Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Category: Tea Musings (Page 1 of 20)

Darjeeling in Autumn

I chose a weird time to talk about autumn flush Darjeelings.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan.

For one thing, it hasn’t been a typical year for the region. (An understatement, true.) But before I get into that, I should probably explain what I mean by “Darjeeling autumn flush”. Here’s a bit of a primer.

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Should Sheng Cha Be Considered Heicha?

In May of 2017, I asked tea peers on social media a simple question: Is Vietnamese sheng puerh style heicha a thing?

At least . . . I thought it was a simple question.

That query sparked a minor debate about the nature of heicha, and whether or not sheng puerh (or sheng puerh-style tea) was considered as such. At the time, I rested firmly in the camp that it was. After all, heicha (or “dark tea”, as it was more commonly known in English) encompassed all fermented teas. Sheng (or raw) puerh, following a long period of aging, went through a microbial change similar to heicha from other parts of China.

Or did it?

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Making the Most of a “Meh” Year

If I were to sum up 2017 in one image, it would be . . .

Yeah, that about says it.

The year wasn’t quite the dumpster fire that 2016 was, but it did have its ups and downs. Winter flew by like a brisk, cold nap. Spring reverberated with optimism and hope. And summer, like an oppressive heatwave, took that hope and crushed it with a sweaty fist. Autumn tried to resuscitate some shred of exuberance, but flat-lined by the time the holiday season rolled around.

Through it all, my mood soured on salvaging even a shred good cheer. That dour outlook permeated throughout my writing work; and my various social media feeds. Some even wondered if I needed a really long hug. (To which the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”) However, looking back on the past year, I realized there were many positive occurrences that I completely skated over—moments of pure tea whimsy that I forgot to document.

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A Custom Blended Christmas

Christmas is usually my favorite time of year. But this year . . . I simply wasn’t feeling it. And it wasn’t for lack of trying.

A week or so before the impending, I found a green bow on the floor of the parking lot at my work. It pretty much summed up how I felt. I tried to find yuletide joy in the little things around me, but even that proved difficult.

I’m not entirely sure if it was because I had to work through the majority of it, or because my finances were severely depleted—thus not allowing me to buy gifts for close family—or some combination therein. As December rolled around, I simply wanted it all to be over. Even Christmas music couldn’t lift my “bah humbag”-ish demeanor.

Then it hit me.

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Puerh? I Barely Know Her!

A couple of days ago, a fellow tea acquaintance asked me for some advice on puerh. Naturally, I provided it, based upon my own subjective experience. But I also had to preface something. I was not the most . . . uh . . . mature, sophisticated, or “learned” person on the subject of puerh.

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Ten Days without Tea

If I were to sum up this summer in one word or image, it would be . . .

Yeah, that’s apt.

Sure, there were good things that happened over the course of those three months, and I’ll probably get around to writing about those some other week. But there’s one thing I have to get off my mind first . . . and that is, well, my mind. For the last three months, I have suffered from a headache.

Not headaches plural; one headache.

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Rethinking Tea Categories

Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.

Seriously, I just work here, guys.

A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.

So, this got me thinking . . .

If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:

*dons helmet*

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Putting “Tea: A User’s Guide” to Good Use

In May of 2013, I finally met this tea-bro in person.

Tony Gebely—award-winning tea blogger, tea business insider, and all-around nice guy. When we first met, we did what any self-respecting tea people would do on first impression. We drank beer.

While we were downing pints, he mentioned he was working on a book, and ran the title by me. He wanted to call it: Tea: A User’s Guide. I told him I dug it, and that he should keep me posted on its release.

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Notes from the Tea Underground

The idea of an underground tea scene always intrigued me. Not sure when the notion entered the deep recesses of my tea-soaked brain; maybe it was Robert “The Devotea” Godden’s ebook Tea Story, or maybe someone mentioned the idea of it in passing? Whichever, whatever. Point being, the notion always fascinated me. I even envisioned an underground network of “steepeasies” in a story I had . . . yet to write.

Little did I know, though, there actually was such an underground tea network threading itself together. From Austin, Texas, to San Francisco, California, and further northward to Portland, Oregon; people communed over tea just under the radar. I had some affiliations with various members of this fledgling network, and in my various tea blog dealings, one name kept coming up.

Steve Odell.

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A Hundred Years is “Oolong” Time

Last weekend, I drank an oolong that was—quite possibly—a hundred years old.

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