Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Meeting Amsterdam based tea enthusiasts online


that meetup, comparing chen pi (photo credit Suzana; hers are usually better)

There's no need for me to keep writing every time that group of friends and I have an online meetup, a video version of a phone call, or social get together, but I'll briefly mention one more, and others that follow as long as it makes sense to.  We met two very interesting tea enthusiasts based in Amsterdam this past weekend, discussing tea themes there, and even more about general experience.

The contacts are Daria and Dmitry, real-life contacts and friends of my friend Ralph.  Daria is an artist, whose work can be seen on Instagram and Telegram.  They talked about visiting the new Moychay tea club and shop there in Amsterdam, their first in Europe, which I also wanted to mention, since I may or may not have brought that up before.  I'll add a bit more about the Moychay theme in a later section, some photos.

The rest was what you'd expect, personal introductions, talking about tea experiences and preferences, what we were drinking just then, local cultures, etc.  It's all the more interesting because people in different countries naturally experience different local tea culture based on varying personal exposure.  Even something relatively central, like contact with a somewhat original Chinese tea tradition, varies in form and content quite a bit.  

Tea perception in India has been serving as an example paradigm, beyond China and these local areas (Amsterdam and Russia, over the last two meetups), based on Suzana's input, and related to that serving as a good example case.  German tea enthusiast subculture would be like that in Amsterdam, and in an online environment like a Discord group actual contact could overlap.

It was particularly interesting that Daria and Dmitry had the experience to fill in some of what we had covered about Russian tea culture the last time.  The topic of Russian "prison tea" or chifir had come up on a Reddit post recently, and Dmitry described actually trying that (incredibly potent over-brewed tea, intended to cause a drug-like effect).  His take:  pass on that; it's not a pleasant experience.  In looking up that recent thread link it was interesting how it was also discussed there four months ago and four years ago.  There's nothing new under the sun, at least on r/tea.  

And we talked about Ivan chay / willow herb / fireweed, and tea club forms in different places, variations in local preferences, about masala chai versions; all very interesting.  Ralph offered that licorice root served as a secret ingredient that made masala versions served at German music events especially tasty.  Suzana rejected that this works as a conventional masala chai variant, even though it might be pleasant.

One extension of that meeting form we've been considering, and never really resolve, is how to expand that kind of discussion to include more people, versus one or two different additions each weekend session.  Recording and sharing the sessions would work, but since they are just social meetups, not really formatted for that, it's not appropriate.  It's not an interview, as in a podcast form, just people talking.  

Adding more members is an option, letting another few--or many--people join, but that's also problematic.  We've had 5 people meet together this past weekend, and 6 the weekend prior, and that felt like a practical limit, so many participants that not everyone was as actively involved.  Having 10 people meet would require some sort of change in form, something like basing discussion around a central panel or guest, with some form of moderation.  Unstructured informal discussion is better, in a sense, more comfortable.  But it would be nice to share the experience, if we figure that out.

With even 4 people discussing tea it's hard to dig far into personal favorites, brewing practices, and exposure background, and then new findings beyond that, about recent events and such.  Over the course of most of a year it did work to go into that, in talking with Ralph, Suzana, and Huyen in weekly sessions.  Huyen took us a cool step beyond that recently, sharing live video of tea processing in Ha Giang, a prominent tea production region in the far North of Vietnam.  That wasn't one of these meetups, just a spontaneous call, which I'll add more photos of along with the Moychay theme in a  following section.

As I mentioned sharing these summaries partly relates to potentially evolving and opening up this form of discussion later on, but related to just continuing on in the same form, it would connect organically to continue on to exploring Eastern European tea culture.  Really there's a lot going on in different places that it would be interesting to hear about.  Latvia in particular comes up as a center of local tea culture, and I've written about tea culture in Poland, and run across chance contacts in lots of countries (Italy, Spain, Indonesia, South America...).  

Some of that local culture contact relates to posts in the International Tea Talk FB group I moderate, or elsewhere.  Beyond discussing local culture it would also be nice to get back to exploring tea producer contacts.  It never did work out to include an online friend from Nepal, and it would be interesting to hear about status in a few other countries, after earlier discussion with producers from India, China, and Laos (two from there).  Maybe even the US.

More on the Moychay Amsterdam club and Ha Giang tea processing

Moychay's local club and enthusiast Facebook page shows more photos of that space (with this their main site).

just amazing (credit that FB page for all photos here)

the Moychay founder, Sergey Shevelev, in that shop space

only partly related, they've explored creating handmade teaware lately 

Huyen's photo of a Ha Giang, Vietnam visit (credit her FB page, also on IG)

meeting a tea farmer / processor by Whatsapp call

with Huyen, cheerful as always

tea growing where she was visiting (or maybe on a different day, but roughly the same thing)

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Song Yi Tea 2019 Jing Mai arbor sheng pu’er


Back to reviews!  This has been as long a break as I’ve taken in years; the last was 6 weeks ago.  It has been nice to have more free time on the weekends, to focus on other things, to lean into the meetup theme, and write on different subjects here.  I probably never will go back to writing 8 to 10 blog posts a month.

This is a sheng pu’er from Song Yi Tea, a vendor based out of Taiwan, who sent samples before for review.  Many thanks to the for providing this.  Their earlier teas were quite good.  It’s hard to place “quite good,” and that’s definitely on a relative scale, of sorts.  I’ll see what I can do with aspects descriptions, tying an impression back to defining that better.

I don’t know what this is, and don’t remember what I reviewed last time.  You would think after years I could try a tea and get a clear impression of origin region, if not local area, based on how people tend to describe that sort of generality.  Lots of variables go into how a sheng version comes across, beyond terroir, source area and related less fixed growing inputs, eg. the weather that year.  And my memory isn’t set up to retain much, not names or phone numbers, certainly not a matrix of sheng aspects per ever-finer local areas.  Let’s try a couple examples though.

Yiwu tends to be sweet and floral, approachable in a conventional form but with a little more structure in some versions, Jing Mai with a little more edge, still floral but often with a trace of lemon or edgier flavor towards pine, but often not quite pine, and so on.  But I still can’t place teas through tasting, even from those places I’ve tried lots of versions from (those two, and others).  Same for the gushu theme; I could write a few phrases about what I see as typical character (higher intensity, but not necessarily stronger flavor, underlying mineral tone, durability to brew more rounds, tendency to age positively, depending on starting point character) but who knows if that’s even right.

