Saturday, February 23, 2008

New Hobby

In light of Mr. Dodd's epic articles "Gongfu Shave" and "Adventures in Shave Land" (I should also mention Hobbes' briefer comments, though I can't seem to find the right posts), I have delved into the world of "real" wet shaving.

Having tired of the multi-bladed lift-and-ravage devices, I perused the newbie guides at Badger & Blade, and ordered myself a Merkur HD razor (the same as Steven's) some shaving cream, a brush, and various other odds and ends. Though it takes some time to learn, I am already enjoying it, and actually looking forward to shaving every morning! I much prefer a couple nicks to widespread irritation and ingrown hairs caused by multi-blade cartridge razors, and the smell of real shaving cream is far more luxurious than the canned stuff!

Anyway, I just wanted to announce my new hobby. If you enjoy tea the same way Mr. Dodd, Hobbes, and Eastree do, you might take similar pleasure in executing a close, comfortable shave.

Shaving Bits

[Tea related note- the black bowl shown above, in addition to working well for lathering, would be an excellent choice as a newbie matcha bowl (a.k.a. chawan). It is the perfect size, and is very cheap! I got this one in a pack of two at Target.]

1986 Vintage Phoenix Dan Cong from Tea Habitat

Dan Cong Dry LeafClass: Oolong
Origin: Guangdong province, China
Year: 1986
Vendor: Tea Habitat
Price: $20 (1 oz)

This is the last of the three Dan Cong samples provided by Salsero and Tea Habitat. I have had a few aged oolongs which really knocked my socks off, so I had high expectations for this one. Sadly, it didn't turn out as I had hoped it would. I blame my less-than-stellar experience largely on my failure to brew it right, as others (whose tastes I trust) seem to have been very happy with it.

Dan Cong InfusionThe dry leaf is as one would expect from an aged oolong— dark, and fairly broken up. I couldn't detect much of an aroma from this tea. There is some fragrance, but it is light and hard to examine. It did remind me of the 1982 aged Wenshan Baozhong though, in that there was some sort of musty and minty thing goin' on.

I tried to follow Imen's instructions, but apparently I failed. I used 3g of leaf, less than the two newer Dan Congs, did a flash rinse (which I ended up drinking anyway), then let the leaf and gaiwan cool down, and then proceeded with brewing. I wonder if I would have gotten more aroma from a more conventional set of parameters, by keeping everything hot.

The flavor was also similar to the aforementioned aged baozhong, but again much lighter. I really couldn't seem to pull much out of this tea, besides some light (but good) flavors and side-effects. One interesting thing, which was also noticed by Alex, was the slight puerh-like character of this tea. I noticed it in the liquor, as it seemed to have a certain activity on the tongue I normally get from slightly-aged (a few years) puerh. There was a nice stimulating astringency in some infusions, Dan Cong Dry Leafand there may also have been some faint cha qi, though I am notoriously bad at detecting it.

Overall, I thought this tea had the potential to be quite interesting if one brews it correctly&mdash it's too bad I didn't! As for my favorite of these three Dan Congs, I was happiest with the 2007 Yu Lan Xiang Dan Cong— I would certainly consider buying more for special occasions, at the very least. Thanks again Salsero!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2007 Ao Fu Hou Phoenix Dan Cong from Tea Habitat

Ao Fu Hou Phoenix Dan CongClass: Oolong
Origin: Guangdong province, China
Year: 2007
Vendor: Tea Habitat
Price: $28.00 (1 oz)

This Ao Fu Hou (Orange flower fragrance) Phoenix Dan Cong is the second of the three Dan Cong samples graciously given by Salsero. I wasn't quite as impressed by this one as I was with the Yu Lan Xiang, but I still enjoyed it very much.

The dry leaf, while pleasant, isn't as aromatic as the Yu Lan Xiang. The fragrance is more subdued and rounded, and smells, I think, of apples. The dry leaf is slightly greener than the Yu Lan Xiang, but looks pretty much the same.

I tried to brew this tea just as I brewed the last one, though I did use slightly more leaf. Perhaps it was due to the extra leaf that I also used shorter infusion times (about 25 seconds each, adjusting to taste).

