Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tea Movie

There's a cool Japanese tea movie called: "Tea Fight" that was released in July of this year.
Here's the link:
Tea Fight

It might be an interesting movie to watch.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Beauty of Tea Ware

Tea utensils can come in all sorts of styles and designs. But whatever the utensil, can you see the inherent beauty in the piece? Some pieces are beautiful just because they are simple. Other pieces are beautiful because the have a special character. Some pieces are beautiful because they are handsomely painted, sometimes by hand. Some pieces are beautiful just because in some way, you find them striking and interesting. Whatever the type of tea ware or tea utensil, always strive to choose ones that are the most beautiful.

Featured here:
Chrysanthemum Patterned Tea Set (white porcelain):
1 Cebei (150 mL)
1 Chahai (175 mL)
6 Tasting cups (30 mL*6)

There is one good thing about a set of tea ware: every piece should visually complement each other. And the capacities of the respective pieces should complement each other too.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008


Some people are monoteaists. That is, day in and day out, 365 days of the year, they only drink one kind of tea. You can find monoteaists all over the world. In parts of southern Fujian, they shun the locally produced tea in favor of Anxi’s Tieguanyin. And they simply refuse to drink other types of tea – even if it’s a really good tea. Some people are monoteaists because – that’s their preferred type of tea; and that’s what they always drink. But isn’t that kind of like the frog in the well who knows nothing of the vastness of the sea beyond?

There are some people who are actually even ateaists. They don’t drink tea at all. Never. Who could live like that? To be an ateaist must be to live a wretched life – to be unknowing of the comforts and pleasures of life – Tea.

Other people are multiteaists. They don’t limit themselves to only one kind of tea. They will drink any kind of tea – red, black, white, yellow, green, compressed, moldy - whatever. And they are more open to trying new teas, and new tea experiences.

All tea comes from one plant – Camellia sinensis. But just like there are many varieties of corn, there are many varieties of tea. And each tea looks different, tastes different and smells different from the next. Some teas have big leaves; some teas have very small, tender leaves. It’s worth trying out different kinds of teas to learn what they are, and understand the differences and similarities. Multiteaism is good. Now let’s have some blue corn tortillas and green tea.

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Does green turn you off?

Some people say no-no to green teas. They say green is not their cup of tea. Maybe their first encounter with a green tea was horrendous. Green tea, if prepared improperly can be vilely bitter. But that is not the true nature of green tea.

Some people, having mainly experienced drinking red teas (the stuff in teabags) seem to expect green tea to taste similar. And they even think green tea should be brewed using the same methods as for the teabag stuff. If you’re one of these people, we understand. It’s totally not your fault. If you read the label on those boxes and cans of green tea, it actually says to use boiling water. And that’s the problem right there: you actually read and followed the instructions. Boy, are you dumb! (Just kidding!)

See, green tea is a more delicate kind of experience. Green teas like warm water, not boiling hot water. And some green teas are so delicate, they can almost be brewed in room-temperature water, and still be pretty decent to drink.

Green tea is a little tricky to prepare properly. If the water is too hot, it won’t be palatable. If the steeping time is too long, it’s undrinkable. If the water temperature is too cool, the tea will be lacking in flavor. If too few leaves are used, the tea may be tasteless. If too many leaves are used, the tea may become bitter. All of these – amount of leaf, water temperature, steeping time, and quality of leaf need to be taken into consideration when making green tea.

If green tea is not your favorite, please give it a second try. Green tea is not bitter – really. In fact, many green teas have a slight sweetness of taste to them. So try the green again. You won’t be disappointed.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Less Is More

Ever wonder why gongfu cups are so small? Every time my friend comes over to my house, he's always telling me: "Your cups keep getting smaller and smaller. Don't you have any regular cups in your house?" Or sometimes at tea he will say: "I don't want to drink a dropful, I want to drink a mouthful!"

Other people ask: "How can you drink from such a small cup? Don't you get thirsty?"

Yes, a gongfu tea cup, or tasting cup (pin ming bei), as they're known, are pretty small; with the average gongfu cup holding about 20 mL of fluid.

