Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Several Moments of Matcha Madness

I’ve gone on record as saying that Mizuba Tea‘s matcha line is one of my favorites.

Mizuba Matcha canister

Both for their quality . . . and convenience. Convenient, how? Well, “they” are located in my neck of the woods. That’s right, I have a local matcha (read: crack) dealer. If I need a fix, I know who to call/text/e-mail/smoke signal.

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A Guy and His Gaiwan

Back in 2009, I didn’t like oolongs. In general, anyway. There were some specific ones I liked, but most of them were off limits. I even explained this to Tony Tellin, lead blender extraordinaire at Smith Teamaker, when he was working the tea bar one day.

He said, “You’re probably not brewing them right.”

He escaped into the back and brought out a gaiwan (lidded Chinese teacup), and then he gave me a quick primer on how to do gongfu cha (literally, “brew tea with skill”). I had seen it done before, but it always intimidated me—multiple steeps, multiple pours, and the equipment required. He assured me that all I would need was a gaiwan, and to remember, “Short, successive steeps”.

Then he gave me his gaiwan.

oldest gaiwan

It’s  . . . seen a lot of use. By me.

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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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Tie Luo Han: The Iron Monk Oolong

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 4 – “Tie Luo Han: The Iron Monk Oolong”

This interesting oolong derives its name—Tie Luo Han, which means “Iron Monk”—from old legends linked to a particular cave. I couldn’t even find a picture of this legendary cave, and—believe me—I looked. All that came up were Mindcraft photos. So, here’s a picture of the tea bushes themselves, instead.

Tie Luo Han oolong bushes

Tie Luo Han bushes. Image owned by Seven Cups

Lovely, aren’t they?

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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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Russian Tea Garden Profile: Host

Well over a year ago, I tried a green tea from a Russian tea garden that just . . . blew my mind.

host

Russian green tea

The garden—according to the vendor, What-Cha—was called “the Host tea estate”. I corresponded with the company owner for some time, and he informed me that he could find no information on the garden. This wasn’t much of a surprise.

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