I don’t know how many of the readers here know that I own and operate a (very) small tea company called Scholar’s Tea.

This is the first business I’ve ever started / ran, and I’ve made a lot of different mistakes during the year and a half that I’ve been making a go of it. Many of these mistakes were costly to me personally, and as of this writing I’ve spent more money than I’ve made running the business. While this has, at times, been discouraging I can say that it has been a valuable experience which has resulted in my learning a ton of things I did not know.

Up until today I’ve never “pimped” my own tea on this blog, because I wanted to keep the blog independent of my business interests. However, today I’m going to break from that policy because I want to reach out to the readers of this blog and make them aware of something I consider to be a damn good tea, which I happen to also have for sale.

The tea is an aged Dan Cong oolong. It’s expensive, but trust me it is totally worth it!

However, because I like all of you folks who read this blog I’m going to give you a coupon code you can use if you decide to buy tea from my company.

The code is LRC88, and it will save 15%.

Type the code in during the last part of the check out process.

Also, shipping if free if the cost of the order is over $30.00.

Here are some images of the leaf & Liquor:

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Things Break: 

The lid of my tea tray broke. I’m not at all susprised, after all the tray is made of wood, and it gets covered in very hot water, then cools as it drys out.

it started very slowly, as a small crack near the center of the tray’s lid, and it grew very quickly.

After it broke I continued to use the bottom of the tray to catch the exces water that gets spilled when I brew tea Gungfu Cha style.  The crazy thing is that I find this set up far more convinent, and I like it more than I did when I was using the tray with the lid.

It’s funny how things work out, eh?

Blue gaiwan-ish thing

The same tray as in the picture above, but with a lid.

Of Note: 

This post at (the very awesome) Bearsblog shows that I’m not the only one who has stopped using a tea tray.

Intro: 

Every morning that I’m able to, which is most mornings, I sit and make myself tea.  As I do this I try to give the tea my full attention.  At times I’m able to do this with ease, but not always.  There are times when I have situations occurring in my life which cause my mind to become distracted.  It is during these times that my thoughts wander from what is in front of me, and rush into its memories of the past, or create an catastrophic imagined future.

I’ve found (like many people) I’m very good at thinking negative thoughts about myself.  Seriously.  I’m **really** good at it.  And when I’m involved in tenuous  situations my capacity to think extremely negative things about myself is is increased ten fold.

I’ve found that on mornings where I wake up feeling down, and negative thoughts are running amok there are two teas that seem to help me clear away the negative thoughts, and stay focused on what’s in front of me.  They are two very different teas, and they have two very different effects on my thinking, but I’m hoping that by writing about this that others will benefit from my experiences.

Sencha: 


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The first tea is a good Japanese Sencha (sometimes called Sen Cha).  I think this tea has been a good teacher of the importance of clarity and focus on the many small motions -or details- which when combined culminate to a beautiful sum.   The more pure, or “true” (as in true aim) these small motions are, the more pure and true their sum.

I feel like I’m being overly esoteric here… Let’s try this again.

Another way to put my say this would be: Sencha is a tea which I’ve found to be particularly delicate, and if I don’t pay close attention to the leaves, the water temp, and the time the leaves are remain in the water, the tea will become bitter.

This is true of so many things in my life…

Pu-Er: 

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This tea is very different than Sencha…  So much can be done with a good Pu-Er, and so many flavors can be drawn out of the leaves depending on how the person brewing them manipulates the water, the heat, and the time the leaves are exposed to each.

One only needs to be brave enough to try new things, and attentive enough to the ways in which the leaves respond to what is done.

While Sencha is a teacher of precision Pu-Er is a teacher of how to coax information through paying attention to the ways the leaves respond.

In the end: 

I hope that these words have been informative to you in some way. Thank you for taking the time to read them.