So I’ll describe the tea experience and then look it up; the usual process (I'll just leave that to the end, and of course not adjust the notes to match it).  Even the year could be clearer; it looked like that said 2019 on the stamp, but it was hard to read.  This may be a tea I already reviewed, back when it was newer.

On brewing process, I tend to use two cups when brewing tea for breakfast, for rushing through a cycle, never exactly early related to getting to work.  On the weekend, especially for doing a review, that concern drops out, and one cup is fine, no need to switch to pull heat out (or even drink cold water out of one in between; it’s hard to drink down a liter of tea in a 15 or 20 minute rushed breakfast related to that brewing temperature).  Why not Western-style brew if in a hurry, one might wonder.  I do, if I’m drinking a tea suited for that, and if not I just rush the Gongfu process (which I wrote about not long ago, which teas I see matching which approach).

First infusion:  I like it.  I tend to brew the first round light to get introduced to the tea over the first two or three rounds, so this is just a starting point.  All that I just said about Yiwu and Jing Mai comes back to me.  The main aspect is floral, but it also has a touch of dryness and structure to the feel that pairs with a slightly piney trace.  It’s definitely not edgy, and even for being lighter it’s seemingly not going to develop in that direction.  Bitterness and sweetness level tends to define a lot of sheng experience, and this is pleasant for both, with some distinct bitterness but at a good, moderate level, balanced by pleasant sweetness.  I should probably wait a round to do more aspects breakdown.  I like where it seems to stand on the “how good” dimension, but it’s way to early to say more about that.

Second infusion:  I’ll have to focus in related to brewing time; even from the look I may have let this go just over 10 seconds instead of just under, and it could be on the strong side.  At least the impression will be clear, even if that level isn’t optimum.  More of the same as last time, but much stronger, definitely slightly overbrewed.  That’s fine; it can help pin down some aspect range better, but it does shift the balance of how flavors come across, what stands out most.  

Intensity can vary for different reasons in sheng, and it’s not necessarily that stronger is always better; it’s the overall balance that matters.  It’s not as good a sign to need to push a tea a little to get more out of it, but more typically “brewing around” a negative and relatively strong input comes up, cutting back infusion time.  Even that’s not always such a bad thing; in some cases it just means the tea needs more time to ferment and transition, that it’s not its time yet.

There’s a bit more of a towards-pine edge to this, especially for being brewed strong.  It pairs with a nice sappy, resin-like feel this time, a bit thick, but in a distinctive way.  It has a hint of dryness to it, which isn’t really atypical, but not all that universal.  Honey flavor stands out in the sweetness, along with floral, which is competing with the mineral and other heavier range.  It will compete better next round, brewed lighter.  There’s a clean and relatively balanced end effect.  

These individual aspects are coming across so clearly that I wonder if this isn’t narrowly sourced material, versus a blend.  It’s surely cheaper for a producer to make a blend of an equivalent general level of positive character, because they can mix inputs and adjust proportion to draw out better aspects and minimize flaws, to offset what doesn’t work as well.  I’m not sure I’d have an expectation for a vendor not based locally in Yunnan, in terms of what this should be.  If I just had better memory I’d know from writing about their teas something like a year and a half ago.  Again I’ll save a clearer and longer list-form aspect description for a third round, brewing this as I see an optimum.

Third infusion:  Better, more where this should be for infusion strength.  Intensity is still fine, more than adequate, brewed for a relatively short time.  In that longer write-up about differences between Gongfu and Western brewing I mention that agitation seems to allow for a fast infusion to be so intense, and the tea still brewing while damp, with water removed.  Who knows.

Honey sweetness is novel in this tea; it’s not so unusual for some of that to be present but not often at this level for sheng.  Floral tone seems non-distinct to me for being balanced by an aspect range I’m not really describing clearly by saying it’s “like pine, but not that.” Like moderately cured hardwood then, maybe, not the sappy young wood effect, and not the richer, deeper, sweeter tones of wood that’s been drying for awhile.  Somehow, to me, that pairs with and connects with both that unique mouthfeel, the structure with just a bit of dryness, and the bitterness.  The mouthfeel is complex enough that calling it structured and dry isn’t enough; there’s a resinous edge to it.

Aftertaste is interesting; all of that trails over and changes form.  The honey comes across a little more like beeswax in the aftertaste version, and the touch of dryness in the mouthfeel immediately softens (located in center of the mouth, the middle of the tongue and around the sides and top, not the throat, a general effect range that I don’t tend to prefer, dislike, or even place as much as some people do).   

I like the tea.  With this much structure and edge it won’t just fade, and should be even better in two more years.  But then it’s approachable enough to drink right now, for sure.  Flavor intensity might drop a good bit over the next 15 years; harder to take young sheng might be better for retaining that, but milder flavored teas can be positive in other ways after a longish transition.  Or before fully transitioned, if someone is on the 20-plus years aged sheng only preference theme.  Someone mentioned to me not that long ago that they only drink 20-plus year old sheng, which seems odd to me, to never crave anything like the experience I’m having right now.  Then again I can’t really look ahead and see what I’ll prefer or avoid in another decade.  I sometimes wonder if I’ll keep drinking tea; this is a bit long for me to stick with an experience cycle like this.

Fourth infusion:  I’m really feeling this tea.  I ate a Tim Horton’s Boston Crème donut when I woke up but nothing else, and usually I eat prior to or with tea to offset feeling that stoney rush.  I get it why people are into that, I’m just not.  I already did my time as a stoner.  

More of the same this round, really.  How someone would like this version would depend on how they relate to the mix of honey sweetness, floral range input (which is a little non-distinct to break down further, maybe just warm in tone versus bright and sweet), and that towards-pine wood range.  “Tastes like wood” isn’t what one is looking for in a sheng, typically, but I mean that in a relatively positive sense.  Do you know how some common Bulang origin range sheng can express a variation of that that’s really intense, so much so you wouldn’t drink the tea when it’s young?  In that form even heavier mineral, although this is pronounced, maybe not towards-pine woodiness as much as paired astringency.  

