Monday, 23 July 2012

Tetsubin Adventures - Part II: Dissolved Solids

The first thing I notice when I take a sip of hot water poured from my freshly boiled tetsubin is the texture. It's thick and coats the mouth in way different from any tea; something approaching mineral water, but that comparison, much like declaring a dried apricot to be similar to a fresh cherry, doesn't really do it justice. However, just as cherries and apricots are related in spite of their differences, so are mineral and tetsubin water: both owe what makes them special to dissolved ions (mainly iron, in the case of the tetsubin).

Ions, being charged particles, dissolve quite readily in water and interact with it more closely than do oils, such as may be found in tea. It's for that reason that the change in texture produced by the kettle is different from one that tea could produce (less gloopy, more viscous), but for other reasons that are beyond me, the particular changes my tetsubin produces work together with certain teas to create a greater seamless whole.

The second thing I notice is a metallic, sweet taste. It's faint and fleeting, but it's there. After swallowing the water, the initial texture remains, but distilled. There's no longer a solution of ions swishing over my tongue, but the particles that happened upon my palette and stayed there continue to create a feeling of substance. I'm tempted to describe the water as having a slightly earthy and lengthy aftertaste, but the use of these qualifiers would be inaccurate as there is, in fact, no taste.

In all, the result is much more like a liquified canvas than any stone fruit or mineral water. With a thick textured and tight weave, the water has substance without conveying any particular artistic intent or message. Not entirely impartial, robust paints and thick brush strokes as well as careful but strong detailing will be lent added impact, while pale watercolours will all be muted as they soak into the fabric. An often overlooked part of any painting, without its texture a reproduction will never have the same depth of character as the original. With the right tea and a skillful brewer, this kettle can truly create a work of art.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hong Cha For Hot Weather

Today, a few days short of a year after it was harvested on Taiwan's east coast, I finished off the last of my pack of red tea I ordered after thoroughly enjoying the sample Stéphane was kind enough to provide. A da yeh oolong from Teamasters, this tea is made from oolong leaves that were fully oxidized to make a red tea rather than an oolong. Unconventional, to be sure, but as I mentioned in my first post on this tea, this is the only hong cha I've tried that I've really enjoyed. It's complexity and aromas that border on floral belie its oolong origins and make this tea all the better for it.

As we rapidly approach the solstice, temperatures have been ramping up and have been in the thirties (forties with the humidex) for a few days now. During the summer I try to drink outside as much as possible, both to enjoy the ambiance as well as to try to keep the heat out of the house what with electricity costing so much these days. Green tea, however, has got nothing on this heat, much less the low oxidation oolongs that are my preference. It's for that reason that I decided to go whole ho(n)g in the opposite direction.

The first quick infusion is light and complex; full of flavour but not yet hearty and warming. I savour the light fruits over candy sweetness and sniff the hints of flowers in the bottom of my cup as the next infusion steeps a little longer. As I pour it, I worry a little that I might've overdone it a bit and made the tea bitter; one thing I've learned is that once a tea's been drastically overstepped, there's often no way back. The much darker red liquor wafts a thick aroma that's always reminded me of very ripe tomatoes, although the two scents don't actually bear any striking resemblance. As that peculiarity dances across my synapses I take my first sip: it's so thick and flavorful! Far from being oversteeped, this tea has simply become more potent. I can feel the heat cascade down into my stomach and spread out as I finish drinking.

The veins on my arms start to pop up and I start to cool off as the perceived temperature differential decreases. Funny how drinking a something so warming on such a hot day can be so cooling...

The tea goes on, gradually returning to the lightness of the first steep, over a few more infusions. I stop bothering to reheat the water in my glass kettle (which seems better suited to this tea than my tetsubin) and pour in enough water for one last steep to be enjoyed tomorrow.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Guei Fei Oolong - Summer 2012 from Cha Yi

A quick note to share what I'm drinking today: a true dong ding guei fei oolong from the Gatineau tea shop I've been frequenting lately. I bought a small sample of this tea back when it first arrived with the spring oolongs and was warned that brewing this tea properly can be quite tricky. Happily, roasted oolongs seem to be my forte, so I've never experienced any great problems with this one.

Unlike Stéphane's concubine oolongs, this guei fei was harvested at the usual time between late spring and early summer (if memory serves, it may be more distinctly early summer). Summer being a season known for bitterness and astringency, this tea has a greater propensity to dry the mouth and rough up the throat than many. However, if brewed using hot water and short infusions using plenty of leaf, I've found these undesirable traits can be successfully manages most of the time, bringing clean, thick, and powerful sweet ripe fruit to the forefront.

