30 July, 2014

How to Read a Haiku

Gentle Reader, you may have noticed one or two haiku cropping up on this humble web-site.  Indeed, at the time of writing, the "haiku" tag has been used here 256 times, which is a pleasingly round number in binary.

However, the appreciation of haiku is not ubiquitous, which surprised me.  My surprise is best illustrated with an anecdote.

A few years ago, I was back at the family house for Christmas.  It must have been five years ago or so.  I had my feet up, and was reading the entirely excellent third edition of Haiku Anthology, by Cor van der Heuvel.  This is one of my favourite books, and I often travel with it, and read it over and over again.

I had just settled down, when my brother, who was also home for Christmas, rounded on me: "Haiku?  How can you enjoy them?! They are so pretentious!"

I was floored.  Haiku, to my mind, are the exact opposite of pretention - after all, are they not maximally wabi-sabi, the very embodiment of the Japanese humble aesthetic?  A celebration of the tiny and immediate?  Infused with the character of Zen itself?

I put this thought to my brother.  He promptly chortled, as if I had just proven his point.  Cosmologists are like that.

This exchange has often returned to me.  How could sentient beings possibly find haiku pretentious?  It is a thought that sits inside me like a koan, a riddle with no solution.

We are led, then, to a demonstration, Gentle Reader: I would, if you will tolerate the indulgence, very much like to read a haiku with you.  If this is not your thing, and you're here for the tea, then I look forward to seeing you at the next article.  For those still with me, let us proceed...

plip! plop! plip!
the sinking plumstones disturb
fish beneath the punt

This is a whimsical little haiku, from a time when my dear wife and I were having some time off together.  Let us this time, however, not explain the haiku, but read it together.

The secret to reading a haiku is very much the same secret as to drinking a very good tea: we must proceed extremely slowly, in little sips, a tiny part at a time.  One. Word. At. A. Time.

The haiku, after all, is very (very) small.  Every single word counts, and therefore every single word in a good haiku has been selected by the writer with the maximum amount of care.  Every possible, feasibly economy has been taken to boil the essence of the haiku down to its essential ingredients.  There is nothing loose, nothing flabby, nothing extraneous: it is lean poetry, from which nothing further can be taken away.  This latter is of crucial importance: it is something from which nothing further can be taken away(If you have ever read bad writing, then you know the importance of constant reduction.  A good editor is fearless in expressing the ability to reduce a text.)

There are "rules" for haiku - they are not (despite what you may have learned in school) groups of 5-7-5 syllables.  Their subject matter is quite well defined, and the manner in which that subject matter is expressed is also quite well defined.  One cannot simply cram any old words into 5-7-5, as a schoolchild might, for the result is not a haiku.

The rules are important, up to a point. Like zazen itself, the purpose of the rules is not to foster blind adherence to some arbitrary framework: the rules are there for a reason.  The rules are there to guide one to an appreciation of what it is that makes a haiku.  The rules are the finger pointing at the moon, and not the moon itself.

Ultimately, when one has come to an understanding of what makes a haiku, then the rules are irrelevant and the rules may be broken.  Just like zazen.  However, the rules cannot be broken until that understanding exists.  Once there is understanding, then there are no rules.  I often return to Basho on this point, master of both zazen and haiku, when he spoke on haiku poetry to his students:

"Learn the rules, and then forget them."

A haiku is, like a great tea, a snapshot of a moment.  It is timely, in the sense that it represents a time: one particular moment, snatched from the stream of moments, preserved forever in the form of a brief, carefully-selected number of words, each hanging on the last, and each bringing the reader's attention to that one, special moment: that "a-hah!" moment, which is the purpose of the haiku.  The haiku is a process, a series of steps, and every step, and therefore every word, is very important.  A haiku is a process of gradual revelation.

Let us return to my humble haiku:

plip! plop! plip!
the sinking plumstones disturb
fish beneath the punt

The first line is a series of three noises, three things falling into water.  They have fallen in sequence.

plip! plop! plip!