But they're intentionally made small for several reasons. Chances are, if you're drinking from a big cup, you're gulping down liquid. But with gongfu cups, you can't do that. You need to sip slowly and appreciate the taste of the tea. It's not about quenching thirst; it's about savoring the flavor of the tea. Also, drinking from such a small cup can help you see the color of the tea more clearly. If you pour a large quantity of tea into a cup, you get a darker, murky color. The gongfu cup keeps the color lighter. You can judge the quality of a tea by the color of the infusion. So using a gongfu cup can help with that. As well, if you poured your tea into a big cup, the aromas dissipate, and you can't smell anything. Using a gongfu cup, you can smell the fragrance of the tea more clearly. Basically, you waste the tea by pouring it into a big cup because: you gulp it down without thinking to savor the flavor of the tea; your tea is murky, so you don't notice the true nature of the tea; and you can't get your nose near enough to smell the tea fragrance.

So if you really want to waste your money; and waste your tea, then drink it from a big cup. But you won't do that now, because you know why gongfu teacups are used. Of course, if you're really thirsty, please use a big cup. An iced oolong is nice once in awhile. But when drinking good tea, it's kind of uncouth to use a big cup. It's much better to pour tea into several gongfu cups and share the tea with friends, so you can have shared enjoyment, and a shared experience of tea.

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Get Off the Freakin Coffee! (tea neurosis - but it's normal)

Yes, I pity my camellia deprived friends. They spend their whole lives (or mornings, at least) in a half-asleep stupor until they have their coffee. They seem unable to function without the stuff. They go around with their little coffee lives, stopping for coffee on the way to work, having coffee at work, and worst of all, offering us - Teaists a cup of the dreaded stuff. Of course we gracefully decline, saying that we burnt our tongue on toast, and drinking anything hot would be forever too painful. But in our minds we are thinking: "Who would want to drink coffee anyway? Drinking the stuff gives you coffee breath. And besides, my tea palette is too precious to be ruined by such an odoriferous substance."

We Teaists live a good, clean, healthy tea life. It's not at all like those coffee freaks who gulp down their black stuff while inhaling a cigarette. No, no, those are not for us. We want to be clean and odor-free so we can smell the pure fragrance of our tea without distraction. And we want to be able to appreciate the unadulterated taste of tea. Our tongues are super-sensitive gustation machines.

And we absolutely hate it when other people fondle our tea things. It should be illegal to hold tea things until you have taken a course and are proficient in Tea Thing Handling. Yeah, that would greatly reduce the unnecessary cracking of a gaiwan, the heart-wrenching shattering of a gaiwan lid, the senseless breaking of a teapot handle. Yes, the world would be a much happier place if only those un-thinking people listened in the first place to the words "Don't touch that!"

But life goes on and what is broken is broken - an experience well learned and memories of glorious tea brewing in a piece well used. What are you doing? Are you crazy? Put that broom away. It's sacrilege to throw out my broken but still cherished gaiwan like it was nothing. No, I will instead keep the jagged little pieces in a bowl, as a memorial. And when I am done mourning - say after 3 years, and after many fallen comrades are committed to the "broken bowl", I will bury them all together, in the earth - for future generations to discover, and marvel at tea drinking customs of the early 21st century.

If you're a coffee drinker, do you now see what you're missing? Can you finally feel the void in your life now? Do you finally realize how senseless it is to go on with your life in a camellia deprived state? How can you live like that? How can anyone live like that? To drink tea is to enjoy a full, rich life. To be a Teaist is normal, albeit a little neurotic, but perfectly normal. Get a grip on yourself. Get some tea. And if you have to, seek professional help. Don't let yourself go like that. There is hope for you, really. Others like you were once coffee addicts; but their lives were saved because of tea. The soul is not complete without Tea.

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Chapan Care

Some chapan are made of wood, some of bamboo, some of stone, some of dense plastic, some of other materials. But whatever material they're made of, they all need daily care to keep them maintained in good shape.

