19 August, 2009

2002 Shengpu - The Unknown Soldier

My boss often claims that he does his best thinking in the shower - to the point where he is allegedly considering putting some sort of waterproof whiteboard in there to scribble down his ideas. My wife claims that she does her best thinking in a similar environment.

Everyone needs their space.

For me, quelle surprise, it's the tea table.


2002 Shengpu KCJ
A mystery 2002 cake


The minute I get into my office, daily life crashes into me. To-do lists. Students with graphs. Administrators with forms. Meetings, papers, reports, programs. The odd bit of actual teaching or research. Little room for thoughts, no space for thinking and pondering. Fighting fires. (Though it's great fun.)

Back at the tea-table, it's a different story.


2002 Shengpu KCJ


Emptying out a busy mind, it all gets quieter and quieter until there's just the sound of me sipping tea.

It is fitting that a recent meditative session took place in the company of a mystery shengpu kindly provided by KCJ. This is a cake bought in Beijing with little information - it's an unknown soldier.

I knew that this tea was going to be special before I even approached the tea-table, just from my mood. Even now, as I pen these words, my skin tingles. I feel unburdened.


2002 Shengpu KCJ


The colour of the dry leaves, shown at the start of this article, has a slight orange-brown tinge to it, which makes me think of savoury, Lincang flavours. The soup turns out to be orange with a slight brown-yellow tinge, again making me think of savoury grain. In the flavour, plenty of grain.

This tea is a wildnerness: wild honey, wild herbs, wild grasses. My nose clears, my mouth awakens, my eyes feel calm and sharp.

Clock ticking on the bookshelf.

Pen scratching lightly on paper.

Tetsubin singing quietly while it cools.

16 comments:

Fortunato said...

Love your tea set ! Great reviews...

Bert said...

I'm interested:
How long does it take bringing the water to a boil with your hotplate?

And the ceramic jar underneath your table, is it a tea water storage jar?

Best wishes,
Robert

Hobbes said...

Dear Fortunato,

Thanks - kind of you to say so. :)


Dear Bert,

Not too long. Each time, I boil enough water for the infusion, plus enough to leave a little "buffer" in the tetsubin, so perhaps 200ml in total. It takes a short while, and I often tend to overlap the heating of water for the next infusion while I am enjoying the last of the current infusion.

Yes, the green ceramic Denby whatnot is for holding water. It has a graceful swan-like spout, which makes it perfect for getting over the opening of the tetsubin and pouring in water for the next infusion.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Steven Knoerr said...

I was envying your personal tea table, when my wife said, "Well, if you get a couple more clients [for our closed-captioning business, the marketing of which is a burden to me], then you can build one *right there.*

So, thank you for inspiring me to make those prospect calls.

Hobbes said...

Dear Steven,

All's well that ends well. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Terje said...

I'm jealous of your set-up, what a great spot to enjoy tea! Inspired by your respect for pu-erh, I've invited a few fellow students to taste some pu-erh. I will offer 2008 Menghai 8582 and Da Yi Jia Ji Tuo,2007 Nanjian Fenghuang and 2009 Mengku Meng Jie. If they do not find it enjoyable, I'll can always give them som Dianhong.

Terje

Bert said...

Dear Hobbes,

I have a induction plate which I used for my tetsubin but was annoyed by the noise it makes. Now I am thinking about to buy either a water cooker or a hotplate. My worry is a hotplate could take too long but I never thought about heating water just for one or two infusions at a time..

Is the purpose of the water jar in not having to run to the tap all the time or is it meant for improving the water quality?

Best wishes,
Robert

andrew said...

the tea looks tasty and mysterious and the poem at the end is very much alive. i like the movement, (though I almost knocked into the tetsubin!)

Hobbes said...

Dear Terje,

I'm very happy to hear that your chums will be getting in on the action. Social (tea!) drinking is a great way to introduce new people to experiences that they might not otherwise be able to access. Might I recommend the inclusion of something smooth and woody in your line-up (perhaps even a shupu) to give them something from the other end of the spectrum? :)


Dear Bert,

I know the feeling of a noisy inductor only too well. I'm not sure what you mean by "water cooker" - is that a Zojirushi?

I can heartily recommend a tetsubin or clay kettle sitting on a hot-plate, however. The latter are highly inexpensive. The waiting period isn't very long at all, particularly if you overlap it with the drinking of the previous infusion, and I believe that the results are well worth it. There's something more elemental and satisfying about having a container of water heating up on something that's hot!

The purpose of the water jar: both of the above. Primarily, it's so that I can get water into the tetsubin easily, because the containers in which the water is sold are unwieldy. They are also plastic, and unpleasant, and it's more pleasant to look at a Denby pouring jug (though I believe its intended role is as a traditionally large ceramic kettle for brewing "English" style).

Some say that leaving out water in porcelain containers can improve its quality. There are famous Dynastic water jars to that effect. I haven't come to a conclusion, but my water is "aged" accidentally, simply because it gets left out in the water jug from the day before. :)


Dear Andrew,

Thanks very much! You know, unaccomplished though my poetry undoubtedly is, it's one of the things I like most about writing my journals (and writing on the Half-Dipper). I use the writing of poetry as a metric by which to measure my state of well-being. If I'm not writing poetry, I am obviously hurried and going through a busy phase. If I'm writing poetry, it reflects a certain pace in my life that I try to encourage. :)


Toodlepip all,

Hobbes

speakfreely said...

Lovely post. Exudes peace. Your tea table looks like the proverbial "happy place" one can retreat to inwardly in times of stress. I've gone back there several times just because I like to look at it.

speakfreely said...

P.S. Today, drinking infusions from that fabulous 98 Menghai Peacock Tuo you sent me. Thanks again.

Hobbes said...

Dear CB,

That makes me decidedly chuffed! What a compliment.

I'm also very glad to read that you're enjoying the 98 Peacock - I love that little tea, and it's almost all gone! Tiny but delicious. :)


Best wishes,

Hobbes

Terje said...

To Hobbes

My little tea party was a success! My firends found the sheng somewhat bitter, but agreed that there was "something" present in the tea that was very enjoyable. The sight of the shupu, which my italian friend referred to as "dried horse manure", left everybody uneasy at first, but eventually they came around - all in all it was a great evening. My polish friend has even placed a small order with YS including a gaiwan. We may have saved another one from the dark side! Ending the evening with a few guinness, I felt very pleased having shared my passion for something very unusual here in the land of the vikings.

ps. loved your snow at dusk, the poem made me start the day with some wandering thought. Keep it up!

Hobbes said...

Deat Terje,

Godo work, sir!

I'm also impressed to hear that Norweigans drink Guiness!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Terje said...

It's the only beer I've ever liked, but it is somewhat troublesome to find other than in a can.

Hobbes said...

It's good in Dublin! Believe the hype :)