They have also fallen with pauses between them, hence the exclamation marks, which obliges us to read the words with pauses between them (if we are reading carefully).  An earlier draft of this haiku had "plip-plop-plip", which is a much faster rhythm.  In the final version, those noises are slow, with pauses between them, and that is satisfying.  Whatever it is that is falling into the water feels as if it has some pleasing density.  Only dense things make that sound when they fall in water.

What is falling?  Are they stones?  We might be reminded of one of Basho's most famous haiku, frogpond.  Allusions to frogpond are a common hobby of the haiku writer over the centuries.  We are, at least, reminded of the zazen connotations of frogpond: the disturbance of the smooth surface of the water by the frog, and the sound: plop!  Frogpond is irreverent, a little silly, and very zen.

We take some more sips from the cup:

the sinking plumstones

Someone is eating!  There is a person in this haiku.  It is important in haiku never merely to document experience, but to describe a moment.  Haiku are not ugly descriptions of past events, but are eternally present - they pull the reader into that moment that they have captured, and they do this by being active.

Therefore, someone is actually in the process of eating at the moment of this haiku - we are not alone, and we are with someone who is eating - someone who is eating plums.  Likewise, the plumstones are falling one by one, just as if someone is currently eating - discarding each plumstone after the flesh has been eaten, rather than sinking a pile of plumstones that have previously been eaten.  The eating is on-going, that is our moment.  We are in this eating moment, active and participating.

We suspect that the person may be at leisure, because the stones are being slowly deposited into water, one after another.  We have also, although we may not have noticed, just read the kigo.  This is the season-word, that places the haiku in time: here, "plumstones".  The rules are there to be forgotten, and not every haiku has a kigo, but this one does.  We know that we are in summer, when the plums are ready to be eaten.

We are also at leisure near the water, and that also suggests summer.  Suddenly, thanks to the kigo, we have a feeling of context, and where to place this haiku in time.  We have a feeling of summer warmth, to accompany the feeling of summer leisure.

We take another sip, from the cup, trying to determine its flavour:

the sinking plumstones disturb

The break formed by the lines is very important to haiku, because it makes the rhythm of the poem.  It is understood that the reader is reading in lines, with breaks between them.  In the original Japanese, there is an additional layer of subtlety (the kireji, or cutting word), which is also a part of the better haiku in English, often achieved through meter or a special word.  Here, we have disturb: a direct and active cutting word, which also happens to fall at the end of a line.

We know that the reader will pause after reading "disturb", and so they are left with the compound feeling of having someone with them, who is eating plumstones, that they are at leisure, in the summer, that they are dropping stones one by one into water - and yet what is being disturbed?  We have some ideas.  What could be disturbed in the summer, in the water?

We finish the cup:  

fish beneath the punt.

 We have "a-hah!"  This is a water-borne eater, sitting on a punt!  We are afloat, in the summer!  We are eating plums, on the water itself, and the plumstones are making satisfyingly deep sounds as they descend into the water, the fish scattering as they are disturbed by the sinking stones.  Perhaps this steady supply of falling plumstones is what attracted the fish in the first place.

And so, we now have the full flavour of the cup.  It has revealed itself, and it dwells long after completion, like the huigan of good pu'ercha.

We have a fine summer scene, and we may know that the punts only go out in summer.  We have a supply of plums - and so maybe, just maybe, we are moored under a plumtree that has spread its branches, and its fruit, out over the water.  How lovely it must be to be on that punt, bobbing on the water, in the summer warmth, slowly eating fresh plums, listening to the sound of the falling stones.  It is surely quiet out there, because all we can hear are the plip! plop! plip! of the sinking plumstones. Suddenly, after careful reading, sip by sip, we are out there on the water, eating plums, watching fish.


It is this precise moment that my dear wife and I shared together as we sat out there, on the punt.  The haiku, like a better version of a camera, has both preserved that moment and invited you, Gentle Reader, to share in it with us, on that punt, bobbing gently on the water, under the plumtree. 

We hope you enjoy it with us.

25 July, 2014

Nothing More to Laos

I may have previously confessed to being a stalker, of bargains.