The aromas and tastes are broadly characteristic of the genre, with a clean sugar sweetness in the bottom of the cup changing to apple cider as the stoneware cools. Being closer to a spring harvest, the emphasis is more on the finer and lighter aromas and flavours than the fall and winter harvested teas with the same processing technique I've tried.

To me, a wild (or semi-wild) tea with a tendency to be bitter or astringent is rarely a thing to be feared. These elements seem to often signal a more powerful or robust tea than one that simply isn't good. These teas are as far from insipid as it gets, no matter how they're prepared, and when they're brewed well, they can be among the most rewarding. The process of tasting them cannot be boring, and if nothing else, it's a canary in the coal mine of brewing technique. This is called gong fu cha, after all...

A bit of housekeeping: Thanks to my recent acquisition of a lovely little bit of increasingly ubiquitous technology designed by Apple, I'm now able to write posts pretty much anywhere. The tradeoff comes in the form of photos and formatting, options for the former being few and nonexistent for the latter. Nevertheless, my hope is that this will allow me to post shorter bits of content more regularly in addition to more infrequent lengthy posts. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Tetsubin Adventures - Part I: The Beginning

Today a bit of tea-kit I've been eyeing for quite some time came in the mail: a bona-fide tetsubin. According to the asian antiques dealer I bought it from (online for a very reasonable sum), this bronze-lidded lump of cast iron dates back to pre-1930. Also according to the seller, the inscriptions on either side of the kettle are a poem and a pine tree, respectively. The inside of the lid is inscribed with the make and what are reportedly congratulations for reaching old age.

While unboxing it I gave the kettle a thorough once-over to check for any rusted out or weakened areas (the seller guaranteed that it would hold water for 24 hours without leaking, but was reticent to say whether it could actually be used as a kettle, and I didn't want it dumping hot water all over my kitchen during a preliminary field trial, as it were) and, in addition to finding no weak spots, discovered a few interesting things. For instance, the little brass knob on the lid, while bent, still spins and can in this manner be cooled when boiling water. A seam all the way down the inside of the wrought iron handle as well as a suspicious lightness seem to indicate that the handle might be hollow as well for extra pouring comfort.

By far the most intriguing part of the tetsubin, however, is the rusty lump that can be seen in the bottom left of the photograph opposite. From the photos on the online item listing, I assumed it was the somewhat misshapen inside portion of the kettle's bellybutton, but in person this seems unlikely. The bellybutton is only about a centimeter wide on the outside of the kettle, but the inside lump is over an inch in diameter. In boiling and reboiling the tetsubin to clean it out and make it ready to drink from (as well as a bit of chipping at flaking surface rust), four radial seams became visible with a hollow area underneath. The odd structure and lack of any leaks so far, as well as the odd and surprisingly loud noises this pot makes as it boils lead me to believe this kettle may be fitted with a singer!

I first stumbled across singers in this article in issue eight of The Leaf and, if memory serves, haven't since. Whether or not that's what this lump actually is remains to be seen, in the meantime I'll keep poking away at it to see if I can deduce anything. In any case, the most important test is yet to come: taste. Having been unable to resist trying some of the plain water, I'll let on that it is indeed delicious, but more detailed notes will have to wait until it's subjected to the acid test of brewing a cup of tea. Until we meet again in Part II, dear reader.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Yi Wu Pu'erh - Spring 2003 from Teamasters

Tea: A spring 2003 wild shengpu, the "top grade Yi Wu Pu Er Qizi Bing Cha" in Stéphane's selection. First tasted as part of a small sample, then as part of a larger sample (I'm too cheap to buy the full cake is out of my price range).

The chunk of tea is composed mainly of dark leaves with a dash of stems and golden tips mixed in, though its appearance seems not to be the most notable characteristic of the dry tea. Affectionately dubbed The Man Tea by a friend with whom I shared a few brews, the tea lets off a strong and very pleasant smell of beef jerky upon removal from its plastic sachet. A slightly sweet aroma of spices underlines the smokiness that inspired its new name. On heating up the leaves in a gaiwan or teapot, this impression intensifies, only to be erased with the first brew.

