18 May, 2008


Please raise your hand if you're familiar with the Mumonkan. One, two, ... not many.

That's understandable, it's one of the strangest books one could read, being filled with Zen koans [answerless riddles for meditation]. There is some seriously strange writing in the Mumonkan, which is its raison d'etre. I like to dip into it for some random wisdom / strangeness from time to time. Recently, I read the following:


Truly, words have no power.
Even though the mountain becomes the sea,
Words cannot open another's mind.

-Mumonkan, 27
A later conversation with my dear wife led me to relate this to something that I've been quietly observing on the ol' Half-Dipper: you may have noticed the surfeit of words here. There are a lot of them about. Many of them are attempting to record impressions, feelings, instantaneous tastes, aromas, and sensations.

Ordinarily, this is fine - I get a record of how various teas affect me, and my assessment of them; you, the eternally patient Reader, get to tolerate this nonsense and provide valuable contributions / corrections where necessary. Most beneficial of all, we get to sit around and talk tea.


Angel and Greyhound Meadow
(Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.)

I've noticed, on occasion, that my humble recommendations have led to a rush on certain teas. While very flattering (it's much more than these notes are worth than to consider them reliable records), I don't want you, Gentle Reader, to be disappointed - and would always recommend testing a tea before buying.

My words are just that. I would never claim to be a master (and harbour a secret distrust of anyone that styles themselves thus), but it is said that "I can describe the water to you, but it won't cure your thirst." The only real way to get a solid recommendation is to sample it for yourself - but please do sample it. The thought of someone doing these words the honour of following them without sampling is really infinitely more than they are worth, and surely - my taste will differ from yours, in some way, at some time.

I'm always struck when comparing notes with teachums - though I trust their opinions with deep respect, and admire their ability to discern subtle flavours and characteristics that I cannot, we seldom agree. In fact, we tend to disagree more than we agree. With some, this is more prevalent (CB, I'm looking at you here!).

So take all this with a fairly hefty pinch of salt, I implore you.

A Hefty Pinch of Salt
(A fairly hefty pinch of salt.)


speakfreely said...

That IS a hefty pinch of salt! Unfortunately, I've got health issues to resolve before I can drink caffeinated beverages again, so I won't be able to pleasantly disagree with you about tea for a while.

小 約翰 said...

Taste is truly personal, and, changes over time. john

Hobbes said...

Dear CB,

Fingers and toes are well and truly crossed for you. :)

Incidentally, I wonder if your quality of sleep will change, staying away from caffeine.

Dear John,

Evolution of tastes is quite a thing - the "me" in five years will seldom resemble the "me" from the present. That said, I find "quality" endures - the best books from my undergraduate years that I still enjoy are the "best quality" - those classics that have already endured the centuries. Maybe we can look for the same in our tea, to best appeal to the tastes of our future selves. :)

Toodlepip both,


Georgia's Work at Home Journal said...

Very interesting -- the different processes with teas.
Pictures were good , too.
Might I add-- for the commenter who can't take caffeinated beverages, there are now "healthy" teas and coffees containing an herbal mushroom called ganolucidum. Look it up in Pub Med.

Hobbes said...

Dear Georgia,

Thanks for the tip - I've not heard of ganolucidum. Anything that makes me lucid can't be bad... :)



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Anonymous said...

Amazing to think that at certain times and in certain places that mountain of salt would have inspired greater wonder than a mountain of gold.

PS I truly enjoy the beautiful clarity of your blog, your pictures, and your prose. Thank you!

Hobbes said...

Thanks muchly for the kind words, Anonymous. It's odd how a commodity can come to value. Today tea, tomorrow... clean water?