Doomed to walk the dimensions between reality and dream, we bargainstalkers are ghostly half-souls, the nosferatu of the teaworld.  It is our destiny to drink anything and everything, for only then, in the asymptotic limit of our consumption, is that one true bargain to be found: that final bargain, beyond all bargains, which will grant us eternal rest from our tormented half-existence.

Seeking that promise of eternal rest, that undiscovered country, we are driven onwards - beyond the realm of cheap cakes, beyond that rancid cake that your best friend made when he went on holiday to Yunnan, beyond EVEN MODERN CNNP.  Out into a hideous nether-realm in which the howls of the damned are the only accompaniment for the truly absymal tea that we are brewing.  Out into Laos.

Laos is like the Belgium of tea.  It's probably quite nice, but who is EVER going to go to Belgium?  Not even the Belgians like Belgium.  (Friends from KU Leuven, I love you, I love your country, and I especially love your WESTVLETEREN uberbeer.)

Having established that we are about to enter a place beyond civilisation, just like Belgium, where no conscious conscience has ever trodden, a place past the Phlegethon itself, let us consider the facts.

Laos tea is not expensive.  It is pu'ercha from before the days when pu'ercha was A Thing.  It is protocha, the way your grandfather used to drink, assuming that your grandfather is from Yunnan and drinks tea.  It is so Old School, it is possibly even good.

You see why we pale-eyed, hollow-souled teastalkers are drawn to its warmth, like a festering moth around a decaying, flickering candleflame.  It offers the promise of solace.  Laos tea could be The One True Bargain, forged by ethereal smiths in a time long-forgotten: one bargain to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.

This is the 2014 Chawangpu "black label" from a place named "BAN KOMAEN".  This place is so remote, so hideously, inconceivably distant in both space and humanity (just like Belgium) that we can only begin to imagine how its name should be pronounced.  It is probably a transliteration from some arcane daemonological script, the mere sight of which would drive rational minds into an unhinged state of fractious insanity.

It also, inexplicably, is not at all "cheap".  It is $48/200g, which is, actually, not cheap at all and bordering on "Whoops, what happened to that price-tag".

Scrolling up, you may have noticed that the leaves are pretty darned green.  They look suspiciously green, in fact, as if someone doesn't know how to make The Pu'ercha.

This tea is interesting: the leaves are clearly of good quality.  They are vivid, and they push their way into the mouth with gushu-style cooling sensations.  The processing, though - the processing!

It is an empty tea, and I have to REALLY pile the leaves on to get anything resembling bitterness.  The scent is all flowers and fruit.  There is a big pile of butter, from the magic of the wok, and there is a big pile of huajiao-style numbing.  Just flowers.  More and more flowers and fruit.  Just like the green wulong that it closely resembles in appearance and flavour, this tea needs some attention in the processing.  I get the impression that some perfectly good leaves have not been exploited properly.

Changing gear, we crack open the "blue label".  This is not some absurd American-style whisky, but is allegedly another cake from BAN KOMAEN, the demonplane from beyond imagining.  The price is lower than the "black label", and it is claimed that the latter is better than the former.

Though perhaps not as good in terms of leaf-quality, the processing is much better here with the "blue label" than with the "black label".

Smooth, earthy, and "breadlike", it is rather pleasant.  It is soft around the edges, but is full, potent, and interesting.  I appreciate the edge of kuwei that gives it some complexity, and I find it much more enjoyable than the "watery", dilute fruitiness of the "black label".

If you are going to travel to a demonic half-plane, and bring back some tea, then it may as well be something like the "blue label".  It is $38/200g, which is... not really cheap, and not really expensive.  I was under the impression that tea from the netherworld was not supposed to reach Yunnan-style prices, and yet here we are.  Is it worth the equivalent of about $70 for a bing-equivalent weight?  It is pretty good... but it is not an obvious Masterbargain.  It is "hmm, maybe you should try this yourself to see if it resonates with your tastebuds".

With thanks to THE JAKUB for this final trip into the altered dimensions of tea, this is a "2012 MENGZHR" (sic) cake made by someone calls Jeff Fuchs.  Amusing surname aside, Mr. Fuchs sells this 100g cake for $39, which follows the trend of this article's not-so-cheap-after-all Laos teas.

