05 January, 2015

Dorje Ling, The Thunderbolt Place

Greetings, Mighty-Thighed Traveller from Beyond the Stars.

Your rippling torso is, no doubt, straining to contain the thousand pleasures (calories) that accompany celebrating the birth of the Holy Infant.  Surely, massive consumption of alcohol and rich foodstuffs is in the spirit of the season.  Somehow.

What better way in which we might collectively work off our accumulated requirements for penance than in the confessional of the teatable?  Brothers and sisters, let us pray.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the nuptials of this tea (interestingly packaged, very Indian) with my hongcha teapot.  If anyone knows any reason why this delicious-looking subcontinental filly should not be married to my charming old red pot, let them speak now or forever hold their peas.

"Wouldst thou wish to imbibe the produce of our labours?" quoth an e-mail from GOLDEN TIPS, apparently writing from their warm and comfortable position somewhere around the middle of the 18th century.  "Hellz yah", responded your humble correspondent.

And thenceforth, the two fabric-wrapped missives did subsequently wend their way from the Indies all the way to this sceptred isle.  Against the envy of less happier lands!

Fat stacks from India, pictured above, in their plural and munificent beauty.

2014 Arya "Ruby"

Reader, there is much written about the throbbing undercarriage of tea that is pu'ercha, not some little of it upon these threadbare pages.  However, as those among you serving a particularly long sentence for violent crimes against humanity will know, Gentle Reader, much of my Actual Life is spent sucking down hongcha.

In all its myriad forms, from "ENGLISH BREAKFAST" (i.e., the tea equivalent of 100% proof potato vodka, feel the healing power of the capslock) through to "Lapsang", hongcha maintains a firm and constant nippletwist on my affections.

It is a common enough trait among my kind.  We are conceived in hongcha.  We float in it from the womb.  It is the amniotic fluid.  It is the silver sea.  It is the waters at their priest-like task, washing away guilt and purpose and responsibility.

2014 Arya "Ruby"

When I hit up the local taverna on my travels; when I am slumped facedown in my gruel at some overpriced St. Pancras venue; when I am sat quietly weeping into my scones at Cream Tea in some country cottage or slick city-hotel alike; my bibendi prima is The Hongcha.

If they have it, I will wrap my consonants around the word of power, DORJELING, while Anglicising it (and therefore anaesthetising it) into something that sounds a little like "Darjeeling".

2014 Castleton "Moonlight" (leftmost), 2014 Arya "Ruby" (rightmost)

I drink a lot of very mediocre DORJELING, Gentle Reader, and I am not afraid to admit it.  From time to time (read: when my homes from Chennai buy some for me), I tantalise my hongcha pot with Nilgiri.  This one time, in band camp, I drank Ceylon.

Strangely enough, though my father's family is from Kenya (like Obama!  Have we seen Hobbes' birth certificate?!), I only had my first Kenya single-estate tea last month, after getting a helpful new research programme funded over there.  The tea was OK.

2014 Castleton "Moonlight"

Imagine, then, the rapturous trance into which I slipped when the entire contents of this article were revealed unto me, like some warm, orange, sweet-smelling Apocalypse.

2014 Okayti "Silver Needles" (leftmost), 2014 Giddapah "Muscatel" (rightmost)

I actually enjoyed these teas between November and December of last year (2014).  The dudes over at GOLDEN TIPS keep sending me e-mails, slapping my figurative backside, and asking WHENOHWHENAREYOUGOINGTOWRITEABOUTOURGDTEAS.  Trying to get me to do anything (at all) is difficult; if you slap my figurative backside, Gentle Reader, I might add that you are not expediting the situation.  You are, if anything, causing me to pause and reflect upon the figurative stinging sensation in the posterior homoerectus.  And you do not want me reflecting upon the posterior homoerectus, rest assured.

Nothing good ever came of such reflections.

2014 Okayti "Silver Needles"

So, then, the teas.  Suffice to say that some of these teas are, like the cherry pie of Agent Dale Cooper in the 1990s, damned fine.

Names like CASTLETON and MARGARET'S HOPE are, to me, a little like reciting the names of the Thundercats, or the Masters of the Universe.  That is, they are words that are burned into my consciousness - they are concepts that are part of my hindbrain, the primitive id.  The package was like a "greatest hits" of Darjeeling.  It got my toes tapping.

Other names are previously unknown to me, but not, it seems, to Google.  Names such as ARYA and OKAYTI.  Names such as GIDDAPAH, which rather sounds like the start of James Brown's "Sex Machine".

However, all of these teas, without exception, were doubleplus good.  My favourites, perhaps expectedly, were the second-flush DJs.  Unlike pu'ercha, second-flush DJ is not lower-quality than the first-flush.  As Michael Caine would say, not a lot of people know that.  The first flush is nambypamby ladyboy tea (a little like the lace and frills of girly Jingmai), while the second flush brings the proverbial motherblanking ruckus in B minor (a little like the rusty juggernaut of nasty Bulang).  Needless to say, I like my battery acid, and so I loves me a pot of heavily overbrewed second-flush DJ.