Though this tea isn't as aromatic (though you may have a different experience, I think aroma is a very hard thing to control and predict) as the Yu Lan Xiang, the flavor is richer and smoother. It's hard to place the flavor at first, but I think it resembles apples and (to a lesser degree) the muscatel flavor sometimes found in Darjeelings.

The flavor is actually quite dynamic— it seemed to change often, switching back and forth between perfumey/not, astringent (in a good way)/not astringent, and citrusy/apple-y, despite only slight variations in steep time. An unpredictable tea, I think, which differed from the Yu Lan Xiang, whose flavor remained more or less consistent throughout the session.

Overall, I think this is a very good tea. It has a subtle but certainly pleasant aroma, and strong (for a Dan Cong), dynamic flavor.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


wikiCHA ScreenshotHey all, just wanted to let you know about a project I have been working on with a few other tea friends. It's called "wikiCHA," and as you may have already gathered, it is a wiki about tea.

It's still a fledgling wiki, and though much effort has been put into it, we are far from being a "complete" source for tea knowledge. Still, I invite you to take a look and see what's up already— you might learn something new (I know I have)!

If you see a missing article you feel you could help with, make an account and get to work! If you would like to be a more regular contributor, check out the community portal to see what we really need help with.

Check it out here:

Monday, February 04, 2008

2007 Yu Lan Xiang Phoenix Dan Cong from Tea Habitat | Wrong Fu Video: #2

Yu Lan Dan Cong dry leafClass: Oolong
Origin: Guangdong province, China
Year: 2007
Vendor: Tea Habitat
Price: Free for me- thanks Salsero!

Getting free tea is one thing, but getting great free tea is something entirely different. I have to say, this is the first Dan Cong that has truly impressed me, and it really blew me out of the water.

First off, the dry leaf. As soon as I stuck my nose in the bag (Remember the Sam Adams commercials where they showed Jim Koch smelling hops? I'm almost that bad.), I knew this was going to be interesting. There is an intense (See the bold face type? It's that intense.) aroma of peach and grapefruit— lovely! The leaves themselves are quite beautiful— long, dark, and delicate.

Yu Lan Dan CongAs soon as hot water hits leaf, this aroma moves- I could smell it clearly even a yard (or a meter, for you metric-lovers and optimists). It is, without a doubt, the most aromatic tea I have come across to date. I tried to stay true to Imen's parameters, and they seemed to work out pretty well. I used ~4.5g of leaf in a 100mL gaiwan, and tried to take as much of her other advice as possible. I had to use a cha hai though, because I don't have enough matching cups— yes, I know I'm hopeless— to hold all the liquid from my gaiwan (you can see my awkward attempt to get around this in the video below).

The tea liquor was interesting. True to its dan cong nature, the flavor was not as pungent as many other teas (particularly yancha), at least not in the first few steeps. I'm not sure if you caught that the first time, but yes, I said the first few steeps. This tea produced an insane number of infusions, but sadly I lost count. Definitely well into the teens, though, and I stopped because I got tired, not the leaf. Still, even though it persists for a long time, the light fruit/perfume flavor is never more than mediocre in strength, as one would expect from a dan cong.

Also of note: take a look at the wet leaf. See those little holes? Not the tears, those are my fault, but the little holes with red marks around them. If I presume correctly, those are bite marks from insects. Not only is this proof of the tea's organic nature, but I think it may also explain some of the tea's intense fruitiness. Bai Hao and Muscatel Darjeelings are known to taste fruitier when bitten (something to do with the leaf reacting to damage, and producing more juices/goodies), so perhaps this is a similar phenomenon?

This was a spectacular tea, as one would expect considering the price it commands. If the other teas Salsero/Imen sent are anything like this one, I am in for quite a treat. Thanks again Salsero!

If you are curious about my interpretation of Imen's directions, you can check them out here, in Wrong Fu video #2!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wrong Fu Video: #1

I just made my first voyage into a new internet medium: the moving picture!

Anyway, here's me making some 1983 TGY. Enjoy!

If any of you have any comments or suggestions for things I should work on, please let me know!