I don't bother rinsing the leaves, and the first infusion is unsurprisingly warm and a little earthy. However, already this tea contradicts itself with a thickly floral olfactory aspect that turns sweet as the empty cup cools. The aftertaste is long, pleasant, and largely textural at this point. The thick, gloopy liquor adheres to the inside of my mouth until the next infusion is ready.

The dark honey coloured second infusion is even thicker and more complex, now that the chunk of leaves has started to disassemble. The taste evolves through several stages, at first minty and fresh, then malty, resolving on dark fruit with a thicker, more earthy version of honey's sweetness wafting from the bottom of the cup. The next infusion is much the same, and this time I note the very same manly smells from the dry leaf under the lid of my teapot, curiously not to be found anywhere else.

Over the course of the many brews that follow, the calming chaqi builds in my consciousness and the liquor tends towards a clean sweetness and grains. Each time I re-enter the room after reheating my water I walk into a cloud of flowery sweet perfume and a smile spreads across my face.

After various trials, I decided on rededicating the teapot I had reserved for green oolongs to a genre that couldn't be any more different. Much as I like the effect a little bit of seasoning on the brewing vessel can have on a tea, a gaiwan will always render the lightest and freshest notes of gaoshan oolong better than anything made of clay, and this particular teapot did more to shave off the top notes than add thickness to the liquor. Having brewed this particular pu'erh in a gaiwan a couple of times, I decided to give it a go in this teapot to see what would happen (I don't personally believe that a single session, or even a few sessions, with a different can ruin the seasoning of a teapot), and the result was much improved. The clay supplemented the earthiness which, to me, is characteristic of a pu'erh with any aging in it, as well as consolidating the various aspects of this tea without completely erasing any. The power of the tea combined with the filtering effect of the clay produced a well rounded, thick, and still complex liquor I really enjoyed.

I reproached myself at first for pairing this teapot with gaoshan oolongs, a genre to which it now seems obviously ill-suited. But then I remembered what I'd got out of this experience: a teapot that makes a great tea even better as well as a reminder of a valuable lesson. I took for granted the effect this teapot would have on the oolongs I bought it to pair with based on various parameters, rather than letting the tea speak for itself when I brewed it. A little hypocritical for a blogger, perhaps, but the value of simply observing is one that seems perpetually downplayed in all aspects of life, if you ask me. From really tasting a tea before analyzing it to really listening to someone before thinking of how to reply, sometimes just drinking it all in without passing any judgement is an important step that gets skipped. Here's to experiencing tea, not just tasting it.

Sanguinaria canadensis

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ali Shan Oolong - Spring 2011 from Teamasters

Tea: Another gaoshancha from Stéphane, and again a generously included sample with my last order. Stéphane's notes on this luanze oolong can be found here.
Origin: 1450m up Ali Shan in Taiwan
Harvest: April 23, 2011

What this spring will surely lack in maple syrup production (unseasonably warm temperatures are causing the trees to bud early, at which point the sap can no longer be harvested to be boiled down into syrup) is already being made up for in increased opportunities to drink cooling teas outdoors. Today the mercury soared into the twenties (in degrees Celsius, of course), and so after regaining my composure I ventured out onto my back deck to taste a new tea.

Like all my teas with a low level of oxidation and roasting that I want to keep tasting fresh, I've been storing this sample in a small section of my fridge devoted to such teas. Thanks to the low temperatures, the teas coming out of there generally don't have much aroma until they warm up, generally quite rapidly inside a preheated gaiwan. Even when chilled, this tea lets off a concentrated oily perfume indicating that almost a year after harvesting the leaves are still holding onto their freshness. Warmed up, these same characteristics intensify along with a pronounced sweetness that now joins the ranks of the other aromas; when mixed under the lid of the gaiwan the collective impression is of a creamsicle!

Over the course of the first infusion the tightly rolled leaves hardly open, though they do swell up a little as the water begins to work its way in. The bright green liquor from my gaiwan looks even more appetizing in the light blue caress of my super thin porcelain cups, and tastes as good as it looks. From the first sip a wave of cooling energy spreads through my chest and arms, making my fingers and the tip of my nose tingle pleasantly. Satisfying but at the same time light and sweet, drinking this tea is reminiscent of the best parts of eating fresh corn on the cob. The liquid's texture is incredibly smooth as it slides down my throat leaving behind an evolving aftertaste, eventually resolving into a sweet minty taste which cools the mouth with every inhalation.