Classics of the genre, such as Castleton "Moonlight", continued to thrill.  It was a little like Biluochun, actually, in that modern DJ way.  It pads the mouth with cotton wool.   Drinking the previously-unknown Arya "Ruby" was like listening to "Shame On A N*****" for the very first time.  That is some serious shi'itake.  ("BLAOW, HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW")

Plus, the caffeine from these DJs is like the aforementioned nasty Bulang: it slams into the consciousness like a the oft-lyricised vehicular homicide.  It will wake you up.

Other highlights of this assassin's backpack full of weaponry included the surprisingly hardcore "Avaata Supreme Nilgiri", which was a well-calibrated sniper rifle, in the Chinese lucha style.  I had no idea that my aforementioned homes in Chennai were drinking what tastes for all the world like real Chinese green, yet somehow given a badboy Tamil twist.

So then, to draw my conclusions, if you like your hongcha, then you will probably like GOLDEN TIPS.  Just let your mouse pointer wander - pretty much the only thing I didn't love was the Okayti "Silver Tips" and that's simply because I don't dig on white tea.

No-one really likes white tea, anyway, as everyone knows.


Arnold Zeman said...

Great post, at least I think it was, as I can't say I understood all of your wit!
Interesting comments re F1 & F2, but what I'd really like to know is your thoughts on differences of Western brewing and gong fu cha wrt DJ.
Arnold Zeman

Hobbes said...


What an interesting question: gongfucha vs. Western brewing. I am all in favour of both. The former, perhaps expectedly, gives you the opportunity to discover nuance. The "muscatel" was really very decent, for example, and the Arya "Ruby" was genuinely rather mind-blowing. It had the complexity of your average traditional Hindu work of art: all bright colours, and immensely detailed characteristics. Such teas really shine under the lens of gongfucha.

Western brewing (a.k.a. dumping some leaves in a large pot of water and letting it sit for five minutes or so) is much more forgiving for the more average tea. I drink most of my DJ this way, given that gongfucha needs time and attention, and that I drink my Deej when I have neither.

Does this correlate with your own experience?



Arnold Zeman said...

Indeed, for the most part, though for me Western brewing usually means 3-4 minutes of steeping, but I quibble.
Often think it's a waste to prepare DJ English-style but don't always have the time for gongfu so I'm reduced to it.
Am somewhat leery of non-organic Indian teas but I guess as a lover of composted tea leaves, by which I mean shupu, I shouldn't be!

Hobbes said...

Dear Arnold,

Given the choice, with a good tea, gongfucha is going to win every time, I suspect - in most situations for me, though, I drink DJ in someone else's venue: a hotel, a teashop, etc. The quality is never great, even in the most expensive locations, and so Western "large volume" seems to be fine. I'm always amazed how low the average level of quality of tea can be, even in some seriously-priced locations. There's a real disconnection between people's ability to judge the quality of teas and some other consumables, certainly in my country. Maybe this will change with time!

You're entirely right that a regular drinker of Chinese teas, and of composted Hunan-style bacterial colonies, has nothing to fear with Indian leaf! I'm told that every single Indian plantation is now under Indian control, none remaining in the hands of the English. This is entirely fitting, and fascinating to see as a history lesson in itself. I am told from a (very) senior colleague who was posted in Darjeeling for research that society there is particularly amusing, for fans of ex-colonial antics. :)



hster said...

Dear Hongcha Hobbes,

This post almost explains your repeated and insistent protestations over hongcha flavors in your improperly processed sheng.

All manner of confessions appeared to have tumbled out of this post but Band Camp is the best one.


Hobbes said...

Dear Mdm. H,

Thank you for your comment! The teablog is the ultimate confessional. A sacrament indeed.

Which leads me nicely on to emploring you to keep writing at t'Closet: if I may be so bold, it is no understatement to observe that the world needs your writing, ma'am, and that YOU OWE US BIGTIME because we (collectively) very much enjoy reading your massive missives. So give us what we want, is what I'm saying. You know it makes sense.

This party political broadcast was made on behalf of the GET HSTER BACK TO THE GD TEABLOG Party.



Arnold Zeman said...

Hear, hear!

Cwyn said...

Dear Hobbes, thank you for the shout out. The 1998 white tuo shu, having been written about twice, may be added to your list of essential qualities for a successful academic: knowingly or unknowingly publishing the very same article more than once. That is the stuff of tenure.


Hobbes said...

Dear Cwyn,

If you can't agree with yourself, then who will? :)

I've been reading every word you've written on your blog, I should add, and loving it greatly. Please keep it up!

Best wishes,