If you're using a chapan daily, as most people do in Fujian, then you need to pay more attention to cleaning every day. The chapan is a necessary utensil; and it is ubiquitous in Fujian. You see one in hotel lobbies, you see them in offices of car dealerships, you see them in waiting rooms attached to school offices, you see them in homes, you see them in restaurants. In fact, you can find a chapan in just about every home, office, or anywhere else people have to wait for periods of time. These chapan are doing their duty every day, draining away liquids. And day after day, year after year, they get used. Some are so well used, the finish is worn off the top. Or, some are covered in rich, brown tea stains all over. Some have a hose that is thickly caked with tea sediment on the inside. They all show signs of age, but still just as useful as new.

Over years of service, your chapan will also show signs of wear. Here are some tips to help keep yours in good shape.

Use a Brush
When at home, you can use a small brush to sweep excess liquid and tea fines toward the drain hole.

Use Tea Towels
You can use tea towels to wipe your chapan down between sessions. This helps to cut down on tea stain buildup. Have extra tea towels on hand - because they get soaked quickly.

After finishing use of the chapan for the day, wipe it down thoroughly so there's no standing water on top. This will help preserve the finish.

Change the Hose
After use for a period of time, the hose will become heavily tea stained, and may become unsightly. If that's the case, then change it. You can buy an extra length of hose at any length you need at a hardware store.

Change the Waste Bucket
Your waste bucket will sit on the floor, collect waste tea liquid, and waste tea leaves. It gets used often, but most people neglect it. Then, it will become heavily tea stained, and ugly. It's best to empty it at the end of the day, and wash it with soap. Placing a little mat or rug under this bucket is also desirable, so your floor won't get tea stained.

It's Not a Cutting Board
If you really want to protect your chapan, then don't use it for other purposes other than brewing tea. Don't use it as a surface for cutting up fruit, for example.

Clearing Clogs
If your chapan gets plugged up with bits of leaf, then you should first remove any visible bits of leaf. Then, you can place your palm over the drain hole and lightly plunge with your palm. The problem should clear up right away. But if water is still not draining away, then maybe the hose either has a kink, or the hose is too long. The hose should not touch the bottom of the bucket. Try moving the hose around to see if that solves the problem.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Gongfu Tea a.k.a. Fist of Tea Cup

Ever wonder what gongfu tea has to do with gong fu, or kung fu, as it's commonly known? Is a practitioner of gongfu tea awesomely deadly? More important, if I search for a master, prove I'm worthy, and study gongfu tea, can I become totally wicked? Yeah... Maybe so. Let's check it out:

The answer is YES!!! If you study gongfu tea, you can be awesomely deadly, BUT... maybe only if you carelessly spill hot water on your guests and they get a severe scalding. And, you're thinking: "Is that it?" No, no, not to disappoint. There's more.

Actually, if you studied gongfu tea, scalding people shouldn't happen. In fact, the only person you might scald is yourself. See, you have to handle a gaiwan, which is a handless cup. And you can easily scald your fingers on it each time you brew tea. So it takes a lot of practice not to scald your fingers. Or, you can just desensitize your hands by continuously thrusting them into a wok of hot sand. (See, I just knew watching all those old kung fu movies wasn't a waste of time!)

But what about the tongue? That can get scalded too. What do I do? Yes, tongues frequently do get scalded by people whose qi is very weak. That's why we practice the secret tongue qigong every day so that we can drink our cup of tea at any temperature - even at 98 deg. C. Oops! I said too much about that already. I won't tell you anymore about this tongue qigong stuff. It's an ancient Chinese secret, anyway. Shhhh!

Yeah, you can be totally awesome if you learn gongfu tea. You can show people your awesome skills by brewing the most excellent cup of tea that anyone has ever had. And if people like your tea, then by default, they will have to like you. That means, if you happen to do some gongfu tea-ing for some girls, then they will like you. Bonus, dude! Gongfu tea is a major chick magnet! Forget about hanging around all those pumped-up muscle guys, hoping they can hook you up, just go make some tea! Dude, it's in the tea!

Now that you know that, are ya thinkin of gettin more serious into the gongfu tea? (Your answer: "Oh yeah, man, for sure"). Well, Grasshopper, let's take a deeper look:

The word gong fu (功夫) just means skill. Kung fu is a martial art that is learned through practice, training, and discipline. Gongfu tea is also an art that is learned through practice and training and discipline (read: dedication). It takes time to learn. Some people say, you can study tea for a lifetime and never finish learning.