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Today when I woke up I had a hankering for some Rou Gui, a darker oolong “rock tea” from the Wuyi Mountains which I happen to have paired with one of my Yixings. It has been months since I last worked with this (or any) Yixing teapots, and as I worked with it I started to become more aware of how different it felt to prepare tea in Yixing clay. Below is a short description of what I noticed…

~Reverence~

For whatever reason, I tend to treat Yixing clay with a sort of reverence I don’t have for other brewing vessels. I think this is because of the time that I’ve spent cultivating the Yixings, and pairing them with the particular teas that I enjoy. This process has changed the Yixing teapot into something more valuable to me. I say this because I know that I could replace a broken gaiwan or glass teapot. And while I could do my best to recreate my Rou Gui Yixing, it would take LOTS of brewing: even then, it would never really be the same.

In short: the time that I’ve put into pairing my Yixing is time that I can’t get back, so if the Yixing is broken it will make me feel as thought I’ve lost a personal treasure.

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~Potencancy~

Keep in mind that the teas that I brew in Yixing are darker, and what I’d call “heavier” teas, than the lighter greens and whites I tend to drink more often during the summer…

The Yixing teapots create a much “fuller” cup of tea. When I say this I mean that the tea has more body to it, but also that it has more depth and breadth of flavor. My Rui Gui pot is one of my more used pots, so it has a great deal of brewings which have contributed to its ability to make a damn fine cup of tea. But I’m a firm believer that when it comes to oolongs, and I mean any oolong, nothing can beat a well used Yixing teapot.

I think this might be one of the main reasons that so many tea masters use Yixing as their number one draft pick when it comes to brewing oolongs.

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~Building~

Each time I brew tea I gain some experiential knowledge. Seriously. Every time. But when I brew tea in one of my Yixing teapots I also feel as though I’m adding onto what has been built by all the use prior. Again, this is something that is very unique to Yixings, and I happen to think it’s really cool!

~In the End~ 

If you work with Yixing (I’m willing to bet) that you know what I’m talking about in this post.  If you don’t use Yixing often, I think it would be very worth it to invest some money and time into one of your own.

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Waikato Zealong:

I stayed up very late last night, and so I slept very lat this morning.  As I slept I had a dream about making tea for people.  I don’t remember very much of that dream now, because it faded as dreams tend to, as soon as I woke up.  Nonetheless, as soon as I woke up I wanted to drink tea.

The tea that I choose to drink something from the Adagio Masters Collection, a very dark Zealong (oolong tea from New Zealand) called Waikato.  The description on the box reads…

The moderate climate of New Zealand and its unspoiled, lush green hills have proven to provide ideal growing conditions for tea, in particular oolong.  Roasted at high temps, this Zealong oolong yields a smooth, complex cup.

The first infusion of our Masters Waikato Zealong is quietly toasty, with whispers of citrus fruit and floral notes — perhaps honeysuckle.  The second infusion is a bit softer with buttery notes and honey-floral character.  But don’t stop there — these leaves are cultivated to produce numerous infusions, each to be admired for its nuances.

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How I brewed: 

I brewed the tea in a Gung Fu Cha style, using a Yixing teapot that I have paired with Zealong teas.  (I think they are so good that they get their own Yixing.)

  1. I used about six and a half grams of tea, which is almost double the amount suggested for “normal” brewing.
  2. The water temp was about 180-190.
  3. After warming the teapot and cup I added the leaves, and gave them a 15 second wash.
  4. First infusion was 45 seconds (with pouring).
  5. Second infusion was 1 min (also with pouring).
  6. Third infusion was 1 min.
  7. Fourth infusion was 1:10.
  8. After that I just added more time, but I did not really keep track… it was whatever “felt right” then pour.
  9. The tea did last for nine total infusions.  I think I could have been able to push a bit more out of it with long infusions, and a higher water temp, but I stopped at this point.

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My Impressions: 

I disagree with the description that Adagio wrote for the tea.  This may be because I did not prepare the tea in the way which I prefer to prepare it, rather than the ways which I assume are the “norm” for Adagio’s customers.

Be that as it may, I found the tea is extremely enjoyable!

The first infusion was very weak, probably because of the short infusion time, and because the teapot was packed with tightly rolled leaves which were not “woken up” all the way.  I did not taste any citrus at all, but I did experience a slight sweetness in the echo the tea left in my mouth.  This sweetness faded quickly, so I was not able to place exactly what it was.