The leaves open much more rapidly over the course of the second steeping, releasing finer aromas and overall increasing the concentration of the liquor. I feel as though I'm drinking some kind of peculiar and delicious potion as watered down honey turns to sweet menthol on the tongue and hints of the lightest of spring flowers in the nose. The first cup gone, I inhale deeply the fine floral sweetness found at the bottom of my apparently empty cup. The lasting sweetness is incredibly clean and smooth, metallic springs to mind, if that descriptor can be used flatteringly. Between infusions I reheated the water to see how this tea would respond when pushed, and a shift towards complexity in the aftertaste as well as a smidgen of chalkiness in the mouthfeel were the only changes. As I steep and re-steep this tea, some of the finer aromas give way to mellower counterparts, but the clean texture, mint aftertaste, and prominent sweetness remain to refresh the drinker.

This tea gives me the impression of what it might be like to skim the absolute top notes off lower altitude oolongs and drink them separately. Unsurprising and fitting, I suppose, this being a high-altitude oolong. Clearly I need to drink more goashancha (then again, with such a wonderful genre, how could this not be the case?)! However, the best and most central part of this tea must surely be that sweet minty freshness lasting a year since harvest, and seemingly just as long in the mouth; that little green gem at the bottom of every cup.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Semi-Wild Baozhong: One Year Later

 ...sort of. I first reviewed this tea back in June of 2011, little more than a month after it had been harvested in Taiwan. Now, just over ten months from the baozhong's late-April harvest, I'm drinking part of a portion I set aside for 'aging'. Not having the patience for serious aging, I elected to leave a few grams of the tea in the bottom of the plastic sack it arrived in for a few months as more of an extended airing out to see what would happen. I've been drinking a little bit of it every couple of months to check up on it, and at this most recent trial I feel the changes are significant enough to be of interest.

Initially, this tea was full of strong notes of raw vegetables, as well as having a long lasting fresh aftertaste and a few rough edges that needed managing. All of those traits still exist, but have undergone great changes in proportion and character. Chiefly, while this tea still tastes and feels very fresh, it has lost most of its raw character. In days not so long gone by the liquor bore a similarity to fresh green beans in its raw and slightly biting edge of freshness, but now that bite has been tamed, only appearing briefly in the first gaiwan infusion. More akin to lightly steamed beans, the tea has become more savoury and rounder. I tasted this tea when it was fresh and then again a couple of months ago with a friend who tends not to enjoy overly vegetal teas such as this one. Having mellowed out significantly by then, my friend was surprised to find out that the tea he was enjoying that day was the same one he hadn't much liked a few months prior.

The strength of aromas in this tea has waned over the year, but the pleasant sweetness and lightest of floral notes are still to be found in the bottom of the cup, largely bereft of the vegetal notes that accompanied them in days of yore. The fading of the rawness from when this tea was fresh has allowed other elements to come to the forefront, namely the mouthfeel and the aftertaste. If this tea was initially silky smooth, then now it's more like cashmere. The liquor is still very light and fresh, but has become full to the brim of umami. (Umami is a tricky thing to describe if you don't already know what it is, and apparently as much as a quarter of the population can't taste it, but 'brothiness' seems as good a descriptor as any.) Smooth and dry, but full of substance, this tea's mellow and satisfying fresh character makes it great for drinking outside in today's record-breaking high temperatures (12C; it's early March in Canada, I'll take what I can get).

Only a few months of airing out have made this tea much more manageable, and in a pot dedicated to all things green and fresh I really don't have to pay much attention to it so long as I stay mindful of water temperature. What seasoning this pot has brings out the aftertaste in the tea, leaving sunflower seeds and a cool, minty freshness on my breath long after I've stopped drinking.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dong Ding Cuisson Traditionelle - 2011 from Cha Yi

Tea: Traditionally roasted Dong Ding oolong from Cha Yi (English), a well roasted green oolong with surprising vivacity for its relatively low-altitude origins (roundabout 700m, if I remember correctly).

A review on this tea is long overdue, but first a few words about the teashop from which I bought it. I'm a big believer in supporting good local sources of tea for the simple reason that there's no better way to learn about what you're drinking than by buying your teas in person from someone who really knows their product. This Gatineau teashop located just across the river from Canada's national capital has been open for a little over a year now, and by the looks of it will be around for a little while yet. The service is friendly and the staff knowledgeable (Daniel, one half of the couple who currently run the shop, worked for Camellia Sinensis for five years, and through this association now offers some of their teas in the Ottawa area). Though I've limited my sampling to their selection of oolongs, I've been entirely satisfied with all my purchases so far, and the lower priced teas don't seem to suffer the plunge in quality common in some other local teashops.

