In the modern nation state, public education functions as a sort of civic immunization.
By inculcating standardized values into a large portion of the population, public education allows a certain “herd immunity”, creating the mental illusion of the state based on shared values.
Whether the citizens ultimately embrace those values, or rally against, they still have been taught those values as a base and will mentally participate in the state’s shared values, or paradigm, as adult citizens.
As the number of adult citizens which were taught the standardized values of the state as children declines, so will the state, ultimately fracturing into balkanized segments, slipping towards regional or cultural fragmentation and cultural medievalism i.e. mental city state paradigms which exist within the physical bounds of the state, but which are often counter to the state’s values.
It turns out the Gaiwan (Gaiwan) is the most controversial aspect of Gong Fu Tea Brewing with some of my friends, some complaining they didn’t feel they were coordinated enough to operate Gaiwan. Always burning their fingers, spilling tea, and what not.
As I probably destroyed a bunch of nerves in my fingers working as a line cook in restaurant kitchens in my 20s, my finger tips are no longer so sensitive.
However, I was looking for something that would be a bit more convenient and simple for gong fu tea making while traveling.
When I was at the San Francisco International Tea Expo, I saw quite a few vendors using a small combo strainer and share cup, and it put it into my head to track one down.
This pot and strainer combo from Kamjove, (KAMJOVE Glass Gong Fu Teapot with Filter, 300ml,) looked pretty good.
You put your tea in the top compartment. Cover with hot water. Then wait a few seconds. Push the button on the top and the tea strains through a filter into the carafe. Repeat as necessary. When your tea leaves are spent, tap them into the compost pile and rinse out the two sections.
I like that it is mostly clear glass (the strainer section is clear plastic, though the filter itself is fine metal mesh). The tea it makes is good. A bit different tasting from most of the gaiwans and tea pots I’ve used, tea from every type brewing vessel is different, but it is a lot simpler to use than gaiwans and easier to get the tea leaves out of than tea pots, especially early in the morning when you’re not quite awake. If I were to venture an opinion, I would say it makes good green and black tea. As a bonus, the fact that it has a filter strainer, means it will work fine for both whole leaf and broken leaf teas. I don’t think I’d use it for Puerh or Oolong, the thin glass loses heat too quickly.
It’s a good compromise between convenience and quality for hassle free loose leaf tea.
Dripd O’Bitters is a ripe PuErh tea which has been blended with chenpi.
There are two big classifications of PuErh tea.
The main type, and traditional type, is called Raw or Sheng PuErh.
It is basically green tea, made from a specific type of tea plant from a specific region, which is partially dried and then aged for years or decades.
The second type is called Ripe/Cooked or Shou/Shu Puerh.
Ripe Puerh was invented in the 1970s The idea behind Ripe Puerh was to accelerate the aging process of the tea so it could be sold sooner. While what they ended up producing isn’t exactly flash aged PuErh, it is a tea that is worthy of contemplating for its own merits.
Ripe and Raw Puerh start the same. Leaves and buds of the tea plant are picked, withered briefly, then mostly dried to form what is essentially a rough looseleaf green tea, or maocha.
For Ripe Puerh, the maocha is put into a big pile, kept damp, and repeatedly turned using implements like rakes for a month or two, allowing it to ferment and further oxidize before being completely dried and/or formed into cakes.
If Raw Puerh is sort of like funky green tea, Ripe Puerh is more like funky black tea. Especially if it is a freshly made tea, Ripe Puerh can have very strong funky taste, (wet pile taste,) reminiscent of certain Belgian farmhouse ales. There is some Brett happening in there, for sure. While the funk of Raw Puerh increases with age, the funk of Ripe Puerh tends to calm down with age. Older Ripe Puerh can exhibit stonefruit or chocolate flavors, alongside the usual notes for PuErh tea, camphor, mint, etc.
For Dripd O’Bitters, White2Tea took an already somewhat aged Ripe PuErh and blended it with a type of citrus peel called “chenpi”. Chenpi is the dried peel from a small orange. Chenpi sometimes used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, “to regulate ch’i (or qi), fortify the spleen, eliminate dampness, improve abdominal distension, enhance digestion, and reduce phlegm.” As near as I can tell, chenpi seem very similar in flavor and character to the Italian Bitter orange called, Chinotto (Citrus myrtifolia).