I’m probably mixing ideas here, talking about mixed-source or plantation sheng that’s more negative for growing conditions and type input.  Older plant, higher elevation, and more natural growth source sheng tends to be intense in flavor, often in novel and pleasant ways, but less so in astringency, interesting and complex, maybe including substantial bitterness but not challenging in the same way.  You might like such a tea aged to see positive aspects transition to other different positive aspects, not to become drinkable.

But then what do I know, right, I’ve already said that to some extent the generalities escape me.  

Fifth infusion:  I’ve not been mentioning transition much, but the same aspects are shifting.  That really heavy honey sweetness is not changing; it’s cool experiencing it with a slightly different other range, in terms of proportion.  I’m not doing justice to a “wood” flavor range; it’s definitely not that in this round's form.  Heavy mineral is half of it, a warm mineral tone input.  A trace of pine is part of the rest, which is closer to pine resin scent than the brighter needle flavor.  I think the complexity is what is giving me trouble.  Part is like wood, but part is like a carroway seed too, a spice range input.  This doesn’t taste like rye bread, at all, but part of what is in some forms of that is also in this.  There’s no sourness or the same type of general bread range to connect it to rye bread.

I’m absolutely getting blasted by this tea.  Drinking it outside in a warm end of morning probably isn’t helping (with "warm" in Bangkok meaning mid 90s F, mid 30s C).  It’s not the trippy, visual, stoney range that some sheng brings across, just a heavy energy, a body feel that’s also affecting my head.  It doesn’t feel off in any way, but it’s not really an activating effect or a sedative, just bumping overall energy level.  I could exercise “on this,” or work, but it would waste the effect to go sit in an office now.  Sitting through a movie would work, I’d think, just maybe not a slow drama.  For me outdoor experience goes well with every mood and energy level, but that’s surely common but not universal.

one cup more than the required level of stuff

Sixth infusion:  I’ll go get the kids from Chinese (Mandarin) lesson so I’ll leave off here [my wife did instead, but I'd like to preserve the notes as they were].  This is far from finished but it’s more than enough notes. For whatever reason I’m noticing that touch of lemon more in this round than the last; I probably brewed it just a little faster, letting lighter tones show through more.  Or it may be shifting in the balance, part of the transition.  That would be really cool if this did even more with fruit in the later rounds, not how that usually goes.  With that as a prompt, and in the context of this being a little lighter, something like dried apricot shows through more than that pine/wood tone, that had been moving into a spice range more last round.  I bet this isn’t finished, that it has one or two more transition-related sets of aspects to go through.  I never will add another 1000 words in notes but I may say something about that later. 

Later infusions:  the next few seemed similar, maybe just fading a little.  At around infusion 10 the character was still pleasant but intensity and range were restricted, with mineral showing through more and sweetness and the floral (transitioning a little to fruit) range both dropping back.  The tea was still nice that way (or is; I’m making notes as I go again).  That pronounced warm mineral range reminds me of a common theme in aged sheng, but it just happens to be similar, or maybe the same, while from a different kind of cause.  In aged sheng lots of compounds / aspects shift from fresh, bitter, astringent (feel versus flavor, but it all seems to “bundle,” to some extent) to deeper, richer, warmer, full but smoother, less structured in feel, and quite different.  It just so happens that a specific warm mineral tone is common in that other set, and stands out in later rounds in this.  The rest is different, of course.


I never did get far with the two obvious questions, what is it, and how good is it?  Again I’m not mentally set up for the blind-tasting type-matching game; memory for a matrix of concepts isn’t my thing, across a very broad range of subjects.  As to how good it is that’s problematic for a different reason, because it has to include both a subjective preference component, a match to personal like, and be good for what it is, back to the trueness to type first issue.  That said, it’s good.  

As I see it sheng is often sold across a few general sets of types.  “Factory teas” cover a broad range but these are blends, quite often “designed” to be aged to be most positive, most typically in a quite moderate price range, $30-$60 per cake, let’s say.  Of course there would be lots of direct exceptions to that.  A broad subset is even cheaper, and not necessarily awful for being made of low-cost material.  Then some vendors try to make blends like that but slightly better, using better material (hopefully), often selling for around the high side of that range, but of course that would vary.  Sheng versions made from a more limited source range are something else, often pricing from that high end on up, maybe way up depending on source area and claimed tea plant source age.  I guess this seems like a decent version of the last category to me.  I can’t guess to what extent it was blended, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that input was quite limited, or not part of the story.  

As to quality level I liked the tea, and it had some really positive aspects, but there were limitations in relation to seeing it as good in the sense one would expect from expensive tea versions, maybe even below versions in the range of $80-100 sold as semi-premium teas, or however branding and marketing puts that.  That wood-tone wasn’t bad but also not the most positive range, even though it faded and changed to other range after a few rounds.  Slight dryness was probably more negative than positive but again not a character flaw, and again it shifted.  Complexity was good; aftertaste and feel generally positive, although there was some room for improvement or stronger effect for those.  Intensity was good, but it could’ve extended for a few more rounds before fading some.  It’s cheating but from what I do remember this is probably much better tea than a selling price would indicate, but not on the same level as versions vendors promote as a $.50-1/gram exceptional quality level examples. Let’s see, checking what it is.

2019 Spring "Jing Mai" Arbor Sheng Puerh 357g Raw Tea Menghai Yunnan Pu'er

Nice!  Now it does look like I know what I'm talking about, for completely matching the earlier Jing Mai general description as floral with a bit of pine and maybe lemon, approachable but not soft related to astringency form.  That cost description matches too; this sells for just over $30 (1039 baht), which to me is a fantastic price for this tea.  Jing Mai is a good general type for buying at a great value, if you like the character, which this is a decent example of.  It would be really easy to buy tea not even close to this good for double that price; much, much easier than finding anything comparable at the same cost.  Their description:

Name: Jing Mai Arbor Sheng Puerh

Year: 2019 Spring First Harvest

Country of Origin: Yunnan Province, China

Altitude: 1400m above sea level

Flavor: Sweet Wild floral aroma , Smoky Pine Scent

These tea leaves are from tall bushes which are above 80 years old.  They grow freely with different kinds of plants in Jing Mai mountain.  Dry tea leaves are tight and dark. The infusion is lightly golden with typical honey sweet aroma,  excellent depth of flavor and a soft velvety mouth-feel, full, round and harmonious.