I am told that MENGZHR is not actually in Laos at all, but is in Yunnan, near the border to Laos.  I am raising my eyebrows in consternation at the non-Pinyin rendering of the name of this place, but have no other alternative to offer you, Gentle Reader.  I suspect that the second character in this placename is in fact "zhi", followed by the Beijing throatypirate "rrr" sound, but that's just a guess.

This tea is OK.  It has the warm, earthy, character of certain spots in Yunnan.  It is cooling, maybe nodding towards gushu.  It is buttery, it is clean.  It is not a "flavour" tea, but that, too, is OK.

Is being "OK" enough?  Can we haunted, thin-spirited spectres slake our undying thirst on something that is merely "OK"?

I am not convinced.  This trio of teas was not particularly impressive, either in quality or in bargaination - this latter, in part, due to the non-trivial sums at which these LAOS or near-LAOS cakes are priced.

It is with a heavy heart that I sling my NECRONOMICON over my shoulder, fire up the daemongate, and prepare to step, once again, out into the missing dimensions in search of my prey.

It continues to evade me, and yet... I am getting closer.  Every badly-processed Laos cake, every unappealingly-priced product, gets me one step closer to my place of rest.

I must go now, for the daemons: they are a-howlin'.  If you need me, I will be in Belgium.

23 July, 2014

Asian Cyclists

Asian cyclists
caught in a storm of rain
and ponchos

18 July, 2014

It Tastes So Right, It Can't Be Wrong

Today, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine who is a bit... "special".  The appearance will terrify you, perhaps, but I think that you, as did I, will grow to love her.  Perhaps love her a bit too  much.  Let us not get ahead of ourselves.

Before the "main event" today, I warmed up the cockles of the empty, barren wasteland which is my heart with an old purchase from days gone by: the 1998 "Jiaji" tuocha from Good Ol' Dayi ("MAKIN' THE SHENGPU LIKE MAMA USED TO MAKE").

You are a clever one, Gentle Reader, and so you will have already seen my annotation in the above image: I bought this tuocha from "5000friend", which is an eBay vendor of some significant repute.

Many words have been used to describe "5000friend": these include, but are not limited to, thief, scumbag, blackguard, mountebank, racketeer, rancid burglar from beyond the ninth gate, and (my personal favourite) "douchenozzle".  5000friend shot to internet fame by selling Late Qing dynasty ("Late Qing dynasty") teapots that were rubbed with what can only be described as cheap shoepolish.  So it is said.  I was never a big buyer on the whole teapots-covered-in-cheap-shoepolish scene, and so didn't sample the delights of their product range, but the stories were chucklesome and enmirthenating to the max.

Being a suquer for punishment, I bought a bunch of "1998" tuocha from them, but it all turned out well.  I have no idea whether or not the tea is really Dayi (or even if Dayi were branding their tuocha in this manner back in 1998), but I live by the famous saying "Who cares if it's a fake sold by some dude who rubs cheap shoepolish into a teapot - if it tastes so right, it can't be wrong".  I think perhaps Shakespeare originally wrote that.

The original article for this tea is here.

My humourous regions are enlivened when I check my tea spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet) to learn that this tea cost £8 back in 2007.  That probably means that, in 2007 prices, it was 15 USD.  Those were the days, when British currency was about 1:2 with the US dollar.  I miss those days plentifully.

I have a big old tube of these tuocha, and so I am really hoping that they are aging properly.  The soup, once a heavy yellow, is now a heavy orange, and LO, Hobbes did breathe a sigh of relief to see that some aging had occurred.

The result is long-lasting and very throaty, like a nasty virus.  It has a plurality of HUIGANS, and these latter last rather a long time, too.  This is one of just a few teas that I have aged from "middle age" to something approaching actually "aged"; the majority of the teas on our shelves were either bought "aged" or which were bought young and are now "middle aged".  So, to see this little fella developing nicely is a welcome experience.  "Exceptional length", I seem to have recorded, and exceptional length can only be a good thing.

"This is quite complex", observes my dear wife, as she passes and tastes a cup.