Short version of the above: If you're in the National Capital Region, stop by 61 rue Eddy in Gatineau. It's nice.

I'm a big fan of roasted Taiwanese oolongs of all stripes, but I also have frequent cravings for the creamy vegetal freshness of gaoshan oolongs. This tea satisfies both needs, but without the hefty price tag that frequently accompanies hung shui type oolongs. Though certainly not a substitute for this highly acclaimed genre, this tea carries a level of roasting and freshness not commonly found together in 'lower range' teas.

Having by now enjoyed this tea on more than one occasion, I know this tea performs best with a bit less leaf than other teas. If made more concentrated, the roasting characteristics overwhelm the others in the first few infusions and render the brew excessively dry. I pour the requisite amount of small, tightly rolled green balls into the bottom of my teapot and lift it up to my nose for a sniff. Straight away the dry, roasted character of this tea kept subdued by its refrigerated storage wakes up and fills my sinuses.

I pour hot water quickly from high up to help open the leaves and decant the infusion directly into two of my porcelain singing cups. The hot liquor is deeply satisfying and slightly warming; the chaqi goes straight to my head in a pleasant head-rush type sensation. The roasting has left the liquor feeling slightly dry, but the tea is still fresh enough that it sloshes around and coats my mouth in the manner of any good green oolong. The roasting also dominates the taste at this point, with a dry caramel sweetness accompanied by fruity floral undertones. It's in the aftertaste that the green-ness of this tea is most apparent, with an oily and slightly vegetal finish; a subdued version of what I expect from gaoshan. The empty cup bears similar notes, but with a refreshing lightness, rendering the whole experience heady but not overpowering.

In subsequent infusions the balance shifts away from roasting and more towards the light vegetal notes, obviating the thick and slightly oily mouthfeel for a time before a dryness begins to creep onto the tongue. When I was sold this tea, Daniel told me one of the things he likes about this tea is the way this roasting gradually diminishes and gives way to other, equally pleasant characteristics. Unlike many low quality teas, this tea evolves from infusion to infusion rather than simply peaking then tapering off, and it's this sort of endurance and complexity that led me to believe that this tea was from a much higher elevation than it is.

The finished leaves are dark green, tender, and very springy. Fresh, roasted, and all around very nice.

Teapot also from Cha Yi, bowl by Petr Novak featured here
When the leaves finally do start to give up the ghost, make one last long cool infusion and use it to deglaze a pan of sautéed onions for quiche. Chop of a couple of the more tender leaves and mix them into the filling as well. The tea seems to lighten and freshen up the dish a little bit, while adding a touch more savouriness. A delicious way to squeeze those last bits of goodness out of an already delicious tea. (Apologies for the lack of a picture, in all the excitement I got distracted and forgot. I'll be sure to post one the next time I make this dish, perhaps the subject of its own blog post.)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Music and Tea

The pairing of music with the preparation and consumption of tea seems to be fairly commonplace, but not too often  discussed among drinkers of tea. I think this is perhaps simply because of variation in individual musical tastes, but surely these tastes merit as much discussion as preferences for styles of teaware or genres of tea? Background music seems to be everywhere nowadays, whether it's coming from a myriad of speakers in a department store, or from two tiny ones nestled in your ears during your morning run; this omnipresence suggests to me that any music accompanying tea (or the necessarily deliberate lack thereof) becomes a de-facto mood-setter for the session. Today I'm breaking the silence about music and giving it the pride of place it deserves as part of my experience with tea!

The choice of a beautiful set of antique teacups or the clean, simple lines of an unadorned and expertly crafted yixing teapot are something any tea-drunkard like me will have some level of appreciation for, but unless you happen to have heaps of money to acquire a range of them (which I don't), it's difficult to use such elements to incorporate much-needed variety into your tea drinking routine. A good friend of mine known to some as Biblical Jon is a master of the art of using small details to ensure that no two sessions are quite alike, even if they involve the same tea made in the same teapot and poured into the same cups. He also happens to have fantastic taste in music. Whenever he hosts tea, he reliably pulls out his phone and starts playing whatever strikes his fancy, instantly setting the tone and creating a calm atmosphere as he goes about the process making tea.