The only part of the description I'm not "getting" is the smoky part.  Pine was fairly subdued, but present, but I noticed no smoke at all.  If that was from a processing input and wasn't strong it may have just dropped out over two years.  Other than not mentioning a touch of lemon they covered pretty much everything I mentioned.

I was considering benchmarking price against a somewhat recent Jing Mai version from Moychay, which seemed a decent value, this one.  That tea might have been slightly better but for that costing just over $60 and this just over $30 it would be an easy choice between the two for me; buy this and another one presented as better (higher in cost, at least) from this Song Yi outlet.  

Farmerleaf has always been a good source for Jing Mai and other origin teas; comparing this to one of their flagship versions might help, and seemingly their least expensive sheng version, a 2020 Jing Mai Miyun, which lists for $56.  Their description fills in what that "arbor" part is at least supposed to mean (per my understanding):

The Jingmai Miyun is a blend of several natural tea gardens (also known as Shengtai) that our family manages. We have five plots of shengtai, located at various altitudes and in different environments.

What makes a natural tea garden?

While conventional plantations loaded with pesticides and growth promoters were prevalent in Yunnan a few decades ago, the revival of the Pu-erh tea industry in the 2000s lead a push for better quality. When it comes to Pu-erh tea, you can't hide bad material under a good processing, it's a tea true to its origin.

The conventional plantations were not able to produce leaves that would satisfy the  demanding pu-erh tea enthusiasts. From 2010 on, a lot of conventional plantations were redesigned. Plantation density was reduced and shade tree were planted in order to build a resilient ecosystem. This design would produce less tea per surface, but would offer better protection against pest and disease and wouldn't require much fertilization. The tea trees were allowed to grow taller, at about 2m high.

This design change allowed the farmers to ban pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Thanks to a richer ecosystem and clever design, the leaves would grow high quality leaves and give satisfying Pu-erh tea.

It would be interesting to comparison taste that Miyun version and some other version they describe as higher in quality alongside this tea.  I last bought a Farmerleaf cake presented as such two years ago, this one, a 2018 Tian Xiang version.  Vendors typically never try to isolate a specific quality level in description, of course, partly because that's way too subjective, but within the description context and content it comes across, with selling point another implication ($79 for that cake).  That version was good, maybe better than this, or maybe partly just different in character versus better.  I've tried that again in the last 3 weeks; it's still good, but mostly gone, because I drank through it and shared some.  

I think I liked a Mengku sample from them a good bit more, but that was selling for closer to $100, and I didn't go on to buy a cake of it (due to budget issues, not value; that price seemed fair).  To be clear my opinion on the last version, and all of them, probably related to type and aspect character more than abstract quality level, but I suppose also that.

I can't say this is fantastic tea but I can say that it's quite good quality, and very enjoyable, per my preference, and it is a fantastic value, essentially better value than sheng ever tends to be.  It punches way above its weight in relation to price.  Some people just wouldn't love this type and aspects set; so subjective preference goes.  It's possible someone could see the early touch of dryness and wood-tone input as more negative than I did.  To me that's splitting hairs; this tea is only now coming into it's peak form, surely it will be just as good or better over the next three years or so.  

It may not have been at a relatively ideal starting point to age well past 15 years, but it's a great value tea to buy two cakes of it, one to drink and one to check on that after another decade.  I tend to try to only drink half a cake in some cases, but 180 or so grams of tea can go a lot faster than one might expect.  It's just a couple of tuochas worth.

Photo sharing section:

Not about tea, since it's been awhile I took some pictures of where I had the tea, out in a driveway space area, which is like a cool park setting.

the gardener / home owner, my wife's mother Mama Nid (or Yai, to the kids).  she's so nice.

I lost this round of the hungry squirrel game; he eats my favorite breakfast

what that yard space looks like

the other yard

flip flop and cat storage space

the other cat, "ei ouan"

it's not even the rainy season and the house jungle keeps taking back the backboard

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Assault rifle use in hunting


from an article cited here on scopes for AR-15 for different uses (photo credit)

Kind of a strange subject to take up in a tea blog, right?  Lately I've decided that if some other subject I'm reading about is interesting to me I'll share it here, and if my political bias offends people (moderate but to the left, really) then they can miss out on the rest about tea.  

It's not as if that many people read this blog either way, or that it makes any difference how many do.  It would be easy for someone to skip the off-tea theme posts, or getting offended and checking out is reasonable, even for a liberal who hates the idea of mixing subjects.  

I'm not that liberal, as I see it.  Political correctness and the rest seems strange to me, for not being in the US for the last 13 years while it all ramped up to where it is now.  And I lived in Hawaii before that; it's coming up on 16 years since I've lived in "the mainland."  "People of color" were called black people then, or at least the set who had been referred to as "African Americans" back in the 90s were.

I'll not debate whether assault weapons, with a main focus on the AR-15, should be banned or not in this.  Obviously the main prompt for even reading around related to this was the recent Boulder shooting, that killed 10, which followed an Atlanta mass-shooting about a week prior.  The Boulder version followed the typical form better, someone walking into a random place to kill lots of people.  Of course both individuals were quite unbalanced; how could they not be, given what both did?

Even though this is going in a strange direction, focusing on whether or not the AR-15 plays a natural role in hunting, which includes a tangent on media bias in reporting on such issues, this particular gun is a variation of a military assault weapon.  Gun enthusiasts and groups use such terms in whatever ways suit them best, assault rifle versus something friendlier sounding, but this Time article, essentially supporting AR-15 use in hunting, covers the real background:

Marbut, 69, first used the AR-platform during three years he spent in the military. Adopted by the U.S. military in the 1960s, the M-16 is the fully automatic version of the AR. The military still uses a variant of the gun. The familiarity Marbut developed with the gun in the military prepared him to hunt with it when he returned home to Montana.

Let's back up a bit related to that source:  it's a 2016 Time article titled "Here Are 7 Animals Hunters Kill Using an AR-15."  A political position is clearly implied in that article title, but only implied, which becomes more explicit in the article opening:

After the Orlando nightclub shooting, Democrats criticized the routine sale of the type of semiautomatic rifle used by Omar Mateen. Hillary Clinton called them “weapons of war.” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said that if you used a gun like the AR-15 — or the similar Sig Sauer used in Orlando — to go hunting “you should stick to fishing.”