I promised you something ugly, and here it is.  Let's get nasty.

This gold brick looks soooo old-fashioned, in the classical Chinese 80s-90s aesthetic that it actually seems appealing, in a kitsch way.  It is the 2011 "Jinxiangyi".

Xiangyi [SHEE'ANG-YEE] is a brand, and so "Jinxiangyi" is, would you believe it, "Gold Xiangyi".

Xiangyi, the brand, is a product of HUNAN YIYAN FUCHA.  This is not pu'ercha.  Hold onto your hats and hide your daughters, because this is rancid brick tea from Hunan.

You can't say that you haven't been warned.

We have Chinese, yes.  We have... Tibetan, by the look it (help me out here, cunning linguists).  We also have... that strange script that reminds me of Arabic that, if it isn't actually Arabic (and I am unable to tell) is that language that crops up repeatedly when dealing with Muslim minorities in the PRC.  It's probably Arabic.  Never ask a scientist to get linguistic.

What's so nasty about Hunan brick-tea, then?  Well, Gentle Reader, steel yourselves for the images above and below, which show copious quantities of mould.  They spray it on, they do all sorts of voodoo, and the result is intentional mould-encrusted tealeaves.

These are spores.  SPORES!  From China!  Heaven knows what's happening down there.  I can see the FDA's blood pressure rising already.

It really is carnage down in this brick.  We've got mould, we've got smacked-up branches, it wouldn't be surprising if I found a severed rat's tail in there.  This stuff is really, really dirty.

What better way to start the day?  Fire up the kettle and let's get filthy, methinks to myself.

This tea is really addictive.  I mean addictive, this tea leaves you shivering and tremourous, and craving more.  It is the crack cocaine of the Chinese tea market, except it is so dirty that you would be hard-pressed to find any self-respecting dealer of narcotics peddling such wares.

Except, it's hugely popular.  This rancid, unholy concoction is a regional speciality.  Like herpes in Bangkok, perhaps, but a regional speciality nonetheless.

I really love it.  (The tea that is, not the herpes from Bangkok.)  It is big, orange, heavy, and so-so-so powerful that it makes Bulangshan pu'ercha look like a gentle shoulder-massage from a nubile concubine.

This tea is very definitely not a nubile concubine.  It is something more akin to a tattoo-covered, salty, hairy mistress of the night, who came up the wrong side of the law once too often.  It is not nice, in any measurable sense, and yet it so plainly addictive that I am beginning to question my own sanity, like a protagonist in a story by H.P. Lovecraft.

When Cthulhu rises from beneath the waves, and Shub-Niggurath (the Goat with a Thousand Young) gets his Shub on, their beverage of choice will UNDOUBTEDLY be the 2011 Jinxiangyi.  This is the kind of tea that the words "eldritch" and "cyclopean" were invented to describe.  This is like the twised half-sister of liu'an, which was passed through a dimensional portal only to be stranded in the infinite abyss for a millenium, infused with the screams of the howling daemons that inhabit that nether-realm, before being returned to present-day earth for immediate consumption.

If you like danger, you need to try the 2011 Xiangyi.  I am currently trying to find a vendor to provide this in quantity, and preferably one that does not have ties to a mystical cult dedicated to bringing about the resurrection of an ancient race of intergalactic, planet-eating deities.

However, if the choice is between not having this tea and funding the aforementioned apocalyptic cult, then SIGN ME UP, cultists, and get my robes and head-dress ready. 

I must haves me my Xiangyi.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

16 July, 2014

The Bald Man

the bald man
at the arrivals gate
straightens his hair

11 July, 2014

Six Machine (Get On Up)

I am a hunter, Gentle Reader, a stalker.  I ruthlessly track my victims throughout night and day, over the course of many weeks, perhaps months if necessary.

My prey: bargains.

Dirty great big tea bargains.

I believe it was a thread on Teachat that caused the alarm lights to begin flashing in my HQ.  Recall the scene from Ghostbusters, in which a loud alarm bell rings in our heroes' premises, and where the New York-accented secretary shouts: "WE GOT ONE!"

