Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: February 2016

Tan Yang Gong Fu Tea Achievement: Unlocked

The term “gong fu” translates to “achievement through great effort”. It’s the same word as “kung fu”, but spelled differently . . . because English translations suck that way.

tea achievement unlocked

Gong fu also refers to a method of brewing tea, signified by the use of short, successive steeps to bring out a given tea’s extra dimensions. The term also refers to a graded style of tea, often used interchangeably with the term “Congou”. Case in point, Keemun Gong Fu or Rose Congou.

It’s all kinds of an achievable headache, as Chinese tea terms often are, but it’s used most effectively to describe the grade and style of three types of black teas from Fujian province, China. There is Bai Lin Gong Fu, Zheng He Gong Fu, and Tan Yang Gong Fu.

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Russian Dark Tea

Russians love tea. Like . . . really love tea. Even the British and Irish look at the Russian love affair with tea and say, “Would you kindly tone it down?”

I learned of this secondhand when I was doing research a couple of years ago on tea grown in Russia. Not exactly sure how it happened, but Russians took a rather strong liking to low-altitude Ceylon. Brewed as a concentrate . . . from a giant brass water heater . . . that was stoked with a boot. Yes, a Samovar.

But in recent years, there’s been a shift in the Russian tea palate. One I learned of from – of all places – Instagram.

Photo used with permission from Electrogorilla

Photo used with permission from Electrogorilla

Young Russians love dark tea (or “heicha”). Like . . . really love dark tea. Puerh, to be precise.

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Tea Drunk Vs. Actual Drunk

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a chatroom. Okay, that alone isn’t worthy of note, but this was a tea chatroom. And for some reason – some awesome reason! – the concept of “tea drunk” popped up in mid-conversation. It’s a phrase that gets bandied around a lot in the community. Mostly for comedic effect, and all of us know it really is a thing.

Think actual drunkenness but without “most” of the weaknesses associated with it.

Art by Jason Norman; Concept by Me.

Art by Jason Norman; Concept by Me.

In the middle of this chat, I began to wonder how tea drunkenness and actual drunkenness would compare and contrast. And also, how best to illustrate that dichotomy. Truth was . . . I couldn’t.

I needed an artist, and I only knew of one “fit” for the job.

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The Green Teas of Nepal

I’ve confessed (here and there) to turning into a bit of a Nepalese tea fanboy lately. I may have even made a lofty claim that whatever it is they’re doing may very well be a possible future for the tea industry. (But that’s a whole ‘nother article.) While I’m not going to retract that statement, I am going to clarify it a bit. Simply put, imagine that India is the “Reinheitsgebot” (Bavarian Beer Purity Law”) of South Asian tea growing countries. Nepal would be Belgium. They take the old rules and just . . . toss ‘em out the window.

Nepal’s tea growers, farmers, farming collectives, and estates don’t have a solid model in which to base their industry on yet, but they have a pretty good start. They’re not afraid to buck tradition to try something wacky. And I  was recently sent three green teas – courtesy of Norbu Tea Company – that solidly illustrated my point.

Nepali green teas

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