The second and third infusions were remarkably good.  They were strong (which, like my fellow tea blogger Brandon, is what I like).  I could taste the darkness of the roasting, but despite this the tea retained a very smooth and pleasant, mouth feel.

These second and third infusions were done when the water temp had dropped to about 180, and I think this is the ideal water temp for this tea… I think it could be brewed as low as 170 but no lower than that.

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In the end:

This is a tea, but I really enjoy it.  Chances are that when I run out I’ll buy some more.

If you’re interested in trying some Zealong another great place to buy (and learn about it) it is the Chicago Tea Garden.

I sit and listen

while other people just talk.

It’s often lonely.

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A young man came to a master of the Cha Dao seeking wisdom.

The master had just selected a tea which he wanted to enjoy, and he invited the young man to sit and enjoy the tea with him.

As the master prepared the tea the young man watched very attentively, and was captivated by the ease with which the master moved as he prepared the tea.

When the first cup of tea was poured, and the young man tasted it he could not help but smile.

“Master this tea is really good!” Said the young man. “Will you teach me how I can do this?”

“Yes, of course.” Said the master as he poured another cup, and continued to brew the leaves.

“How much will it cost to have you teach me your methods master?” Asked the student.

The master smiled and said, “I don’t know. We’ll have to figure that out later I guess.”

“When can I begin my study?” Asked the young man.

“When you realize that you’re already master than you can start to be the student.”

The young man  had watched lots of Kung-fu movies where wise masters said just this sort of thing, and so he had expected something like this to happen.  However, now that it had happened he did not know how to respond, and so he just said, “Huh?”

“Don’t worry about it.  You’ll get it at some point.”

“How will I know when I get it?” Asked the young man.

“It’s just one of those things. You’ll know when it happens. You might think it happens when it doesn’t… that happens all the time… but trust me when you know you’ll know that you know. It’s really nice when it happens.”

“Ok… What do I do next?”

The master stood and stretched. He looked at the young man and said, “I have to use the bathroom. Make some more tea.”

The tea sits steaming,

as I think about my life.

Both evaporate.

Tree & Blue Sky

A cup of Sencha steams in front of me . My Macbook is open. I want to write something…

I was going to start this post by asking if you’ve ever experienced one of those moments when all of a sudden, for some reason that would be difficult to explain, you stop going with the flow of waking life and feel as if you’ve been snapped into a state of higher awareness of yourself  and think that something has gone terribly wrong.  I’m sure you’ve experienced such a moment. We all do at some point or another. (Don’t we? I hope we do…) Perhaps there should be a specific word for such an experience. I wonder what that word would be. It would have to be one that captures beauty and tragedy at the same time.

I was going to ask that rhetorical question because I’ve recently had such an experience. Right in the middle of a typical day at work.

I find myself wondering how it is that so many of my fellow human beings who are living in the luxury which our “first world” existence offers to us on an almost constant basis, seem to have found such happiness, while others are only able to torment themselves with questions which can’t really be answered. I also wonder why it is, and how it is, that I’ve fallen in with the latter group…

I’m not particularly sad that I’m a member of the tormented questioners, but I do, from time to time wonder what it would be like to be part of the group that does not think about such things.  But I never wonder for long.

I suppose this is because I’m thankful for all the questions, the doubt, and the disappointments which have enabled me to see beauty in the tragedy that is the dress rehearsal for the show that is life.

I really like using the glass teapots in this picture, because I can watch the leaves of whatever tea I’m brewing unfold and infuse the water.

I’m sure that non-tea people find this to be a very bizar affectation.  After all I’m watching leaves sit in hot water.  Which to most people would be a huge waste of time.

But I’m someone who sees brewing tea as a skill, and I enjoy improving that skill.  I’m also a tea merchant, and watching the infusing process take place helps me understand the the leaves, and the brewing process.  To me it’s very useful knowledge.

(And it’s relaxing.)

If you’re new to tea, or a long time Gungfu practitioner get yourself some glass teapots, and brew your favorit teas in them.

Watch the leaves and the water do their thing.  And I mean really watch it.  Seriously.  You’ll learn something.  I promise.

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