature in English was, in my opinion, quite paltry.  The books I got hold of seemed to be either too basic or to project a mystical or religious aura onto tea and its uses that tended to obfuscate the plant and the growing/processing/brewing techniques that go into making a fine cup of tea.  Not that there is anything wrong with writing about tea's effects on meditation or Bodhidharma's torn-off eyelids.  I lean toward that stuff myself.  I simply craved different, more detailed information.  

                                                                        This one's not too bad. 

There was not, at that time, quite the proliferation of tea blogs there are today.  There were, however, three blogs that, more than anything aside from drinking enough tea to re-fill Glacial Lake Missoula, have been indispensable.  I would like to tip my hat to MarshalN, Hobbes and Stephane for taking tea seriously and for sharing their thoughts and experiences so consistently.  

In more recent years I have enjoyed and gleaned a great many tips from countless postings by other tea bloggers like Brett, Gingko and Matt.  Thanks be to the tea blogging community.

As stated, drinking tea (both good tea and not so good) has been the surest learning tool.  The tuition has been steep, namely due to diving in a bit too enthusiastically in the financial sense.  There is a spendthrift in me that I have learned to curb by degrees, especially after amassing puerh for aging in a climate that seems singularly unsuited for it.  In terms of the USA, I think only Tucson, AZ would be less well suited.  (More on Montana storage later)  And I'm not willing to go to great lengths to humidify the stuff, so I'm sitting on a pile of tea that is slowly losing vigor and that I won't be able to drink fast enough to not destroy my nervous system.  Samples anyone?  (After 7 years of drinking lots of tea daily, I have noticed the effects of hong cha and green puerh intensifying in an unpleasant manner. Time to cut back?  Damn.  Anyone else?)

                                                 Deluxe tea humidifier.  No, that's not mold. 

I have, perhaps only in the last year, learned to be a bit more conservative in my purchases.  It was probably "good" to go hog wild early on because I drank a lot of different kinds of teas and got a sense of what I liked and what was worth spending some dough on.  Besides, restraint can be so....boring.  My favorite quote that I have used for years to rationalize all reckless spending, drinking, etc. comes from William Blake (aka, "Wild Bill"):  "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."  Well, it can also lead to credit card debt and if that is "wisdom" I am yet to experience it as such. :-)

        From "The Illuminated Blake" by David V. Erdman.  A plate from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

Yes, staid old restraint is the rule these days.  I'm more careful about buying large amounts of very good but very expensive tea (not always the same thing), and I've gotten tired of spending on mediocre or bad tea that is often advertised as being the best tea in the universe.  In fact, it is usually a sign that something is awry when such claims are made.      

While restraint has become the rule, the obsession continues.  I'm starting this blog because I want to learn more about tea by setting down my thoughts and sharing them in a public format.  I welcome all comments, contributions, quibbles.  

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