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April 2008
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So I probably shouldn’t have written that entry while the tea had me all jittery. It really was some bad whiskey. Just the memory has me jolting a bit.

I figured I’d show my little teaware family. I started off with the glass gaiwan and a little pitcher. They were bought from different vendors and the glass pitcher was made of cheaper glass and shattered one time when I poured the tea into it.

Glass gaiwan and pitcher

Then I got the two yixing pots.

The brown pot is the one I used yesterday for the Feet of Crab tea. The tea in the gaiwan is some yummy Tie Guan Yin. Maybe not the best stuff out there, but pretty tasty.

2007 Menghai Feet of Crab

So this journal was going to be primarily knitting and spinning with some random adventures thrown in (ha). But I have four real passions in my life. 4 things that have been consistent loves of mine for years (most for all my life). 1) family 2) books/stories 3) tea 4) knitting/spinning/fiber stuff

The tea has always been a background thing. I don’t like to drink coke (soda or pop or soda pop for people not from the south) or alcohol (personal reasons, not religious or health). Then I discovered that something in coffee doesn’t sit with me all that well. Maybe the acidity, maybe I add too much sugar, I have no idea, but it can string me out. So my constant beverage of choice: tea.

Now I obviously like to ramble, but I’m getting to my point. I have been trying loose leaf tea recently (last few years or so). At first I brewed it just like you’d brew bagged tea. I got a nice hit in flavor that you don’t get with lipton or celestial seasonings, but after a while it all kinda tasted similar. I’d heard about yixing pots, but I was still a big ol’ mug kind of gal and those yixing pots are expensive for something so tiny. Then I saw some tea blogs. And learned about gaiwans. That opened a whole new world. Suddenly teas that I’d tried that had tasted terrible before using the big ol’ mug method were amazingly good. Smaller amounts of water, shorter infusion times, more infusions made a huge difference.

I now have two lil’ tiny yixing teapots and a gaiwan. I hardly using my tetsubin and I’m trying to figure out what to do about the big ol’ mug at work. But this brings me to my point. I tried my first pu-erh cake tea today. In the little yixing pot I also got today (after I did the boiling, toothpaste cleaning and boiling again thing). The first pu-erh I tried? 2007 Menghai Feet of Crab. Seriously. Feet of Crab.

And so I decided to take notes. I’ve been trying out the gong-fu method of brewing for a few weeks now with the gaiwan, but mostly on some crappy teas. With two exceptions (the best Tie Guan Yin I’ve had to date and some Dragonwell that Bear has now claimed that is also one of the best teas I’ve had to date).

So my notes. Water at a full boil. Tea when wet with no water half fills a 140 mL little teapot. This might mean I didn’t use enough tea, but this stuff was incredibly potent, so I’m actually pretty happy with it. I’m sitting here now sipping my 8th infusion with a 9th cooling on the table. Infusion times: 20s, 30s, 20s, 5s, 5s, 15s, 25s, 1:05, 1:30 (these times are amount of time I left the teapot sitting. Pour time for the little pot to the last drop is about 25s).

I’d read that this tea was very fishy and not very pleasant. I didn’t find it fishy really, but it did take a bit of getting used to.

1st infusion: very very light taste. Bit of saltiness. Yellow sunshine. After this infusion the color stayed a constant clear yellow orange.

2nd infusion: just about knocked me on my ass. Whole body flushed after each swallow. Could detect lighter notes if I forced myself to hold tea in my mouth, but had a very hard time with this. Very strong bitterness/astringency (my mouth would tingle and prickle). Strong aftertaste. Strong throatiness.

3rd: same as second. decided much shorter infusion times are needed.

4th: still had strong astringency, aftertaste, bitterness, and throatiness of the previous two infusions, but thinner. could finally taste hints of sweetness and tea felt smoother. still felt a flush through my whole body but it was warming instead of heart racing.

5th: very very similar to 4th, but could start to taste the water

6th: noticeable drop in everything but the aftertaste and sweetness. stronger water taste.

7th: nearly indistinguishable from 6th

last two: tea dropped off. mostly sweet astringent water.

So I finished the tea while I was typing up these notes. A good 30 minutes later and my mouth still has a dry feel, and there’s a thickness at the back of my throat. There’s also a smooth and sharp aftertaste that’s pleasant and yet odd.

Those 2nd and 3rd infusions? Every sip caused me to go “Wooo” and pant while my body would flush. The tea was so bitter and astringent that I half wanted to throw it out, but at the same time it was so compelling that I kept taking a sip and “wooo”ing and panting and flushing.

Why I love Bear, a series, part 3 (4 really)

I was thinking about character today. How people stay true to themselves. When they act “out of character”. What tempts them and pushes them to change. Maybe good, maybe bad.

One of the things that I was thinking about is how different Bear and I are in character. I am very bent. I’m adaptable. I can convince myself black is white and white is black and act on my convictions, no matter if I was convinced of something different the day before. Maybe it’s a survival tactic I taught myself. Maybe I’m just naturally inconsistent. Malleable. I can easily find it in my family. Not to say that I don’t know my own mind and that I don’t have certain things that I hold dear and always have. I do. Some things I’ve learned are extremely important and I’ve tried to forge some iron into my character in some ways.

This is also relative. But I say this about myself because of certain people in my life that are so utterly consistent and true that sometimes I feel a bit alien. Bear is one of those people. He is one of the truest arrows in my life. All his paths have been linear. His choices are consistent. He has a character that does not falter or change. His faults and strengths. Right is right and wrong is wrong and you do what is right. He’ll make a great father in that regard. Rules will be set and followed. Infractions will be ferreted out and punished. Achievements will be praised and celebrated.

But while it is something I love about him and find admirable (although sometimes frustrating), what absolutely floors me is one of the few things that causes Bear to act out of character.

Bear rarely talks about his work. He tries very hard to leave it at work and even when it’s obviously still bugging him he doesn’t like to talk about it. But we do talk about my work. My classes, research. The politics of grad school. I babble and he listens and comments and I think mostly lets it flow in one ear and out the other. When I’m working he’s constantly pushing me, asking me if I’m doing my best. And here’s where one of the oddest things creeps up.

I obviously fail sometimes. I screw up sometimes and sometimes I fail because of things beyond my control. But for all the pushing Bear will do while I’m working on something, there’s never any shame or disappointment or “you should have kept on top of things” when I fail even when it’s my fault. Suddenly my straight-as-an-arrow-Bear will be rewriting history. Where other people will hardly even get the benefit of a doubt, I have this completely terrifying and out of character free pass.

Case in point. I failed my qualifying exam. Just found out today. Won’t get the official notice until later, but I was told today. I should have asked about some things. I should have worked harder. I can say in all honesty, this was my fault. My failing. This was not beyond my control. But to hear Bear tell it? Completely beyond my control, not my fault at all, and this is a great oppurtunity and I’ll show them. It wasn’t, It was, It’s an embarrasment really, and huh? He knows how this went. He was there. He pushed me to ask, to work harder. But the minute I tell him what the verdict was, suddenly I was shafted. He believes in me and will do whatever it takes so that I know he believes in me and so that I continue to believe in myself. It’s humbling and uplifting all at the same time.