I’ve got half a post typed up in another window, and am penning another post on paper as I read the 1960’s handbook, “Tea Growing” by C.R. Harler. But instead of working on either of those, here’s a general post of updates instead.
Green Terrace Teas made a post on Steepster about offering free samples for review; I haven’t received mine yet, but we’ll see how that goes. I’ve noticed that someone (most likely from the country) has gone through and rated all their teas at 100 without posting a review. Usually Steepster is quick to jump on this and point it out, but it doesn’t look like anyone has noticed it yet; I’m not upset, as most new companies posting on Steepster don’t realize this is considered ‘taboo’ until users speak up. We’ll see.
Otherwise, I made a trip down to the Chinese Tea Shop and then O5, where at the latter I ended up staying way longer than I meant to talking with one of the employees. But that’s one way to spend an afternoon. I like the comradery of the Independent Tea Shop Industry (TM?) of Vancouver; my CTS bag was recognized the moment I stepped into O5, and we ended up discussing puers and dan cong oolongs (as those were what I’d purchased). From there we talked a bit about other tea shops and the tea events around Vancouver, as well as the prominent “tea folk” (he was surprised at how few I’ve met from the Vancouver Tea Society, but I tend to avoid large gatherings; me and conventions don’t mix–in fact, I took the UBC bus to get to O5, knowing full well that I could ride it to UBC where my friends were currently helping host Northwest Fanfest).
It’s actually from O5 that I learned that the Vancouver Tea Society will not be hosting a second annual Vancouver Tea Festival. I’m pretty depressed about this actually, but it turns out they were unable to secure a larger venue. I can’t remember if I made a blog post about my disappointment about not being able to get in to their first annual event (I ended up, in my disappointment, busing to O5 that day); they sold out of advanced tickets, and were forced to turn away anyone interested in buying tickets at the door (like myself, as I wasn’t able to solidify my plans until the last moment). We discussed the overwhelming success of the event–rather, the complete and utter unpreparedness for the huge turnout. Apparently most of it can be credited to Groupon, which brought in an extra few hundred event-goers. I’m still holding out hope that the VTS changes their minds or gets a hold of a larger venue (they still have about four months!), because “accidentally overwhelming success” is a sucky reason not to have a Second Annual (there were also a few kinks to be worked out, I hear). From what I understand, they’re focusing more on small-scale tea events this year instead, and hopefully the festival will be on again for 2015. If I can work up the courage, I’m to shoot him an email and hopefully get involved in a few of these events. We’ll see.
At any rate, O5 was exactly how I remembered it, complete with anti-long-legged bar. They have a little table in there now that I don’t remembered them having before (they offered me a seat there when I mentioned my legs were not equipped for their bar, but I ended up sticking with the stool), but it’s a nice touch if you go with friends. I’d gone in with plans to try one of the other Balhyocha Korean oolongs. But as I sat down and started flipping through the menu, a Kenyan oolong caught my eye instead; I can’t remember its exact name, but don’t bother looking for it on the website, it’s not listed (apparently they got it about three months ago).
It was an interesting cup, bit of a darker oolong, and not too out of the ordinary for an African black; he confirmed it was of an Assam varietal, and it definitely tasted it, though by the second or third steep I remembered agreeing that it wasn’t too unlike a Yunnan as well (plus by the third it’d mellowed a bit).
We ended up talking more about tea communities, and though he was familiar with Steepster, I pointed him towards teatra.de as well, for the blogging community. I ended up making friends and shaking hands with a complete stranger who came in later, her first time in O5; she asked me how I’d found it, and I told her I’d pegged it via google maps. She was interested in finding more tea shops, so I pointed her towards Steepster, both for the community and for the Places tab. I can’t recall her name now.
She ended up leaving after only the third steep of her oolong, so Bryan (of O5) ended up sharing the subsequent steeps with me (an unrolled Ali Shan oolong!); he also shared a Balhyocha with me (Noeul, I believe?); I think I’m starting to grow attached to them. They’re really rather reminiscent of chocolate, which makes me long for Dawn, the Arunachal Pradesh single-original black from the days of The Simple Leaf. We ended up discussing that too, and he said he’d discuss with the owner about the possibility of sourcing from the state in the future (probably just wishful thinking).
At any rate. We discussed tea history and the books I’ve been reading, and I felt maybe I was pushing tea history books a little too much (I can get pushy about recommending books); somehow we got off topic and ended up discussing pulp fiction, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Eberron, then DC comics (Green Arrow–he recommended I pick up Kevin Smith’s series, dealing with Green Arrow coming back from the dead–I’ll have to see if it’s collected on Comixology, or else find it in trade paperback; he’s not the first person to recommend Kevin Smith), and Marvel. Oh yes, we also ended up discussing the dubious worth of the Tea Sommelier certification; apparently, at least in Canada, the term has been coined so that not just ‘anyone’ can claim it or certify you, but he agreed that it is more of a business course than a tea course.
If you’ve made it this far through my ramble, them you probably deserve some tea photos.
I went into The Chinese Tea Shop originally hoping to buy some Yabao to try. I should have checked their site before coming in, because I realize how it lists that they’ve sold out; at any rate, he suggested a sheng puer, “Moonlight White” instead; it’s apparently picked at night instead of during the day, hence the name, and the disk comprises a mixture of green and very white leaves. I sampled it while there, and ended up actually rather liking it; I found it quite fruity. I tend not to like sheng puers because they can be quite sharp when young, and I’m inexperienced with a lot of puer as it is. It still has a bit of a sharp aftertaste, that hits you a little while after drinking, but I picked up fifty grams anyways (they didn’t have any prepacked 50 grams at the time, so they had to rebag some for me–oops). I tend to stray from puer because the cakes along are incredibly expensive. This one wasn’t too bad, definitely of the cheaper range there (I joked with Bryan–apparently we’re both cheapos when it comes to tea).
A shot inside the bag… It doesn’t quite do justice to the variety of shades in the leaf.
From there I also picked up another dan cong–“heavenly aroma”. At this point, I think I’m intent on collecting and sampling every dan cong varietal.
From O5 I picked up two more teas, both blacks.
The cask-aged Nepal black I originally went in for. This was another one I was considering sitting down to taste, but ended up going for the Kenyan oolong instead. But after a sniff of this one, I had to pick some up anyways. If you’ve never heard of cask-aged Nepal black teas–don’t sweat it. It’s not a long lost Nepalese tradition. The owner of O5 did it himself, with old wine barrels. One thing you’ll notice upon hanging around O5 (if you stay long enough) is their penchant for storing teas in weird things. Also they let you pick your cup off the wall to drink from, which is always charming. They’ve got oolongs in bizarre clay pots apparently originally meant for milking cows, and they’ve got teas in giant barrels stained from the wine they once aged.
Apparently, as I’m told, the owner wasn’t all that impressed by this Nepal black, so he decided to experiment on his own by storing it in old wine barrels (you’ll find it in the far corner of the shop, near their register); the end result was pleasantly surprising. I like Nepal blacks well enough (not a favourite, but I don’t hate), and winey scents intrigued me, plus it’s definitely one of their cheaper teas (bonus!), so I picked some up. I ended up going for their forty gram bag, since it was only two dollars more than their sample size.
To close, have one of my favourite teacups; I picked this one up from Value Village a year or so ago, and still marvel over the glaze from time to time.