But many gun owners say they use semiautomatic rifles to hunt regularly.

In interviews with TIME, leaders of 15 state shooting groups said semiautomatic rifles are popular with hunters in their states. Hunters say they favor the gun for its versatility, accuracy and customizable features for shooting animals. The semiautomatic feature, which allows these guns to shoot up to 45 rounds a minute, is not always necessary, but useful in some situations, hunters say...

45 shots per minute supports potential to kill a lot of game (hunted animals), or humans.  A bit more background cited soon after allows the article to move completely past the political divide in perspective:

Despite the criticism of semiautomatic rifles and their use in high profile mass shootings, gun control advocates say they are not focused on banning them, as they were during the 1994-2004 assault weapons ban. Stacey Radnor, spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, said that they are more focused on strengthening background checks and closing loopholes on sales than on banning specific guns.

So it's a non-issue on both sides, at least as far as that source goes.  Then it's onto which animals it makes sense to hunt using a weapon with those features.  

The main problem with the article is that almost half those animals aren't being hunted with that weapon in that article, as they normally are configured, with 2 cited using larger variations (one a different gun entirely and one other a modification).  One case is about someone using a 22 instead, a completely different thing.  Maybe the rest actually works, or maybe it doesn't.  For hunting wild pigs / boar the claim is that it's safer to have semi-automatic capability for self-defense, and tied to another case that same function helps you kill fast moving jackrabbits more effectively.

A bit of an aside:  one might wonder, is Time a conservative news source, as all this implies?  Sure, but only moderately so, according to this 2018 Market Watch source:

One of the main references about media bias (I think?) from Ad Fontes Media left Time off the latest version, but had them in the center in earlier chart versions:

Justifying AR-15 use as valid for hunting is definitely a conservative theme, but I suppose it would be possible for an outlet to judge different topics in different lights, to be conservative about hunting rights and more liberal about human rights issues.  Then again who's kidding who; it's conservative media.

But then that's not clearly identified in Time's most recent story line on this theme, Mass Shootings: 'This Is What Normal Has Come to Be Like in America'.  Either they've shifted political inclination or that's so obvious now that we can all finally agree on it. Fox News didn't put any interpretive spin on this Boulder story, they just described what happened.

So are those guns every really used for hunting?  Sure, in some cases by some people, but speaking as a former hunter from a rural Pennsylvania hunting background myself no, not really.  What would you use a semi-automatic weapon to hunt?  It's too small a caliber for deer, and for a really small animal you could just use a 22, as the guy did in the Time article on using an AR-15, who killed seals with one.  For rabbits and such you typically use a shotgun.  

In that Time article hunters really were using AR-15s to hunt feral goats, feral pigs, jackrabbits, and coyotes.  Maybe the pigs would really attack a hunter, bringing up a self-defense issue requiring 45 shot per minute capability, but any moderate sized rifle would probably be fine for the rest.  As a hunter you shoot to kill animals, not to wound them, so the idea of spraying lots of bullets towards pigs attacking you might be fine but shooting randomly at jackrabbits running around just isn't how that works.  Lots of them would run off wounded, dying or blood loss or infection after however long that took, or they would live out their lives with a wound that had healed.

But still I looked through a gun enthusiast ("Gunbacker") guide for AR-15 equipment to get more input on that, BEST AR-15 SCOPES AND OPTICS: TACTICAL REVIEWS.

Although its roots are military, the AR-15 platform has become one of the USA’s most popular hunting rifles. In the standard .223 caliber, it’s ideal for small varmints and predator control. The AR-15 is a reliable, light, and inherently accurate weapon. Still, we needed to find the best AR-15 scope to match.

When paired with the right accessories, the AR-15 is perfect for the job of bringing down a wide range of game. 

Back to that then, that "home defense" and tactical role playing aren't the only uses for this kind of weapon.  After describing some scope basics (the sighting optics familiar from action movies, what hunters and snipers use, and what I spent my childhood learning to use, after practicing on open sights), the article covers range of applications:

AR-15 optics are not universal. You need to plan for how you intend to use your rifle, and sometimes owning multiple scopes makes sense. If you intend to use your rifle for tactical urban warfare drills in a survivalist training camp, a Red dot scope like an Aimpoint or a holographic scope like an EoTech are your best bet. Even for short-range varmint hunting, a red dot or holographic sight is perfect. For longer range, you want something with magnification settings that you can adjust depending on your windage and elevation, just like other long-range rifle scopes that may outfit a 30-06 or a .308.

Clear enough.  A conservative read is that the gun has multiple valid uses; a liberal take would be that this is all pretense for owning a war-games / people-killing weapon.  That source's review of the first category, and then of specific scope versions (optics, they call them) is similar in that regard:


Holographic sights are used primarily in close-quarters combat. They are used primarily by military personnel and law enforcement agencies. They have also gained an incredible amount of popularity over the last few years as a close-quarters sight for anyone that likes to hunt varmints at a closer range. The biggest advantage a Holographic sight has over a red dot scope is that the reticle is much bigger and the MOA is provided better range precision.

It keeps going like that from there.  The hunting theme never completely drops out but repeated mentions of military use, durability, and tactical warfare context seems to speak more to a "defense oriented" audience.  If you see someone doing "tactical urban warfare drills in a survivalist training camp" learning self-defense skills, that is.  Any handgun would be fine for home defense, or a shotgun, and the 22 target rifle I shot as a kid would kill zombies, with no military style training required for that.

I suppose it's time to talk about restricting use of these weapons again.  A waiting period and additional review step will come of that, at most.  For whatever reasons it's impossible or impractical to connect gun ownership restrictions to any degree of risk assessment or control.  Some people must already be denied ownership related to some existing checks, but in general the US population is arming themselves at record rates, per that recent Time article:

About 22.8 million firearms were sold in 2020, compared with 13.9 million the previous year, according to estimates by the Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, an independent research firm. In 2020, the FBI conducted more firearm background checks than any year on record—more than 39.6 million, data from the agency shows. More than 8.4 million people in the U.S. became first-time gun owners last year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says, adding that record sales have sparked ammunition shortages across the country.

