Lacking practice

One of the most direct consequences of MiniN becoming bipedal mobile is that I have basically stopped drinking tea gongfu style at home. What with an open heat source hot plate, a tetsubin that is hot all over, easily broken teaware all over the table, and a curious, grabby kid, it’s simply too risky to drink tea this way in Hong Kong’s rather confined living environment. So for the past year or so, I’ve been basically reduced to drinking tea grandpa style. This includes everything – puerh, greens, oolongs, whatever it is that suits my fancy that day. It’s a big change.

Drinking tea grandpa style every day is not abnormal – in fact, drinking tea gongfu style every day is the abnormal thing to do. Millions of Chinese (and others) drink tea in a mug or a large cup with leaves in them – in fact, that’s the only way they take tea. I was just at a conference where the only tea is some really horrible green served in a paper cup with a plastic holder using lukewarm water that tastes terrible to begin with. Nobody seemed to have a problem with it – lacking options, I couldn’t do anything else either other than providing my own tea leaves.

What the prolonged grandpaing means for my tea consumption is quite revealing – I have jettisoned most younger puerh from my drinking. While some perform ok, most simply are not very tasty. If I want something like that, a green tea is far preferable. I do drink some of my older stuff this way – I’ve already consumed two cakes from around 2002 and 2003, and plan to do more of the same. I also have been drinking a ton of aged oolong, which are really good when grandpa’ed. In fact, I’d argue that they are often better that way than when drunk gongfu style, when the tea can become quite sour. Grandpa actually mitigates those problems.

Moreover, drinking tea this way reminds me of why people’s tea preferences are the way they are – because it works. Drinking young raw puerh simply isn’t very practical, because many taste terrible. When aged a bit, it can be really nice, but when not, they can be really hit or miss. The few that do well now drunk in big mugs are not teas that I consider good candidates for aging either.

When I need my gongfu fix I usually visit some teashop or another. I do miss my own teaware though – not really having the ability to drink tea at home means most of my teaware is laying fallow, which is sad. Whenever I see my lonely little teapots not having drunk a sip for months, I want to give them something. Then MiniN walks by and asks to do something, and the thought remains merely a thought.


Comments

Lacking practice — 4 Comments

  1. Welcome to the club. I have lost count of the yixing and qing dynasty cups that have hit the floor. My son’s always seem to know which lots have the best clay. They are always the ones that seem to get broken. I no longer buy teapots and kettles. I stick to an electric boiler and cheap gaiwans.

  2. Least it’s only temporary. Hopefully.

    In reading this I had an amusing image of you turning into your grandfather.

    It is very wistful indeed when you have to forego using your variety of teaware for whatever reason. Something about drinking gongfu style feels fulfilling and I start to feel sad when I haven’t done it for a few days. Lately I’ve felt more sensitive to caffeine on some days (which is odd, because up until just this past year I never felt the effects of caffeine at all, it seems) and I’ve also merely been fatigued, leading me to either shorten my sessions or to drink in other styles that encourage less binging and cleanup. This practice has caused me to feel a similar sense of being reduced.

  3. This is just a season in the path of tea. I don’t have kids but I did have what I call my “dark age of tea”. There was a time when I couldn’t afford to buy good tea and lost all my tea wear, so I was drinking tea in big mugs and brewing it in a metalic kettle, it seemed like I couldn’t enjoy tea the same way I did in past years, but suddenly I started to crawl my way up from that situation and learnt it was just a “tea/life season”. Imagine how nice it would be when MiniN gets old enough and you can teach her how grandpa really brews tea 🙂

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