A Good Cup Of Tea Takes Patience And Practice
An oolong brews differently than a white peony than a pu-erh than a jasmine. And even within those varietals, soil and air give them distinct personalities from their region (and, thus, another way to approach preparation). Like collecting records, tea is a ritual that comes with a certain amount of research and love… know where your leaves come from and how best to experience them, and the tea leaves will reward your palette and sense of being
But this is not how to make a cup of aged Liu Bao.
I steeped way too many leaves of this funky, fermented Chinese black tea for far too long and in the same vessel that I brew my daily pot. I could tell a nutty, woody flavor was lurking under that deep red drink, but all I got was watery mud.
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats recommended this 20-year-old Liu Bao tea a while back, so I sprung for a 10-gram bag (along with a honey orchid oolong, some "duck shit" and a Jin Jun Mei black tea sampler). Liu Bao dates all the way back to the Tang Dynasty from the Guangxi province; originally drank by royalty, it became a miner's everyday tea largely because its caffeine levels can rival a cup of coffee. So many methods for tea processing have modernized, of course, but Liu Bao actually sticks pretty close to its origins: the raw tea leaves are piled and exposed to high humidity, then the leaves are steamed and pressed into bamboo baskets, and finally they air-dry for several months.
So… next time: short steepings, a smaller cup, brewed in a Yixing pot specifically for Liu Bao teas. (I already have a Yixing pot, but it's for oolong… the life of a collector is complicated and silly.)
The Playlist: Viking's Hush
34 tracks. Mostly stuff from the Viking's Choice Guide to Bandcamp Friday, but different tracks than last week's BNDCMPR-only playlist. But also Saint Etienne's return to '90s cool. Deafheaven twinkled so Slow Crush could sparkle. Fluisteraars' vertigo-inducing black metal. Celestial damage via Colin Self's Lyra Pramuk rework. Hayden Pedigo's ambient finger-picking. The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die was always prog. Kayo Dot's dreamy goth-prog. Pop queen Sally Shapiro is back and "Fading Away" is a frosty disco GEM. My absolute favorite Madonna song ("Open Your Heart") as an opulent 10-minute remix. The BLACKSTARKIDS are alright. Joni Mitchell, as bootlegged by Jimi Hendrix. Just Ben Chasney and an acoustic guitar, minus Six Organs of Admittance.
Stream the official Viking’s Choice playlist via Spotify, Apple Music or ¡STILL NEW! BNDCMPR (third-party playlist platform for music on Bandcamp) . Here’s the permalink for this week’s mix and the archives.