Gongfu tea is the skilled preparation and serving of tea: the boiling of water, preparation of utensils, selection of tea, steeping the leaves, pouring the tea, serving the tea. These all require skill. And there's so much more to it. And, in fact, just like kung fu, there are a lot of cool moves to maneuver in gongfu tea. Some of the moves or forms, or whatever, are kind of reminiscent of Tai Chi.

Where in Japan did gongfu tea originate? What??!! It's not from Japan, man, it's from China! How come you guys always get China, Japan, and Korea mixed up? Chinese, Japanese and Koreans don't look anything alike. What's wrong with you? We live in a global village, a global economy, and we're world citizens now man, get with it. Don't be getting all 20th century on me now.

Ok, enough of that.

Gongfu tea originated in southern China. More specifically, Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces. In Guangdong, they practice the Chaozhou Style of Gongfu tea. Where exactly? In Chaozhou. Yeah.. I know your geography ain't too good. You shouldn't have skipped classes too much to go party it up in your youth. And you should have been watching PBS documentaries instead of music videos, metal head.

And, finally getting that out of my system...

Then, in Fujian, the whole province does gongfu tea. But over there, there are maybe 2 major schools: Anxi Style and Wuyi Style. Up in Zhejiang, they got gongfu tea, but I'm not sure what school. Oh, and there's Taiwan Style - they got them sniffing cups, but those Taiwan people claim they're not Chinese, so I won't go there. It gets too weird.

I know what you're thinking: "Wouldn't it look cool if they made a kung fu movie that had all these different styles of gong fu tea in it too?" Yeah... It would. That would be one kick-ass movie.

There, now you know about gongfu tea. Maybe you can try it out, and later show me some of your deadly moves!!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tea: It's Totally Normal!

Did you know? Tea is the world’s most widely consumed beverage after water. Billions of people are drinking tea every day all over the globe. Here’s the good news: if you drink tea, you’re with the in-crowd!!

Not only is tea hip, it’s good for your health too. Tea is rich in antioxidants, which can prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. And tea has many many other health benefits too. So tea is good for you!

Who drinks tea?

Tea is not just for dainty little ladies drinking tea with their pinkies out. No, no, it's much more than that. Well, okay, maybe the flower-patterned tea cups with saucers are kind of dainty, and cute, but it's cool. So there.

Actually, many highly esteemed people drink tea:

Royalty drinks tea. In ancient China, many teas became so-called "tribute teas", and were sent to the imperial court. Even Chinese emperors, like Hui Zong Zhao Ji of the Song Dynasty were famous tea people. In fact, he personally wrote a book on tea.

Modern scholars versed in the classics drink tea. Ancient scholars also drank tea; many of whom actually authored some of the tea classics.

Poets drink tea. And tea is the subject of their poetry. Ancient poets also drank tea. And tea was also the subject of much of their poetry. Famous Chinese poets like Li Bai, Du Fu, Du Mu, Bai Ju Yi, Su Dong Po and Wang An Shi all wrote tea poems.

Philosophers drink tea. Ancient philosophers like Zhu Xi were serious about tea.

Artists drink tea. Tea is the subject or theme of their paintings, both in modern and ancient times.

Tea drinkers do great things for society. For example, they collect tea utensils, which are loaned or donated to museums and art galleries.

Not only that, the average joe drinks tea, peasants drink tea, moms drink tea, dads drink tea, kids drink tea. Everyone is drinking tea!! And why not? It's normal to drink tea. Tea is cool.

In fact, tea drinkers are revered as gods! Lu Yu, who wrote the first book on tea, "The Classic of Tea", was worshipped as the "God of Tea" in the Tang Dynasty. Back in the day, tea merchants had statues made in the likness of Lu Yu. And when business was bad, they would pour boiling water over him as punishment! Ouch!! That's gotta hurt!

I drink tea, and why not? Whenever I drink tea, I'm proud of myself; because I feel like I'm up there with the big guys. Imagine me, sharing tea with ancient Chinese scholars. Magnificent!

So what are you waiting for? Are you drinking your tea yet?

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