What is Tea?

For our purposes, we will say “Tea” is an infusion of the leaves and leaf buds of closely related plants in the Camellia family, Camellia sinensis.

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is native to China. It is now grown in other regions of the world, but all tea plants originated in one of several regions in China.

Most tea is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, but there are thousands of varieties and cultivars.

The Cantonese word for tea is “Ch’a” in Cantonese and written as follows:

As you can see above, the character for tea is made up of three parts, the character for “grass”, the character for “Man standing at his place on earth”, and the character for “Tree”. (And, actually, the word, “Ch’a” refers to “early picked” tea, like green tea. Later picked tea is called “Ming” or “Chuan”.)

According to this website, Tea Names:

“The original English pronunciation of the word tea was tay and it’s usage can be traced back to around 1655 when the Dutch introduced both word and beverage to England. This pronunciation can still be heard today in certain British dialects. The pronunciation tee also originated in the 1600’s but only gained predominance after the late 18th century. Both words may have come from the Malay teh or the Chinese (Amoy dialect) t’e.”

So, languages which call it something like “Tea” are derived from the Malay and Southern Chinese name for tea and those that call it something like “Cha” are derived from the Cantonese name. The Dutch, British, and Americans call it something like “tea”. The Indians and Russians call it something like “Cha”. Basically, the word your language uses for “tea” indicates the trading partner your language originally got its tea from. If you traded with the Dutch or English to get your tea, you call it something like “tea”. If you traded with the Chinese, you call it something like “Ch’a”.

In China there are 6-8 different types of tea, primarily distinguished by either their geographic production areas or their method of production.

The six primary types are:

  • Green Tea
  • Yellow Tea
  • White Tea
  • Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea (Actually called Red Tea in China.)
  • Dark Tea

  • Then there are a couple special sub-categories which are sometimes treated on their own, sometimes not:

  • Pu’er Tea
  • Flavored Tea
  • But before we get to discussing tea varieties, we’ll talk a bit more about the tea plant and tea farms.

    Not So Reluctant TEA-Totaler

    As a devout tea drinker, for a long time my default teas were either Dragonwell or Gunpowder, Chinese Green teas. But, lately, I’ve found that those two aren’t to my taste so much. Gunpowder, I find, has a kind of tobacco/ashtray taste that I never noticed before, and the buzz from Dragonwell is, well, kind of harsh. I had one of my worst ever anxiety/panic attacks after drinking a pot of very strong, oversteeped Dragonwell, and we just haven’t been in the same place since. Anyway, lately, I am finding the funky taste of Pu Erh is appealing. Not to mention, the buzz is pretty awesome, more ecstatic and heady than the harsh body buzz of Dragonwell. #teanerd

    More information to follow.

    2018-02-08 Dem Ones

    Dem Ones

    Dem Ones by Binker and Moses.

    This album was mentioned in a recent @thewiremagazine article about Shabaka Hutchings as a crucial disk of “New British Jazz”. Sax and drum duos of varying styles, from a Rollins-esque St Thomas-ey romp, to a couple ballads, and finishing with a bit of free squonk.

    More and more I feel like Horace Silver is the patron saint of the young Jazz cats in the US and abroad. While still adhering to most Jazz traditions, Binker and Moses’ swinging soul inflected Jazz owes more to Hard Bop than anything else.

    #BinkerAndMoses #DemOnes #BinkerGolding #MosesBoyd #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

    2018-02-07 Contra/Fact


    Contra/Fact by the Matthew Lux Communication Arts Quartet.

    Atmospheric improvised music roughly in the neighborhood of Jazz.

    I really enjoyed this, most songs are more about setting a mood or feeling than being specific compositions with changes.

    Very evocative and reminiscent of different late night periods in my life, from smoky noir-esque evenings in a bar to no wave radio in the 80s.


    #MatthewLux #BenLaMarGay #MikelPatrickAvery #JayveMontgomery

    2018-02-02 II


    II by Sunwatchers.

    Sunwatchers’ second album starts with a blast of guitar and sax frenzy and just keeps rolling through to the last song.

    Sunwatchers are still experimenting a bit with their formula, but for the most part this is an energetic and frenetic exercise in kinetic string, reed, and drum sculpture.

    Put it on and get some stuff done.

    #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Sunwatchersband #Sunwatchers

    2018-02-01 Pissing Stars

    Pissing Stars


    Efrim is one of the fellow travelers in the bands Godspeed You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion.

    He released his first album, “Plays ‘High Gospel’”, under his own name in 2011, and it was one of my favorite albums of that year. This is his second release under his own name and, so far, it is one of my favorite albums of this blighted year.