That's almost exactly what happened.  Replace the Ghostbusters' building with my laboratory, and replace the screaming secretary with me quietly clicking my mouse to open a new tab, and it's almost precisely the same.

The thread in question reminded me of Tuochatea.com (and God bless all who sail in her).  This company has been around since before there were humans; early records indicate that the first customers of tuochatea.com were, in fact, trilobites with a penchant for tea-flavoured algae.

I have got my purchase on, several times, with tuochatea.com in preceding millennia.  I have never been disappointed, because they sell tea at prices that actively inhibit the secretion of the disappointment gland.  I am saying that their prices are low.  Low, low, low.

They're not quite "China price" low, but their teas have remained remarkably stable in price over the years.  In a world in which cunning vendors routinely peruse their own back-catalogues, arbitrarily knocking up the prices every year, I truly respect folk like tuochatea.com, who seem to keep the prices almost flat - reflecting the price at purchase, rather than tracking the whimsy of modern-day inflations.  That's a kind of business practice that makes me think of someone who likes to keep customers happy, and are "in it for the long run", rather than trying to make a quick killing on a new generation of drinkers before promptly disappearing into the sunset.

So, it would be fair to say that I totally dig tuochatea.com.  Their tea may be as basic as corrugated cardboard, but at least it is priced nicely.  Get it right, however, and you can really embargainate yourself significantly.

Now reminded of the existence of tuochatea.com, I decided to go mining for goodies.  The first cake that was retrieved from the minecart was the 2006 6FTM "Bangweishan".  (Product by-line: "IT'S BANGWEI OR THE HIGHWAY.")

To cut a long story short, this tea did not suck.  It costs just 18 (eighteen) USD, which is, as I think I may have mentioned in passing, really rather low.  Yes, it has been aged in Kunming, which is a little like saying "She has a great personality", but the price is 18 (eighteen) USD.  18!

That said, while this cake does not suck, it would be something of a stretch to say that it was really good.  Time has not been kind to this cake - it is sagging under the eyes, and looking rather disheveled.  You wouldn't have expected that, given that it is MUCHOS AROMATIC when stripped of its wrapper.  The soup is a heavy orange, and it all looks good.

Then, you get the tangy, sweet, but "dark" flavour that reminds me of smoky Xiaguan modernity.  It is strong, it is potent, and has a sense of its Simao-area origin.  There is not much in the way of a finish, but it has something of the ol' kuwei going on, which is A Good Thing.

It is reliable, it is solid, and it is rather basic.  It isn't quite the liquid ninjitsu of, let's say, the 2002 "White Whale", and I am rather luke-warm about it.  If your shelves are not buckling under the strain of too much tea, then you might like to give it a look.  It is cheap, and moderately cheerful.  It also tastes a little like cereal-flavoured draincleaner and, for those that know me, that's a compliment.

With our bargain-sensors now calibrated appropriately, I send the mining team back underground to see if they can unearth some more goodies.  They duly come back with the 2006 6FTM "Banzhang Raw".

The first sign that something is wrong - terribly, disconcertingly, bladder-constrictingly wrong - is that there is also a 2006 6FTM "Banzhang Organic".  The latter was a bit more expensive than this cake's $28, but it was also sold out.  So, I slapped down my twenty-eight bucks, rolled the dice, and took my chances.

If its sister cake was the "Banzhang Organic" then this must surely be, by elimination, the "Banzhang Inorganic".  Stay with that name, because it will serve us well in subsequent paragraphs.

Now don't get me wrong: I love everything about modern China.  I love the WHO-shattering counts of nanoparticles in the air that are so small that they can pass into the bloodstream; I love the food-scares; I love the chronic-obstructive pulmonary disorder that results from attempting to survive downwind from an unregulated industrial plant; I love the blessing that these facilities impart to the nearby water systems; I love the myriad challenges that ones physiology experiences throughout the modern Chinese experience.  China rocks my world, and it also rocks my body's futile attempts at homeostasis.

I am just not entirely sure that I like these manifold charms manifesting themselves in my tea.

