Paraphernalia for Gong Fu Brewing

Tea Paraphernalia

If you want to brew tea in “gong fu” style, you really only need a few things.

First you need something to boil water. I tried using the water from our office hot water dispenser, but it’s just not consistently hot enough for black tea.

Then you need something to keep your heated water hot over the course of your sessions. A thermos that holds 3 or 4 cups will do.

Then, of course, a gaiwan. These can be gotten online or at specialty tea stores. The people at Yunnan Sourcing are super nice and have a good selection. (They also have a second location based in the US, Bend, OR, to be exact: YunnanSourcing.us with faster turnaround and cheaper shipping.) I’d suggest a glazed porcelain or glass gaiwan, medium-sized sized (around 150ml). Don’t spend too much to get started. Save your money for tea. 😃

Finally, you need a teacup or mug. Not all coffee mugs present tea in a flattering way. Experiment with what you have at home.

Bonus materials:

If you want to share tea with others, a small pitcher to pour your brewed tea out of is nice. I use an old bodum tea pot.

If you’re picky about pieces of tea leaf in your tea, a tea strainer or small fine sieve.

A small electronic scale that will measure grams can come in handy to get the hang of dosage amounts for various teas.

If you want to get into brick teas like Pu-Erh, you’ll need something to break them up, a tea pick or tea knife is traditional. Sort of a cross between an ice pick and an oyster knife. (The pointy blade of a scissors works OK, just be careful not to stab yourself.)

It doesn’t hurt to have a watch with a second hand to time your steeps, but you can always use your smart phone.

Finally, if you don’t have one of them fancy water boilers that allows you to set a temperature, you should think about a getting an instant read thermometer so you don’t overcook your more delicate teas (especially, white and green).

#tea #cha #gongfucha

Gaiwan

I keep mentioning a “gaiwan” so I figure I should show you what one is and go over the basics of “gong fu” style tea brewing.

A “gaiwan” is a set of three dishes.

…a saucer…

Saucer

…a cup….

…and lid that is used to brew whole leaf tea.

You add tea leaves to the cup, cover leaves with heated water, steep briefly, starting with about 10 seconds per steep…

…and strain using the lid.

Repeat, gradually extending the length of time in the steep, until your tea is no longer flavorful.

Exhausted Leaves

It’s very simple.

But, as with many simple things, it takes a little practice.

Some differences from English-style tea brewing.

First, you need to use whole leaf tea. The size of the whole leaves enables you to hold them in the cup and strain without a filter. Broken leaf tea will make a big mess and also doesn’t really work for multiple steepings.

Second, you use a larger amount of tea. Sort of. You fill the gaiwan to about a third with tea, which is a tablespoon, give or take. With English style tea, you use a teaspoon per cup. However, with the multiple steeps, the overall amount of tea liquid you make ends up similar or greater with gong fu brewing. I usually start by heating 3 cups of water for a single batch. That’s about the same ratio of tea to water as a teaspoon per cup. So, actually, the overall amount of tea for the volume of water ends up pretty similar. It’s just the process that’s different.

Be careful that you hold the gaiwan with the very edges of the cup lip and the tip of the lid knob. Do not grab the sides or you will burn your fingers or drop it and make a mess. It takes a little practice, maybe try it a few times with cold or warm water.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the benefits to brewing tea Gong Fu style.

#Cha #Tea #Gaiwan #GongFu #GongFuCha

White Tea of Feng Qing

Yunnan Sourcing Spring 2018 Silver Needles White Tea of Feng Qing.

A straight infusion of the Jade Needles in a teapot last week proved to be a bit intense. Showing too much of the vegetal character of the tea. So, I decided I would give today’s tea a better chance to shine by brewing with a gaiwan.

Brewed in this manner, the White Tea of Feng Qing proves to be a subtle and ghostly tea. Floral and spice aromas are almost more implied than present. The vegetal character which dominated the Jade Needles is only detectable as an after taste, more present in the smell of the leaves than the tea itself.

An interesting bit of trivia, while Americans and the British tend to classify teas by the color of the leaves, in China, teas tend to be named after the color of the brewed tea liquid. That’s why we call oxidized teas “black” and the Chinese tend to call them “red”. With white teas, we call them white because of the white hairs on the leaves and the Chinese because the brewed tea liquid is nearly indistinguishable in color from plain water. In fact, while it is not uncommon for plain hot water to be served as a beverage in China, (almost all water is boiled before drinking,) sometimes this plain hot water is called “white tea”.

#WhiteTea #YunnanSourcing #Cha #Tea #tasseography

Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needle White Tea

Spring 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needle White Tea.

Today’s white tea is much closer to a green tea in character than yesterday’s Silver Needles. Strong green vegetal character, reminding me a bit of the smell of cooked mild green chiles or raw potatoes. But not in a bad way.

A pleasant lightening buzz centered in the upper chest and behind the eyes.

Which brings me to another tea myth, that green and white teas have significantly less caffeine than black teas. All tea categories are made from pretty much the same source material, so all have caffeine. White tea, Green Tea, Black Tea, etc. By weight, the caffeine content is, more or less, the same across tea categories. However, with broken leaf teas, the caffeine is much more available to be immediately dissolved than with whole leaf teas. One steep of broken leaf tea will have more caffeine than one steep of whole leaf tea. However, multiple steeps of whole leaf tea may express more caffeine, (and the other substances in the tea leaves,) than a single steep of broken leaf. Final trivia, since with powdered teas, like matcha, you actually drink the leaf with the tea, those tea drinks can have more caffeine than steeped teas!

The Chinese talk about the feelings and energy they get from different teas using the term “cha qi”. “Tea Energy” or “Tea Power”. It is related to caffeine rush, but not entirely the same.