Scary.  I was raised with lots of guns around, a hunting tradition, and gun safety, so I don't have a one-sided take on this issue, but that's a lot of people preparing for the worst.  For sure some of them are no more stable than the two people who just murdered 18 people in those two incidents.  In at least a limited number of other cases the preparation will lead to a different negative outcome, because gun accidents and use for suicide are also significant causes of gun deaths.  It's possible to commit suicide with whatever is in your medicine cabinet too, maybe, but it's potentially more reversible to take some pills than a bullet to the head.

One strange part is that I never knew anyone who had an accident with a gun while growing up, or that committed suicide, or snapped and "went out with a bang."  This horrible trend has nothing to do with real hunting culture.  I don't think people owning AR-15s does either though, myself.  A friend and cousin owns one, and he loves the gun for the same reason the guy familiar with it from military service did, having served in the military himself.  If someone breaks into my friend's house he should be able to shoot that person 45 times in the first minute.  Unfortunately people on a very different page can also walk into a grocery store and do roughly the same thing.  Comparable carnage would also be horrifying using a handgun; the US needs to find multiple ways to reduce this trend.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Russian tea experts join our online group meetup


photo credits to Suzana and Ralph, respectively

It was hard to know how to put this title summary, since "enthusiasts" really doesn't capture the level of developed input these two tea contacts are able to pass on, but they both seem a bit plain-spoken to take up this form of implied experience claim.  One is Alexander Zhiryakov, the main founder of Laos Tea, and the other Alexander Vorontsov, a main founder of the Russian Tea Lovers enthusiast group.  Both might take tea interest a bit further than I do, at least in two different senses.  Adding commercial tie-ins is a change in interest form, and the Russian Tea Lovers, which I think both Alexanders are associated with, really take exploration seriously.  

I've met both before, for which I'm very grateful.  A chance online contact with Dasha Birukova led to her inviting me to a tasting at a Moscow bookstore on a visit there, which was very pleasant.  It was a chance to meet Alexander Zhiryakov and great exposure to a form of Laos tea and local culture.  I think I started talking to Alexander Vorontsov not so long after that, surely tied to posting about Russian tea themes, and we met here in Bangkok when he visited later.  He helped me write a post about tea culture in Russia, which mentioned that Moscow bookstore tasting.

Russians smile, just not as much while they are commuting

cheerful Russians on the Moscow subway; meeting silly tourists helps improve the mood

meeting at my favorite local Chinatown shop, Jip Eu

I'm a fan of Russian culture and their tea culture.  And of lots of places and cultures, moving on to really appreciate varying outlooks on life in general, but it's nice how it all plays out related to tea there.  The tradition runs a bit deeper than in most places, including here in Thailand.  Although the most mainstream form there now relates to Ceylon appreciation local tea enthusiasts are focused almost exclusively on Chinese teas, probably mostly on pu'er.  Tea clubs are a novel theme there, like a cafe but different in form.  I'll add a little introduction of both participants along with more on that.

another tea contact and vendor, and that club environment

We talked most with Alexander Zhirayakov about a new project to test teas and set up a "passport" or profile of them based on testing, a "Tea ID" project.  The idea is novel, to gain extra function from conventional screening of what is negative (pesticides and such) along with clarifying origin and, if possible, quality level through still-under-development use of specific identifying markers.  It may be possible to take some of the burden off supply chain tracking and direct-from-origin information streams by verifying a lot that simply can't be identified through testing now.  You can imagine how lots of tangents come up in just considering such a possibility:  how would that be possible, what other function or purpose could be added, and what limitations or other cultural considerations might support or block such development?

Alexander Vorontsov helped summarize a bit on local tea culture in Russia, a subject I thought my friends would also find fascinating.  That naturally moved from an overview starting point to considering which teas were focused on most, and how quality issues and sourcing relate to differing forms of local tea interest.  It's hard to really get evolution of local ceremonial aspects integrated in a short discussion; talk of connections or lack of exposure with varying tea origin areas, supplier issues, and other background naturally comes first.  He did pass on a bit about the tea clubs, just not much about their tea enthusiast group development, which we just didn't get to.

It's hard to condense the broad range of both discussion scopes to simple take-aways.  Covering personal likes and practices helps fill in more of a broad background, but those really don't lead to distinct summary.  That's what local tea culture is though, shared appreciation, and the sum total of lots of individual experience preferences.  A couple of hours only goes so far in mapping it all out, and covering personal introductions.  Maybe a backwards approach, explaining what we missed, will help fill in what was covered.

Laos tea:  for focusing so much on that interesting testing direction we really didn't get far in discussing tea from Laos.  It's a shame, because two hours isn't a lot of time to do justice to only that, but that testing project was worth the focus.  This meetup group has now talked to the two people probably most involved with Laos tea production and promotion in the world, with Anna as the other, and barely got into which tea types are now made in Laos.  I know the answer to that, based on trying dozens of individual versions; I should write about it in a summary post.  Or we could get Somnuc Anousinh (mentioned herehere, and here) to meet online sometime and focus on that.  That one black tea, the first "here," is one of the best versions of black teas I've tried, per my preference; a bit rustic in style but just fantastic, really basic but deeply appealing as Dian Hong can be.

Or in the meantime Alexander wrote a good bit and shared photos on that background here.

Vietnamese tea, Huyen's input:  it's hard to get 4 people a balanced proportion of time to cover where they stand on a discussion topic, and completely impossible for 6.  Alexander Vorontsov mentioned that he lacked significant exposure to better Vietnamese tea but we never really filled in what that range is, even in summary discussion.  To me Vietnamese tea is the best and most diverse in South-East Asia too, unless one considers Taiwan part of that set, and then probably second.  Laos is at a cool place for building on very old roots in novel directions, and countries like Thailand and Indonesia have been doing that for longer (in the modern forms, at least), but Vietnam's tea production development is far more mature.  Not really so much compared to China, but then that's true of everywhere else too, to me even in comparison with Japan.

Tea production in India, Russia, and Georgia:  we actually did discuss a bit about all three of these origins, but surely left out far more than was covered.  It would be nice to get back to all that in follow-up.  The tricky part about discussing regional development, and personal preference, is that a main sub-theme about quality levels never completely drops out, and also never becomes completely clear.  Sheng "pu'er" from Laos and Vietnam (and Thailand, and elsewhere) can be varied in character, quite positive, and maybe a bit variable across a lot of aspect range, not dialed in to the narrower character expected and valued from Yunnan.  That's also an oversimplification, since Yunnan sheng varies a lot, not only related to origin and style conventions, and quality level, but across lots of range.  The same problem comes up everywhere, talking about differing but overlapping subjects related to tea types, styles, and quality levels.