To say that this tea has been favoured by the presence of agrochemicals is something of an understatement.  The farmers laid it on thick, and then sprayed it all over again for good measure.  When, surely, everything was dead except for the bare tree itself, I imagine that the tea was thrice-sprayed just for good measure.  I am happy to report that consumers of this 2006 "Banzhang Raw" now get to experience all of that hard work in the cup, for themselves, in the comfort of their own homes.

I would say "Don't touch this with a bargepole", but that is rather unfair to bargepoles.  I wouldn't touch this tea through rubber gloves.  I wouldn't touch this tea if it were hermetically sealed inside an ebola-containment chamber, and I was interacting with it only via the medium of some sort of complex robotic pincer.

This tea is not right, nor is it OK.  I suggest that you give it a wide berth. 

2,000 miles should be sufficient.

09 July, 2014

Double Pushchair

double pushchair
four heavy eyelids
two gentle snores

04 July, 2014


Such was the e-mail that I received from twodog2, a modern-day "Dashan" and proprietor of legendary tea outfitters, white2tea. This pertained to a particular tea, named "2002 White Whale", a sample of which he had recently sent me.  Call me Ishmael.

I resisted the temptation to READ HIS WEB-SITE, and instead sat down to the tea-table with the sample. After one infusion, I had sent him a simple e-mail containing only the following.

I think we might perhaps end the article at this point, for there is no need to go on - everything that needs to be said, has been said.

Let us suppose, however, that you, Gentle Reader, wished for a little more of the informations. Were you to find yourself in such a position, I would describe this little (100g?) brick in some detail.

First, the wrapper. The "first bite is taken with the eye", after all, and here we have a wrapper that reminds of Mr. Scruff during his classical period. This is a very positive association - I recall that my dear wife and I had our engagement party at a Mr. Scruff gig. There was even, in the corner of the nightclub, a "tea corner" serving actual tea.

Denuding the brick of its wrapper leaves us with the image shown above, in which we have some amorphous collection of weeny leaves in reasonable condition. They are quite dark, but they are not your usual zhuancha mulchy devilsputum. They have a scent, which is clean and sweet, if a little distant. First impressions remain favourable for a brick.

It is, however, when the tea is poured out of the pot in the first infusion that the provervial sh** gets proverbially real.

It releases our inner Samuel L. Jackson. Before long, I am stood proudly astride my chair, shouting lines from Pulp Fiction, and banging out a missive to Mr. twodog2.

Were I to indulge your eye for detail, Gentle Reader, I might point out that this tea has a heavy, sweet, and long-lasting initial scent that lasts in excess of 1.0 Terran minutes. The soup is clear, and, as you may surmise, heavy orange. I would then go on to point out that this little badboy is sharp, woody, clean, and sweet. Its duration in both mouth and throat is first-class, while it leaves behind the welcoming characteristic of rancid pine - in a nice way.

Were you to press me for further details, I would observe its smooth body and hint of wildflowers; I would describe it as "full" and "accomplished", and that its quality stands out from the herd like a tall American male in the middle of downtown Beijing. I might even stoop to the use of phrases such as "superfly" and "TNT every time my fingers touch brain".

Then, Gentle Reader, we would consider the price. We would, now feeling permitted to READ HIS WEB-SITE, log onto white2tea.com and note that this shockingly potent little warhead costs just 15 (fifteen) American dollars. We would, consequently, immediately order 25 of them, thereby purchasing the 2.5kg tong equivalent in which my soul seems to trade these days.  My laboratory is currently filled with the little charmers.

Gentle Reader, in closing I would state that, if you have a soul, and if are not an empty husk of a man subsisting on hatred and bitterness alone, then you, too, might enjoy this little tea.

Actually, even if you are an empty husk of man, subsisting on hatred and bitterness alone, then I would hazard to estimate that you will probably find this tea enjoyable.

In the words of Jules Winnfield, "...that's all you had to say".

Edit: this seems to jump in and out of "in stock" and "on backorder" at white2tea suggesting that stock numbers are draining and being replenished.

02 July, 2014

Sitting at Lunch

sitting at lunch
hungrily discussing
closed lunchbox