Different teas can give you different sensations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Pay attention to how you feel after drinking a particular tea. If it isn’t a nice feeling, maybe it isn’t a tea for you.

#WhiteTea #YunnanSourcing #YunnanTea #Cha #Tea #tasseography

Entanglement

Entanglement

Entanglement by Jessica Moss
Bandcamp Link: Entanglement

Jessica Moss is Canadian musician and member of Silver Mt Zion and Black Ox Orkestar. Her primary instruments are voice and violin.

Entanglements is an album that straddles classical, new music, and drone, often in the course of a single song, while not failing to be accessible and melodic.

At turns beautiful, majestic, and menacing, this is an entrancing work.

#Entanglement #JessicaMoss #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #ConstellationRecords

White Tea

Organic Silver Needle White Tea, Two Hills Tea, Yunnan, China, via the Rainbow Grocery bulk section.

All tea is made from the young leaf buds and leaves of the Cammelia sinensis plant.

The major differences between the categories of tea, (white, green, yellow, black/red, and dark/Pu-Erh,) are due to the methods in which the leaves are processed after picking.

White Tea is the most simply processed of all teas. Tea buds are picked, allowed to wither in the sun and slightly oxidized, then dried quickly with low heat.

The fact that white tea leaves aren’t rolled or formed, means the dried leaves are fragile and prone to breaking. Avoid broken tea. Broken tea leaves tend to make a harsher steeped beverage.

A good general rule is, the darker the tea, the hotter the water. The water for the very dark Pu-Erh should be just off the boil. For white tea, let your water sit for a good few minutes after boiling to cool before steeping your tea. (If you like to measure, the water for white tea should be around 180F or 80C.)

Like with high quality green tea, you can fudge the brewing process a bit with white tea. You don’t really need a separate brewing vessel. You can either brew it right in your glass or in a share pitcher.

Add a generous pinch of leaves to the pitcher or glass, cover with water, wait a few minutes. When you’ve drunk it down half way, add some more appropriately heated water. Continue until it tastes more like water than tea.

White tea is subtly colored and flavored. It should have a lingering sweet flavor with overtones of fruit, herbs, or grass.

This tea is on the grassy/briny side, with some fruit-ish and perfume-like overtones. Sandalwood, maybe? Pleasant, but I can’t quite decide if it is more compelling or interesting. Nice length of flavor, though.

#WhiteTea #SilverNeedles #Cha #Tea #tasseography

2038

2038

2038 by Crazy Doberman.
Bandcamp Link: 2038

Crazy Doberman recently published a bit of an interview from a Slovenian magazine that really struck a chord with me.

“-How did the free jazz influences get into the music?”

“It’s not so much free jazz as it’s the acoustic instruments involved i.e. reeds and brass. There are not really solos and individual players peeping thru rotten mis, more of a downer group sound with as many details to flesh out the chapters as possible. More akin to hearing a conversation in three rooms over and not being sure of how many people are in the space. ‘Free Jazz’ has its own system, we are aware of this and try to be as contrary as possible.”

The first song on 2038, “in your time​-​as it was in ours”, is actually one of the more “Free Jazz”-ish pieces I’ve heard so far from Crazy Doberman, a bit of Albert Ayler IS peeping thru the rotten mist, along with some mild middle european ethnic influences.

The second song, “waste house”, however, is more akin to a long lost sauerkraut dream. Or a dream I had nodding off to the sound of the sauerkraut tub bubbling away in the pantry as my senile germanic nanny prepared pork chops and applesauce. Was that a dream?

#CrazyDoberman #2038 #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Konoyo

Konoyo

Konoyo by Tim Hecker.
Bandcamp Link: Konoyo

I know the name Tim Hecker by reputation as an important modern ambient electronic artist. But, I’ve never listened to any of his music.

I saw he had a new album and thought it might be another good addition to my running list of All Hallow’s Eve Party songs.

But, it’s kind of funny, I’ve listened to so much abstract electronic music, that I think it’s skewed my perspective.

Compared to most of the electronic music I listen to, Tim Hecker just seems kind of “nice”.

He uses electronic effects, but he still messes around with chord changes. He samples somewhat harsh sounds, but plays melodies. He uses harmony, but not even much dissonance, octaves and fifths for cripe’s sake.

So, sadly, there isn’t much here for that vaunted theoretical Halloween Party, unless maybe you need a break from the intensity at the end while you’re cleaning up.

#TimHecker #Konoyo #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Bad Dreams part 1

Bad Dreams part 1 by Kevin Drumm.
Bandcamp Link: Bad Dreams part 1

A finely dissonant work of interacting long duration pitches with slight glitches here and there.

In other words, a perfect atmospheric soundtrack for your All Hallow’s Eve Nightmare.

Though, to be honest, you could probably point your browser at just about any of Kevin Drumm’s bandcamp recordings and come up with a pretty good Halloween soundtrack.

(This piece was initially composed for a commission that fell through. Drumm made it available only to his bandcamp subscribers.)

#KevinDrumm #BadDreamsPart1 #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Percussion Ensemble

Percussion Ensemble

Milford Graves Percussion Ensemble with Sunny Morgan.
Label Website: Percussion Ensemble

I’m not quite sure how to describe, or even really listen to, this album.

It’s not a ferocious hurricane of percussive sound.

Nor do the two percussionists particularly engage with each other in call and response. Or even particularly pay attention to each other’s tempos.

It feels more like sitting on your porch in the North Woods listening to the various independent sounds of insect calls, bird noises, and animal sounds.

A cricket will call for a while, then an owl. Then maybe the raccoons knock over your trash cans. Maybe later a loon. Then more crickets. The beams creak and mice skitter in the walls.

It feels more natural than created.

#MilfordGraves #SunnyMorgan #PercussionEnsemble #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack