16 March, 2015

You Can't Choose Your Parents

There I was, whining extensively about a long-standing illness of some insignificant magnitude.  Then, during the middle of drinking the tea described below, my youngest son developed laboured breathing, and we whisked him (i) to the GP / family doctor, and subsequently (ii) onto the Emergency Department of our nearby hospital.  

The sight of my dear little chap connected up to nasal cannulae and pulse oximeters was heart-rending.  I stayed the night and the next day, handing over to my dear wife for the second night, before returning for my "shift" the night after.  The little fellow recovered from what was diagnosed as a grim chest infection that aggravated an atopic reaction inherited from his father (sorry, my son).  That's genetics for you.  I have always maintained that parents suck.

Happily, after two days, my Little Dragon was entirely recovered; the Children's Hospital kept him under observation for a further day-and-a-half due to "risk factors on the father's side" (sorry again), by which time he was (almost literally) bouncing off the walls and ready to be discharged.  Nothing can **** up a hospital ward like a recovered infant ready to go home.

I took this episode as a reminder to (i) be thankful for every day of good health, for both me and my family, and (ii) whine less in the presence of minor ailments that pale in comparison to a two-year-old dude fighting genetic disadvantages (sorry again).  You really cannot choose your parents.

Surely packages such as this must have difficulty getting through airport Customs

By the time I got home, having not slept for two days, the sight of unfinished tea from Teaclassico (thx, Neil) was welcome - but not as welcome as having everyone back at home once it was all over.

All hairy tea is good tea.

Drinking this 2005 CNNP "Nannuo Mountain Wild Raw" was, therefore, rather an emotional affair.  The cake was made as a special order, with all cakes bought from by just two dealers from the original instigating party.

Pictured above, no tea would be complete without thick, black Chinese hair embedded in the maocha.  It's what makes pu'ercha GREAT.  If you're not drinking some crusty tea-dude's body by-products along with your tea, then you're just not living.

For added bonus crustiness, the neifei had fragmented to the point at which it was embedded (along with the hair) in the surface of the cake, as shown above.  Again, if you're not drinking manky label-paper printed with probably-toxic Chinese inks then you're really not doing it right.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  Unless it introduces comorbidities that you could without.

Gentle Reader, you already know that pu'ercha is the rancid, Satanic backend of the tea-world, and so I know you're OK with the introduction of manifold pathogens in your tea.  You knock this stuff back daily, so this is not news to you.

The cake itself is darned green, it must be said.  Its colour is actually green - the colour of gangrenous flesh.  I know, this just adds to the appeal.  You're insatiable.

After ten alleged years of storage, it has a heavy yellow-green colour and a soft, warming character.  There is strength aplenty, and its truly green nature makes me wonder if it has been stored in a dry environment; I would not have guessed it was from 2005, to be honest.

It is soft and fruity, and that's just fine when your little dude is recovering from time in hospital.  There is "spring meadow" character that reminds me of Nannuoshan teas gone by.  Apricots, dried fruits, a husky edge - it is CNNP, playing nicely.


Frankly, it was a bit weird being in the Emergency Department where I do some of my research, and yet experiencing the place as a "customer", rather than being in my usual place, on the other side of the arrangement.  I must say that I prefer the latter, but am grateful for the rocking standard of care that the university hospital turns out - the UK National Health Service is universally supported by all British folk for a reason.  With national elections coming up, the various parties compete to demonstrate how they will protect it, and, after my trip with Xiaolong, I'm very glad that they do so.

Ganymede, Haumea

which is bigger
Ganymede, Haumea
or a blue whale?

09 March, 2015

It Came from Canadia

To quote many of Keanu Reeves' best on-screen moments of dialogue, "Woah".

It would not be accurate to say that Hilary term has been kicking my posterior.  Rather, the effect that term has had on me has been altogether something worse.  Some terms are fun, some terms are bustling, some terms are exciting - this term has been the academic equivalent of experiencing "enhanced interrogation techniques".

I have been ill with a nondescript, irritating, wet-blanket of a condition for a period of approximately two weeks, with no sign of improvement.  The body simply cannot heal itself if you spend your time running around all day, from 6.30 a.m. to 9 p.m., without breaks.  Every.  Single.  Day.

So, at the end of 6th week, I methunk "enough is enough", and decided to have a day off.  Meetings cancelled; lecture cancelled; supervisions cancelled; tutorials cancelled; dinner cancelled.  I just stayed in bed, perspiring quietly to myself for around 24 hours.

It worked wonderfully.


The next day, I was feeling as kosher as Christmas.

To celebrate, I busted out an attractive-looking parcel recently received as a generous gift from Jalam Teas.  In Canadia, even the postal stamps are pretty.

I don't know much about Jalam Teas, but I do know that they are run by Jeff Fuchs, and I recall making an unfair joke at the expense of his name in an article some months ago, which now eludes me.  I think that Mr. Fuchs (ahem) is a photographer - the parcel from his company came with a card alluding to that fact, and which was backed with a stylish picture of a Hani minority female.  The whole enterprise is "slick" in appearance, which is to say carefully professional.

Edit: "some months ago" is, it seems last year: "Nothing More to Laos"

Expecting a sample of something expensive, I was amazed to find a xiaobing inside, the price of which is actually extremely reasonable (something like $20 to "members" - but I think that "members" are posted a cake of this as part of a monthly arrangement).

Already, I am feeling good about Jalam - the prospect of decent-looking xiaobing being sold for a reasonable price immediately endears itself to my sense of fair play.

...and look good this xiaobing certainly does.  It has been made from Bangpen leaves (translated as "Bang Pun" in the non-pinyin text), which comes from the Bulangshan region, and where those leaves have been preserved very nicely indeed.  We have large, long leaves on offer, which have been loosely compressed into a tidy little 100g cake.

This cake has the clean, uncompromising bitterness that I have come to appreciate from the greater Bulang zone, and yet it is a summer harvest: these are notoriously "accessible" affairs - the kind of thing that you might give to someone so as not to offend them - and yet the result, here, is very welcome.  It consists of a pollenated, heavy summertime characteristic that works rather well, combined with the good ol' Bulang punishment.

Perhaps this is the stuff teaclubs are made of: shupu and easy-going shengpu, so as not to terrify the median tea-drinker.  However, the result is so nicely made, and so very interesting, that I am rather impressed for the "drink-it-now" capability that such a teaclub must surely provide.

If you're rushed for time, and are in the market for decent, "curated" samples, then Jalam seems (on the strength of this one cake, and its pricing) to be worth a second look.

Ironically, I'm a little too rushed for time to be a member of such a club, as my drinking occurs so randomly.  However, when recovering from rush-induced bugs, I found this Bangpen Xiaobing to be packed with summertime drink-it-now charm.  If you like summer teas, or pollenated teas, this might be worth a random sample.

Beijing raindrop
even you cannot wash away
the traveller's cold