Samovar brewing:  mentioned in closing, Alexander Vorontsov said that in a future session he could go through what this is all about.  I've only tried tea--mixed with herbs--brewed in a samovar once. That was one of the more interesting experiences of my life, related in part to the context, visiting a dogsled racing camp in the Arctic region in Murmansk, Russia.  

riding that dogsled at around 4 in the afternoon

No doubt Alexander has lots to add beyond what I experienced through that cup of tea.  It goes without saying that the Russian Tea Lovers sessions would mostly use clay pots for brewing, maybe only setting those aside to use a gaiwan, if that seemed relevant.  Or so I would assume; we really didn't discuss anyone's preferences in much detail, related to when or for which types Western brewing might make sense.  Alexander (Vorontsov) was drinking mate from a related device during that meeting, and other kinds of exceptions must come up.

that Russian Tea Lover's Instagram capture, with Alexander Vorontsov in the lower right

There isn't much in here about what Huyen, Suzana, Ralph or I thought of any tea theme.  For having two guests this time we stuck more strictly to focus on their input on tea themes.  And that input and discussion was great; all of us really appreciated it.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Gongfu versus Western Style Brewing

first published as contributed to TChing

The basic definitions of these two brewing approaches are probably familiar, with the point here to consider why the outcome is so different.  In theory using higher proportion and shorter infusion times should be identical to using a far lower dry tea to liquid proportion and much longer timing, if you combine the Gongfu set of infusions together (“stack” them).  In practice maybe the separation does make the main difference, the experience of transition.  But the results seem quite different, so there could be more to it.  I’ll take two guesses here about possible additional factors.

Joshua Linvers initiated this subject, posting about experimenting with variations of Western brewing approach for Da Hong Pao (a Wuyi Yancha type).  He found that some seemingly equivalent but slightly varied proportion and time combinations gave relatively poor results, versus other trials standing out as much better, although there would be some relative optimum.  In message discussion he suggested that agitation could be a significant additional factor in Gongfu brewing.

Let’s run through a standard description of both for comparison, based on my own preference more than a standard definition.  Western brewing is most often described as using about 2 grams of dry tea per 250 ml, infused at varying temperatures per tea type, often for two rounds at about 4 and then 5 minutes. For here I’ll shift that to considering use of 3 grams per that 250 ml (8.4 ounces), infused for 2 1/2 and then 3 ½ minutes.  I might back off that time even further for some stronger flavored versions, like broken black tea, or use a third round for more durable versions.  Best brewing temperature depends on type, with variations in infusion time used more than temperature for Gongfu brewing to offset intensity and potential negative aspects (eg. astringency).

For Gongfu brewing I tend to use about 5 grams of tea per 100 ml gaiwan (device), infused for something like 10 seconds for the first few rounds, bumped up after 3 or 4 rounds to account for intensity dropping, then even longer later in the cycle.  It’s typical to use full boiling point temperature, or just off that, maybe only cooler for green tea.  But then it’s more standard to Western brew green tea, in general.  I tend to go through 10 infusions or more even with a quick breakfast, out around 15 rounds for more durable or better tea, or for when I use a slightly higher proportion.

comparison tasting; can be informative, but it throws off shifting timing per preference

At a glance the first Western approach brews half a liter of tea using 3 grams of tea (although in practice that varies).  The second approach output might round down to 90 ml, considering space for wet leaves, with 10 rounds brewing 900 ml out of 5 grams of tea, with a typical slightly longer cycle extending past 1 liter.  

Timing for Western brewing was 6 minutes, in this example, but it’s harder to estimate the Gongfu total, since I vary each time based on last round results.  Guessing out one typical cycle might be (in seconds) 10, 10, 10, 13, 13, 15, 15, 17, 17, 20, adding to 140 seconds, which could easily round up to 3 minutes depending on tea version.  It’s worth noting that the Gongfu tea brewed (soaked / infused) for half as long, in total, in these parameter examples. Again variations complicate this; I might Gongfu a more intense tea starting out at 6-8 second rounds, and sometimes use longer later round timing.

It’s not so different, for total brewed tea production per dry leaf amount, within the range of normal variations for specific cases.  Looked at another way the infusion strength should be comparable.

In practice, to me, different teas provide much different results depending on which approach is used.  Sheng pu’er, twisted style oolongs (Wuyi Yancha and Dan Cong), and better whole-leaf black teas (like Dian Hong, or even whole-leaf Darjeeling) give better results brewed Gongfu style.  As I see it white tea, green, or shu pu’er often work out about the same, with broken leaf black tea as good or better brewed Western style.  I brew shu pu’er Gongfu style, almost exclusively, so I guess that implies I see it as preferrable, but Western style results are pretty good too. 

Why the differences in outcome related to approach?  I can only guess.  Maybe trying more infusions, seeing that ongoing variation / transition, is more positive in many cases.  It’s possible that I really am brewing teas lighter Gongfu style, in general, and that matches my impression (which would at least partly explain the total infusion time difference).  Two other factors might explain outcome differences, and also why the tea brews for half as long but is still roughly as “brewed out.”

All the pouring in and out adds agitation to the brewing process.  Swirling a Western infusion during brewing might be more comparable.  Also the leaves seem to not completely stop brewing between rounds, when they’re not actually in contact with water, beyond the leaves still being wet.  If you “flash brew” a round, only pouring the water in and right back out, over the 5 seconds or so that takes for two pours, the infusion strength is still significant.  Both factors would enable Gongfu brewing to use far less water contact time for similar extraction, with slightly different results.

a simple set-up for Gongfu brewing

This review goes no further than proposing these secondary causes for variation in results, versus drawing clearer conclusions.  Only experimentation with brewing approaches and parameters using different types would determine the best match to personal preference, which is the main goal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Writing about tea culture in 17 countries


It's a strange idea, writing an index post about other posts.  I'm the admin for the International Tea Talk group and seeing people join from countries I've written about has me considering telling them about such local-specific posts, but I almost never do.  It's hard enough keeping up with moderation tasks, filtering out ads and such.