In traditional Chinese medicine, foods are often divided by their warming or cooling natures. Teas are also divided up this way. Unaged Green and white teas, including puerh, are considered cooling, while aged Puerh, Aged White, Black, and Ripe Puerh are considered warming.
Chenpi also have a strong warming element, making drinking a ripe Puerh and Chenpi blended tea, a good choice for weather where you need to warm yourself up.
However, according to wikipedia, “Traditional Chinese medicine urges caution in using Chenpi when red symptoms occur such as red tongue or redness in the face. In addition, pregnant women or those who have menstrual problems should use it carefully.”
In any case, Dripd O’Bitters’ flavor does remind me a bit of Chinotto soda or certain Italian Amari, especially Torani Amer or Amer Picon.
The funk of the Raw Puerh is noticeable in the first few steeps, and not overpowering, while the flavor of the orange develops later, as an aftertaste, or in the later steeps, noticeable as a pleasant bitter flavor on the sides of your tongue. Dripd O’Bitters as a young tea doesn’t have a great deal of re-steepability, but it is a tasty, and warming, diversion for a chilly day.
For the last couple months I’ve mostly been drinking young Raw/Sheng Pu-Erh Tea fresh from factories or distributors that is less than a year or two old.
However, there is another element to consider, which is the aging of Pu-Erh Tea.
To go back over the basics.
All tea comes from varieties and species of the Camellia plant, usually Camellia sinensis or Camellia assamica.
Most Pu-Erh tea is made from varieties of Camellia assamica.
Tea is made by picking the young leaves and buds of Camellia bushes and trees.
After the leaves and buds have been plucked they can be processed by simply drying them relatively quickly. The result of this is what is called “White Tea”.
If, instead of simply drying, you first steam or shock the leaves in a wok, the green color will be fixed, and, after drying, the result is “Green Tea”.
For Pu-Erh Tea, the leaves and buds are allowed to wilt slightly, shocked, (as with green tea,) and then dried. The result is a product called “maocha”, which can then either be aged as it is or steamed slightly and formed into various solid shapes for ease of transport and aging. The most common shape is a disk shape, commonly called a “bing” or “beeng” which will weigh between 100-500g, (357g being the “traditional” weight for a full size bing) . These Bing are usually wrapped in paper and then further wrapped in bamboo leaves in groups of 7, (7, traditionally, but sometimes more or less). This package of 7 tea cakes is called a “tong”.
Pu-Erh collectors and enthusiasts highly prize Pu-Erh which has been stored well for many years.
As you might imagine, the weather in the area where the tea is stored, and the exact conditions of the warehouse it is stored in, affects how fast it matures and the character it takes on.
“Wet Storage” Pu-Erh comes from warehouses in areas like Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Guangdong, which are quite warm and humid in the summer months. In these areas where aging proceeds relatively more rapidly, a 15 year old Pu-Erh might be considered “partially aged” or “aged”, depending on the exact conditions of the warehouse.
“Dry Storage” Pu-Erh is stored in areas where the humidity and temperature are lower in summer and it might be cooler in winter. An example of a common dry storage city in China would be Kunming. Tea stored for 15 years in a dry storage warehouse would still be considered relatively young Pu-Erh.
While it is not intentionally infected with mold spores, (some other Chinese teas are intentionally infected with types of mold,) “Wet Storage” Pu-Erh can take on flavors that resemble mold or mildew, depending on your sensitivity to those flavors. Some may even show mold visually. Some people like those flavors, some do not.
A tea friend of mine is super enthusiastic about wet stored Pu-Erh, so I thought I would give them a try and see how I felt about them.
Conveniently, Yunnan Sourcing offers a Guangdong Aged Raw Pu-Erh Tea Sampler. The teas in the sample are all at least partially aged, most having been stored in Guangdong for around 15 years.
One of my favorite parts about Yunnan Sourcing’s listings for aged teas are warnings like this, “Wrappers may be bug bitten from humid storage conditions. If you are squeamish don’t order this tea!” and this, “Wrappers have disintegrated a bit due to bamboo worms that eat the bamboo leaf tongs. It does not impact the taste of the tea!”
Initial impressions in scent are of smoke. No real Wet Storage Funk, the YS site notes this was stored in, “dry Guangdong conditions”. Presents fairly bitter in early steeps. As the steeps advance changing the smoke evolves to leaf tobacco and finally leather.
