Writing Epiphanies and Japanese Pu-erh

Monday, November 12, 2012

I had an epiphany last week…and I abhor it.

While in the middle of filing some tax papers at a temp agency gig, I was attempting to outline my CheatoWriMo project. Motivation was proving hard to muster. The idea of compiling and collating old blogs and stories seemed boring. An odd realization to come by while compiling and collating. If the prospect of preparing such a yarn didn’t appeal to me, how was it going to appeal to a reader? Then something hit me square in the brain – a surge of epic proportions.

It occurred to me that there were two novel ideas I had that I put on mothballs – one was called Brunch with Phantoms, the other was Love at Second Sight. Coupled with those was an idea from awhile back retelling the events from my blog – “The Sex Tea Saga” – in a fictitious manner. None of them had enough material in them to warrent their own novels. But together…

And with that revelation, my CheatoWriMo project became a lot harder. Instead of compiling and repurposing previously written material, I was now going to have to start from scratch. Oh, yippee. The “evolved”/new premise was thus:

 Raymond Elkins is a 25-year-old recent college grad with a life he thought he wanted. Everything was going according to “plan”, until one evening the unthinkable happened. He botched his anniversary with his girlfriend…by not getting it up.

Distraught, the twentysomething consults friends, family and the Internet for suggestions. This eventually leads him to an unassuming leaf found in some male enhancement products – tea. What begins, at first, as a quest for better sex leads him down a surreal and magical road – one wrought with danger and daring-do.

He must dodge vengeful goddesses, succubi,  snake-people, sentient birds and wizards bent on ending his accidental quest. And all he has to guide him are a talking cat, a low-rent psychic, an ill-tempered gnome, and an undead Scottish botanist. Where this journey may lead him, no one can know. But he just might find true love, a good cup of tea, and save the world while he’s at it.

Yeah, I know, it’s bats**t crazy, and starting it was like pulling teeth. I was actually beginning a legitimate NaNoWriMo novel now – albeit very delayed. It also didn’t help that there were distractions along the way. All tea-related.

Friday afternoon, a package was waiting for me when I returned from running errands. It was from Butiki Teas, and I muffled a squeal of delight as a courtesy to the neighbors. One particular tea in the fray demanded immediate attention – a Japanese pu-erh. You heard right, and – no – I didn’t know such a thing existed, either.

Apparently, those wacky Japanese in Shizuoka prefecture were playing around with new styles of fermented tea. I already knew of two, and even tried one last year (which I liked quite a bit). This was a different beast altogether. I can’t even fathom the process that created it. Appearance-wise, it looked like a typical Japanese kocha (black tea), but the aroma was far different – coffee, chestnuts, soy sauce, plums and…er, awesome?

According to the Butiki Teas bio, this was a tea that was fermented for two-to-three days – artificially – with/in a brown rice culture. In other words, a wacky Japanese take on the Menghai shou (or cooked) method of aging pu-erh. To be frank, this smelled a lot better than most cooked pu-erhs I’ve tried. Normally, I can’t stand the stuff. New teas, however? Totally my thing.

There was only one snag; I did not want to share this alone. So, I gave ol’ David of PDX Tea a shout and wondered if he wanted to partake as well. It didn’t take long to get an affirmative. That and he also had better brewing equipment for such an experiment than I did. We prepped it like the Butiki site recommended – 1.5 tsps., boiling water, four-minute wait.

I can’t even being to describe how this tasted. It was part barley, part coffee, part roasted oolong, part Korean black, and all delicious. It was probably one of the more unusual teas I’ve tried all year, and – boy – I’d had some doozies. The cocoa-ish aftertaste lasted well after the sip. A part of me wanted to acquire “moar!” just so I could age it myself for a few years. But, honestly, I don’t have that kind of patience.

Some pu-erh purists out there might be thinking that it can’t be called pu-erh if it doesn’t hail from Yunnan province, China. And they have a point. Technically, this would be a heicha, I suppose. I would call it “Japuerh”, but that sounds kinda racist.

The second tea-related distraction from my writing responsibilities was something I found out right after David and I finished copious amounts of oolong. His Alliance space and Charity Chalmers (of Chariteas fame) were hosting a Portland tea meet-up, and the emphasis was on aged teas. How could I not go?

Besides my own donations to the cause, highlights for my palate were a Yue Guang Bai white sheng pu-erh cake and a Bai Liang bamboo basket-woven pu-erh cake. Both were zesty, earthy, floral, winy and all around Entish. Yes, that’s a good thing. Mrs. Chariteas seemed to know her rare teas, and I made a mental note to visit her shop at some point in the near future.

Saturday, I finally got started on A Steep Story (the new title for the novel). Reliving some of those past, embarrassing events was mildly uncomfortable. Some say you aren’t writing anything worthwhile unless your soul bleeds. I’m not sure I buy that. I would hardly call what I put to paper Voltaire levels of excellence…but it’s a start.

A…very…small…start.

While this is technically playing by NaNoWriMo rules (i.e. starting from scratch), there’s still a hint of CheatoWriMo as well. I didn’t get started until about nine days in, so I’m giving myself nine days in December to continue. Beyond, if I have to. I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do this Little Nemo-meets-Scott Pilgrim yarn justice.

13 Comments

  1. Avatar of jackie jackie says:

    Wait – I have to digest this, so much information. What’s stuck in the brain now is – NaNoWriMo, a body part that didn’t quite stand up to the test, real love, Butiiki Teas, Japanese Puer, David, Chariteas, Steepstories and an ape. Plenty to think about. We’ll follow you with baited breath.

    1. Dang, I forgot to add “ape” to the taglines! *heh* I know it’s a bizarre premise for a novel. But it’s what interested me to start…unfortunately for my street cred.

  2. Margo hutchinson says:

    It is 2 am and I had trouble following all this but I did get the the aged tea part. So I assume you are alive and well. And busy…keep it up :(…..I did not notice the ape. :((

    1. Quick glossary:

      NaNoWriMo – Nt’l November Writing Month

      CheatoWriMo – My version of it with my own rules.

      Japanese Pu-erh – A bats**t crazy tea that tastes good.

      Not an ape…a chimpanzee.

      And, yes, definitely keeping busy.

  3. Avatar of xavier xavier says:

    Japanese Puer?

    And I hope they will meet these strange Weretiger and smiling Frenchman.

    1. Yep, Japanese…pu-erh. It’s a thing, now. Apparently. A tasty thing.

      And there’s totally still a Smiling Frenchman, but tiger is now a tigress. Y’know…for gender diversity.

  4. Avatar of jopj jopj says:

    I am so tempted to try this tea but alas not on my horizon today maybe sometime in the future. As for your writing, awaiting another amazing creation. So great to see the photos Charity & David looks like a a wonderful presentation with lovely teas. Just an FYI about writing I finished the first four pages of the new children’s book and smiled when I thought of the dedication :-)

    1. I can’t wait for your new books. And that has nothing to do with me being born in the Year of the Dragon or anything.

  5. Avatar of riccaicedo riccaicedo says:

    Nice post. I’m intrigued about the Japanese pu-erh, too bad I can’t buy it from my country.
    By the way, the tea sex saga was great. All I can say is that it happens.

  6. I does happen. I just can’t believe I had to write about it. And that said entry would be drowned in infamy. *heh*

  7. Avatar of bram bram says:

    You’ll get there, wherever that is. Here or at the other side of the looking glass. And I see you hired a ghost writer. ;)

    1. Monkeys make the best ghostwriters.

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