I wish you all the best of times surrounded by whatever brings you comfort during these holiday times (Also...tea!)
I've been busy on the Holiday boutique scene and filling tea orders as you all stock up on your teas and gifts. But I want you to know how much I appreciate your support, whether you've become a regular customer or are an occasional visitor to the website.
These first couple of years of getting my tea business up and running have been a beautiful struggle; both to spread my passion for tea and to create a viable business bringing you consciously sourced specialty tea. It's a struggle to be a small-margin micro-business competing against the Amazons of the world, the commodity tea market, and hyper-capitalism. As the big guys have holiday sales with discounts that are bigger than my profit margins and offer free shipping even as I get emails from USPS about more rate increases, I keep plugging along trying to offer fair prices without feeding the consumer frenzy of the holidays. That being said, I acknowledge that tea is a wonderful gift and appreciate all of you that have made these festive weeks so busy for me.
Once again, thank you! And I hope you are taking plenty of time to simply make tea.
Tea meditations/experiments on water
Lu Yü, in his 8th-century Classic of Tea, had this to say about water:
"On the question of what water to use, I would suggest that tea made from mountain streams is best, river water is all right, but well-water tea is quite inferior. (The poem on tea says, When it comes to water, I bow before the pure-flowing channels of the Min.)
Water from the slow-flowing streams, the stone-lined pools or milk-pure springs is the best of mountain water. Never take tea made from water that falls in cascades, gushes from springs, rushes in a torrent or that eddies and surges as if nature were rinsing its mouth. Over usage of all such water to make tea will lead to illnesses of the throat.
Of the many streams that flow through mountain and valley, there are those that are clear and pure but which sink into the ground and are absorbed before finding an outlet. From the hot season to the time of frost, the dragon may be sequestered and noxious poisons will accumulate within them. One taste of the water will tell you if it is all right. If the evil genius of a stream makes the water bubble like a fresh spring, pour it out.
If you must use river water, take only that which man has not been near; and if it is well water, then draw a great deal before using it.1”
Obviously, quality water is super important to a quality cup of tea. It can negate any advantage of specialty tea leaf and make a cup of commodity tea undrinkable. My tea friend Rie Tulali inspired me to experiment with different waters, as she has done in her wonderful tea experiments on her teacurious2 blog. We’re 13 centuries on from when Lu Yü warned us about the dragons in the water, so most of us don’t have access to water that “man has not been near.” But there are still places where delicious water can be found. One such place is Camp Myrtlewood outside of Myrtle Creek Oregon.
I’ve worked at Camp Myrtlewood’s Not Back to School Camp session for the last 10 years. I’ve served a lot of tea there, both in workshops and on the famous “tea stump”. This is the first year I got around to trying the water from the spring there in my tea. Their water trickles down mountain from their spring, getting naturally filtered as it flows down towards the Coquille River. The water for use at the camp is captured and filtered through a few stages of natural filtering. As a public facility, they then have to treat the water for public usage before it is sent to the taps around camp. That means chlorination. I bypassed that last step and so basically had filtered spring water. To be safe, I did boil it before bringing it down to the temperature for the teas but have since learned I didn’t need to do that.
1st Cupping: Shi Feng Long Jing Green Tea
2g tea/4oz water; 176˚ 2 minute infusions
- Darker, more yellowish liquor
- Grassier taste
- Bigger mouthfeel
- Liquor color still darker and not more green
- Bigger mouthfeel
- Liquor color still darker and tending to browner tone
- Lighter, more straw-colored liquor
- Slightly more astringent
- Dryer mouthfeel
- Alfalfa, hint of asparagus
2nd Cupping: Jin Ya Black Tea
2g tea/4oz water; 196˚ 2 minute infusions
- Slightly darker and browner liquor
- Sweet malt and tobacco notes
- Bigger mouthfeel
- Again darker liquor
- Preferred taste of tea with this water
- Lighter, orange’ish liquor
- Flatter taste
- Preferred color of tea in this water