Be careful with the steep times on this, or you may find yourself in a little over your head. This is a STRONG in every sense of the word tea, burly and a little harsh, both in flavor and in buzz. I can’t say I find it entirely pleasant.
Pleasant, mildly bitter tea with some astringent notes similar to a black tea. No detectable funky “wet storage” flavors. Lingering complex camphor, herb, and fruit character in the lengthy finish. Strong, clean, fast acting head buzz.
A very well balanced and drinkable tea, especially for the price.
If you want a good example of funky camphor/mushroom “wet storage” raw Pu-erh flavor, this one has it. And from what other people write about this tea, this isn’t even that funky. Not sure I can deal with really funky wet storage, if this is mild!
On the other hand, whatever is growing on it, has transformed the later flavors of the tea into an interesting thick brown sugar-like flavor. No bitterness or astringency. Strong, warming, chest centered buzz.
Early flavors remind me a bit of black tea, but with very little bitterness or astringency. Some mild smoky character. Lengthy sweet aftertaste reminds me a bit of roasted chicory. No musty wet storage character to speak of.
Another very well balanced tea, with a very interesting aftertaste. Might be my favorite of the sample group!
A little smoke in the nose. Mild, well balanced complex flavor with only slight bitterness and astringency. More floral and herbaceous with lingering tobacco, freshly cut wood. No sweetness, but a nice camphor and herb lift in the later steeps.
A very, very good tea, but a completely different experience from the other four.
As an exercise, I find drinking these well aged teas to be a fascinating exercise. But as I contemplate their flavors, I am not sure I find the taste of “Wet Storage” to be my favorite at this point in my life.
Out of the five, two I don’t really enjoy; The Big Yellow Mark is just too rough for me and the “Wet Storage” character of the Big Snow Mountain is just not enjoyable for me. 2 I find intriguing enough that I will enjoy the rest of the sample, Gu Pu-er Cha Ma Gu Dao and Pasha Mountain Gushu. Finally, one I find enjoyable enough I might buy a cake, the Feng Qing Jia Ji Er Deng.
Eris 136199 is a trio composed of Han-Earl Park, guitar; Catherine Sikora, saxophone; and Nick Didkovsky, guitar.
Han-Earl Park tends to explore the dry percussive side of the guitar, often functioning as the de facto rhythm section in Eris 136199.
Catherine Sikora is all about finding the timbral possibilities explicit in the unvarnished and unapologetic sound of the saxophone while at the same time maintaining a core of melodicism.
Nick Didkovsky, sometimes known by his alias “Doctor Nerve”, expresses digitally warped washes of static-like sound and angry slashes of melody. A radio listener flicking impatiently between stations.
I don’t really know how to talk about the music, other than to say it is 50-plus minutes of riveting music making from three fantastic and fascinating musicians. I’ve been listening avidly to Eris 136199 all week on my commute and have looked forward to it every day. Wondering what new thing I will discover in Sikora’s technique while at the same time trying to pay attention and tease out which guitarist is playing what.
Obviously, Eris 136199 isn’t Lawrence Welk, however, there is something in the players expressiveness and in their interactions which prevents it from being too harsh or overwhelming.
Rough enough to keep it exciting, yet tender enough to keep you coming back.
I’ll be a bit sad when this week we’ve had together is over.
“Sing As The Crow Flies was created as a site specific sound installation for the 2019 Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, UK. It can be seen and heard between 2nd August and 8th September 2019. The installation sits around the trunk of a 30 year old Walnut Tree in a cherry orchard where five telephone handsets hang from the tree ready to be picked up by passers-by…”
Bandcamp album description
As beautiful as it is haunting, Sing as the Crow Flies takes its inspiration from the natural world and from choral vocal traditions of England and America.
The sound sources are primarily Cannell and Wright’s voices. Only occasional environmental sounds intrude, bird song, branches creaking, footsteps. There are no other instruments.
The two women’s voices entwine and dance through the air, at times echoing in a space echoing like a cathedral, at other times sounding as if they were recorded in a field.
The album cover, evoking a flock of birds spiraling in the sky, is particularly apt for the way their voices twist, double, and interact with each other with a flocking attraction.
I’ve listened to William Hooker before, but never too closely. I do know he is a improvising drummer who often works with musicians outside of the Free Jazz/Improvisation scene.
This is a live recording of a trio, (William Hooker, Drums; Mark Kirschenmann, Trumpet; and Joel Peterson, bass,) recorded in Detroit, Michigan, spring 2018.