As much as I feel music is an integral part of a tea session and not to be ignored, I also don't think it should be taken too seriously. I don't concern myself with sticking to music with shared origins to my tea, though from time to time I do find myself wanting to listen to Krishna Das alongside a cup of tea (it's the right sub-continent, at least). So long as the music enhances the overall experience, it's done its job in my book, whether it may be Alexi Murdoch, Mogwai, traditional Nankuan music, or Nine Inch Nails. Sometimes you just have to throw things at the wall and see what sticks, and that, for me, is what tea is all about.

With that in mind, I'd like to hear from anyone reading this blog about what you listen to when you drink tea, or if indeed you listen to anything at all. What do you think the choice of auditory ambience brings to the experience? Is it something you find worth paying attention to, or is music just a distraction from the tea itself? Please comment and let me know.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Da Yeh Oolong - Summer 2011 from Teamasters

Tea: Da Yeh Oolong. Another sample courtesy of Stéphane. His notes on this tea can be viewed here.
Origin: Taiwan's east coast
Harvest: June 26, 2011

An intriguing tea to say the least, courtesy of its complex origins: an oolong cultivar grown on the Pacific coast of Taiwan with its leaves bitten by insects (in the manner of Oriental Beauty), then fully oxidized and roasted. The result is a red tea which is tricky to place in terms of characteristics, but all the more enjoyable for it.

The warmed leaves in my gaiwan release an aroma more or less typical of a red tea, somewhere along the lines of ripe fruit. However, much like in the dry leaf, sweet roast undertones and, perplexingly, fresh, almost creamy notes are barely detectable to my nose. Unsure of just how to go about brewing a tea labelled "Red - Da Yeh Oolong", I opt for a hybrid of my standard methods, incorporating very hot water and a high pour without too much force to help the leaves open up while emphasizing their finer characteristics. The brew darkens quickly and in no time at all I'm inhaling deeply from my fragrance cup. The aroma is thick and sweet with a caramel note that endures in the bottom cup for as long as I'm willing to take another whiff. It's clear that the aroma has just begun to open, and expecting a similar impression from the tea itself, I take my first sip. Wow! The liquor gives an impression of fullness far beyond what I'd expect from a first brew during which the twisted leaves have barely started to uncurl.

In qingbai (left) and white porcelain (right)
In the second infusion the aroma becomes even more powerful, with a strongly acidic citrus note dominating the complex mix of smells. Trying to make sense of it all leaves me pleasantly lightheaded. The drink embodies the fullness of a red tea combined with a degree of complexity I normally associate with oolongs, perhaps because of this tea's unconventional processing. Typical red tea flavours combine with a dry sweetness and citrus notes, with particular tastes receding and being replaced by an aftertaste which is both sweet and fresh. Though this tea is 100% oxidized, it has somehow managed to retain a subdued, but still distinctly present, feeling of green-ness in the aftertaste. Perhaps this results from the fading of a combination of the sweetness and citrus fruit characteristics noted earlier, but no matter the source it presents a pleasant surprise as I finish the infusion.

I've made a habit of not bothering with fully oxidized teas because I generally find them to be one-noted and possessed of some unpleasant measure of astringency and a healthy dose of bitterness when brewed strongly (or when not brewed very lightly after the first couple of infusions). In my book, a good tea, regardless of genre, ought to be full of texture without having to be brewed to the point of the liquor being sullied by unwanted roughness. From long-jing to pu'erh, the best teas I've tasted have always been pleasantly tactile, but when it comes to red teas I haven't quite been able to strike the right balance, at least not beyond a couple of infusions. Until now.

Even as I write this post I continue to sip this delicious tea with only traces of a not unpleasant dryness. Its endurance and enduring balance have made this tea something quite special, and something I thought was worth sharing.

Much to my regret, this blog has been on an unplanned and unwanted hiatus for the past few months. I've carried on drinking tea (though, with my class schedule, admittedly not as much as I'd like), but have been finding it difficult to muster the motivation to dedicate a full session to the note-taking and photographing followed by the couple of hours of writing and formatting that all go into producing a post for this blog. Producing quality content for this blog is something I take pride in, and for that reason I won't force myself to write or take pictures if I'm just feeling uninspired. My intention has always been to post when I have something I can feel good about publishing, when I feel that by adding my voice to the tea blogosphere I can make a positive contribution. I can't promise new content with the kind of clockwork rhythm of other bloggers, but I promise to publish only content that is true to the spirit of what I'm trying to achieve, so check back; I've got a few things up my sleeve yet.