    Menuck’s solo albums tend to be a bit more sonically adventurous than those of Godspeed or Thee Silver. Moving from moments of abrasive noise to choruses of pure beautiful harmonic chords.

    The inspiration for this album came from the, “brief romance between American television presenter Mary Hart and Mohammed Khashoggi, the son of a Saudi arms dealer.” He says, “this strange intersection – the televisual blonde and the rich saudi kid with the murderous father; it got stuck in me like a mystery, like an illumination – this vulgar pairing that was also love. these privileged scions of death and self-alienation, but also love.” Though, ostensibly, the theme is more like this quote found in the liner notes, “In this troubled world there’s just two things that are sure: The beauty of children and the war against the poor”

    Whether that is a sentiment which rings true to you or not, this is a ugly beautiful album. Or maybe a beautiful ugly album. Your choice. Your world.

    #EfrimManuelMenuck #ConstellationRecords #CSTRecords #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

    2018-01-31 Kilo


    Kilo by Mika Vainio.

    Mika Vainio was in an electronic group called Pan Sonic (originally Panasonic). Unfortunately, he died a couple years ago, relatively young.

    When I was reading about Venexia, seeing his name reminded me I had never checked out his music.

    Some of the articles about Venexia compared Drumm and Vainio’s music. Drumm and Vainio do sometimes use a similar sonic palate of grinding non-musical sounds. However, going from Kilo, an album which was described as “punishing” in one article, Vainio hews much closer to traditional Western ideas of rhythmic and harmonic organization. Heck, the first track, Cargo, might even, almost, be considered a club track.

    Though, it is pretty apparent, judging from Kilo’s car rattling subsonics, that Vainio was the one bringing those elements to the Venexia party. Which does endear him to me slightly. Further investigation is in order.

    #MikaVainio #Kilo #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

    2018-01-30 Venexia


    ‘Venexia’ by Mika Vainio / Kevin Drumm / Axel Dörner / Lucio Capece.

    Oft times in Kevin Drumm’s solo work he limits his sound sources to a single family of sounds. Band saws, radio static, whatever.

    On this collaborative release from 2012 with Mika Vainio, Axel Dörner, and Lucio Capece, Drumm displays a wider variety of his sound palette than on his solo releases. Well, at least what I can recognize as his. I am not as familiar with the other artists on this, but can recognize some of Drumm’s signature sounds.

    Described as a set of continuous duos, this is a pretty cool album of non-rhythmic sound environments. Very drone-ey and somewhat SciFi, yet not spacey. No, whomever is deploying the subsonic feedback rumble makes sure that it steers very clear of the “spacey” label.

    Nice that 4 collaborators from pretty different backgrounds can make something that sounds so organic.

    #MikaVainio #KevinDrumm #AxelDörner #LucioCapece #Venexia #todayscommutesoundtrack

    2018-01-29 Front and Above

    Front and Above

    Front and Above by John Chantler, Steve Noble, and Seymour Wright.

    Synthesizer, Drums, and Saxophone, respectively, and none of them doing much linear playing.

    I do really enjoy Mr Noble’s drumming, a modern master of non-linear improvised percussion and extended percussion technique.

    The Synthesizer work from Mr Chatler is of the bleep-ey, bloopy, SciFi Soundtrack, non-melodic sort. Very appropriate for the playing of the other two.

    Finally, Mr Wright seem intent on coaxing every non-normal sound it is possible to make with a Saxophone, whether it is flutter tonguing, slap tonguing, splitting pitches, playing just the mouthpiece,…etc. etc…the list goes on… Anyway, I missed a turn on the way to work, I was so intent on attempting to mentally catalog what he is doing on Sax. Fascinating!

    #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #SeymourWright #SteveNoble #JohnChantler

    2018-01-26 Voice Hardcore

    Voice Hardcore

    Voice Hardcore by Phew.

    Phew is a Japanese artist, primarily vocalist, who made a an album in the late 1980s with some of the guys, (Czukay, Liebzeit, and Plank,) from the German band Can, and then a few more well thought of albums in the early 90s. She didn’t release any albums from 1998 to 2009, but has recently been quite active.

    On Voice Hardcore her only sound source is her voice. A bit like either a less tune-ey Petra Haden’s “Petra Goes to the Movies”, or, perhaps, more accurately, if Kevin Drumm used voice instead of Guitar and Radio as his sound source.

    There is a fair bit of spoken Japanese on this, but my comprehension is pretty much limited to the song whose text is pretty much solely, “domo arigatou gozaimasu”, so I have no idea what any of the lyrics are about.

    In any case, it’s great to have Phew actively making music again, and this is a very creative and interesting release.

    #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Phew #VoiceHardcore