Initially, I was listening, and beyond Mr Hooker on drums, I was at a loss for what the other instruments were. My first impression was that it was a group that contained at least synthesizer, drums, and bass.
After listening for a couple days, I was actually pretty surprised to look at the bandcamp page and realize Mr Kirschenmann was playing a heavily effect laden trumpet. (If you’re a gear head, at the very least, he is playing with a flanger, delay, and some sort of multi-pitch shifting choir type effect. Probably some sort of distortion, too, and a volume pedal.)
The album starts very spare, with a lot of time between notes and no real interaction between the players.
It picks up a bit briefly around the 20 minute mark, but then returns languidity for the slow fade out.
While the drums and bass are not far from idiomatic free jazz expression, the trumpet is more in the pop/art/ambient realm. When it is recognizable as a trumpet, not far from Jon Hassell.
The whole thing is more like ambient space jazz, than what normally passes for free or energy jazz/improvisation.
In fact, the album that came most to mind while listening was Tangerine Dream’s first album, “Electronic Meditation,” except maybe played at about half speed.
Is that good or bad?
I just don’t know.
It’s not really my bag, I found myself impatient with its slow pace of development a lot of the time, but it might be yours.
Falling down a bit on concentrated listening and write-ups. Trying to get back on the horse this week by listening to “The People I Love” by Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn.
Mr Lehman is a somewhat nerdy figure. His playing and ambitious compositions are often somewhat abstract. His last album, Sélébéyone, included Raps, Beats, and electronic processing.
The People I Love is not that. While the playing, especially that of Damion Reid, is often influenced by elements of modern music, this album is basically 4 musicians in a studio playing something often close enough to Jazz Music to pass on Jazz Radio, (if there still was such a thing). There’s even a Ballad, “Chance”. If I had to call it anything, I would call it 21st Century Bebop.
Mr Lehman is an impossibly lithe player on alto, sprinting over the changes at breakneck speed, daring his coplayers to keep up. And they are certainly up to the task, especially Mr Reid whose inventiveness shines out among a group of very talented musicians.
For the Sax nerds in the audience, on this album, Mr Lehman is experimenting in particular with what Sam Newsome calls “microtonal sax”. Which is to say, using alternate fingerings to purposely influence the timbre and intonation of notes.
So, if you are interested in the future of music, it behooves you to check out where Mr Lehman and his compatriots are going.
Steve Lehman, alto sax; Matt Brewer, Bass; Damion Reid, Drums; Craig Taborn, Keyboards.
Another thing you sometimes run into with Pu-er tea is really long names!
“This raw / sheng pu’er tea was picked in Spring 2015 and is a single estate tea from Long Pa 龙怕 Tea Garden in You Le Mountain 攸乐山 (also known as Ji Nuo Mountain 基诺山). The tea trees in this garden are ancient trees at 150 + years old.”
Mud and Leaves
First they give you the the year and season that the tea was harvested. Spring leaves are usually more highly prized, and thus more expensive than tea leaves from the Autumn harvest. They are perceived as being more tender and elegant in the flavor of the tea they produce.
Tianming is the tea company in Menghai that produced the tea.
“Long Pa Tea Garden” is the specific tea tree garden on “You Le” Mountain where the leaves came from. That the tea leaves came from a specific garden and were not blended leaves from the whole mountain or the whole region, makes them more special and seasonal.
“Gushu Ancient Tree” is a bit redundant, as “Gushu” is basically the Chinese word for “Ancient Tree”. This term can be a little squishy, but in this case, we will take Mud and Leaves word for it that the trees these leaves came from were 150+ years old, pretty old for tea trees, though not unusually old, for old Pu’erh tea trees. As the tea trees age, the feeling is that they gain character and the tea they produce has more energy or life force, similar to how doing Tai Chi in an old forest feels different from doing Tai Chi in a parking lot.
Smelling the leaves, you can tell for a pretty young raw Pu’erh this is already starting to shed it’s youthful exuberance and develop some nice dried fruit character!
This follows through in the brewed tea, there is good body to the soup, and a tasty bitterness, which lingers and fades to sweetness. It is all very clean, with no off flavors or smells. The cha qi, or tea energy, is focused and calm.
This is a very nice Pu’erh as it is, but I am super curious how it would develop in a year or five.
*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won from Mud and Leaves after entering an instagram based contest.