But why not?  I'll keep this simple, and include a link to the main posts I take to be about tea culture or themes in a different area.  Related to a country like China I've written countless posts, but not really about tea culture there in particular.  Oddly that's something of a blind spot for me, even though some of my closest friends here in Bangkok have been from China, and some work contacts.  We've visited China a few times (twice for vacation, and once for business, and Hong Kong a few more times, and Taiwan, if you count that), but you only see shops on visits (if you don't visit producers), versus interacting with locals about tea culture.  

Here are those post links.

Making tea in Wuyishan; sharing pictures and video from Cindy Chen:  not exactly about local tea culture, except related to tea production as a part of that.  By tea culture I usually mean tea history, preference for types, locally produced styles, or related to enthusiast groups and ceremonial practices and such.  I last visited China two years ago, and wrote about that visit and going to a tea market there in this post:  Tea shopping in a market in Shenzhen, China, with this trip summary on what the rest of the visit was like.

my favorite picture of Cindy

Russian Tea Culture:  that sentence about typical themes covering history and interest groups and such works as a summary of this post.  We visited Russia on vacation three years ago and that started an ongoing interest in Russian tea culture, and just related to the country.  It's a fantastic place to visit, discussed in more detail here:  Travel in Russia, to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Murmansk

a very nice guy who helped me translate in this Moscow shop

Indonesian grower profile with Galung Atri; on Indonesian teas:  this is mostly focused on production over consumption themes, with some perspective on tea history mixed in.  Indonesia is amazing to visit too.  I might say that over and over in talking about different places.  Russia, China, and Indonesia were all personal favorites, but lots of other places were really cool.  Here's more on the visit details:  Tea in Indonesia; one vacation's worth of experiences

we visited a tea plantation in Java but two volcanoes really stole the show there

Wonosari plantation in Eastern Java

Searching for tea in Seoul:  ok, Seoul is amazing to visit, and I'm going to stop saying that.  Tea themes didn't get so far compared to in other places but I least I found and tried some.  I tend to focus on themes like seeing amusement parks and cultural heritage sites on my family vacations, which is appropriate enough.  An old-style spice market there was absolutely amazing but I didn't buy much.

Travel and tea in Japan, versus Korea:  this is really more about travel in Japan than tea in Japan; I didn't get far with the tea themes there.  Again that tied to doing more sightseeing than related cultural investigation.

Tea culture in Poland,  Tea culture in Poland (2), informed by a local tea blogger:  this was a bit random, reviewing tea in a place I had no connection to, experimenting with that theme.  I've never been to Poland.  It was nice that a local tea blogger saw the post and offered a lot of input as an addition, which worked for a nice second post.  I tend to see more about tea culture in places like Latvia and Georgia online; I should follow up about those countries sometime too.

Tea culture in Sweden:  kind of a similar theme, looking into local tea culture in a somewhat random place based on talking to someone living in Sweden (originally from Spain, for what that's worth).  It's interesting how the progression of uptake of awareness and preference works out in different places, typically following a similar pattern, but with some local variations.

Tea shopping in New York City:  even a short visit can work well for a post, just checking in with a few local shops, and passing on what got missed in reviewing leads and later suggestions.  We stayed in Chinatown on this visit, which made for a good starting point.  One of the most promising shops I only heard about later, but I adjusted the post content to mention it.

frantically stomping around NYC in a snowstorm looking for tea was really cool

Searching for tea in Taipei, Taiwan:  kind of similar to the last post mentioned; this is mostly about looking around over one day there.  I found two fantastic shops there (Lin Mao Sen and Lin Hua Tai), so the part about hunting for teas went well as a result.

About Thai teas and tea in Thailand:  I live in Thailand; strange I let this go this far down the list.  A search for Bangkok Chinatown in that blog would turn up more than a dozen posts about meeting people there; I visit a favorite shop there all the time.  I'm not that well integrated into a local tea culture here but of course some of that is around. I wrote about Tea as the hottest latest trend in Bangkok back in 2017 but that was more about bubble tea and matcha catching on.

Vietnamese teas! Green and Black!,  Huyen's family's trials in making Vietnamese teas:  it's strange how my awareness and context shifted so much between this 2014 and 2020 post.  I was so happy to find two basic types of tea on a trip to Hanoi way back when, and then really obscure or novel versions seemed more familiar in the latter post.

my friend Huyen, in one of my favorite tea party photos

Narendra Kumar Gurung on developing local tea production in Nepal:  this is the first Asian country on this list I've never visited (although I hadn't been to Poland or Sweden either).  This is more on production themes, co-op initiatives, local preferences, and transitions in their tea industry than on local tea culture in terms of interest groups and such.

Tea in Kazakhstan:  the first random pick-a-country themed post, reviewing tea culture in a place I'd never been, or had never heard much about.

Assam Teahaus orthodox black tea review:  this review post included a section that's a grower and producer profile based on input from Maddhurjya Gogoi, a contact I consider a friend.  Those issues came up in relation to Assam in a lot of posts, but no single article covered that theme explicitly.  I think one will pretty soon, related to Jaba Borgohain passing on more on that theme.  This post on Trying Assam falap, a variation of bamboo sheng covered some on a local type, and a few others talked about co-op initiatives and more direct sourcing ventures, and changes related to orthodox tea production.  I've written a lot about Darjeeling too, just not background posts, on status there beyond reviewing individual teas.

Kinnari Tea sheng comparison (Nyot Ou district in Phongsaly, Laos):  this covers some development issues related to Northern Laos tea production, about NGO activities and expanding use of feral / native local "wild" tea plants.  It's odd that Laos appears so far down this list, since it has long been one of my favorite sources for interesting and pleasant teas.  Anna of Kinnari is also one of my absolute favorite tea contacts.  Laos tea contact helped get me into tea; about 10 years ago I visited a Laos farm and bought fresh coffee and tea there, before starting this blog.

a wild part of Laos (photo credit and thanks to CCL)

mixing national themes, a Laos Tea tasting in a Moscow bookstore

visiting a Laos / Bolaven plateau tea farm with baby Keo, in 2011

Mission Impossible: reviewing teas from North Korea:  this isn't about local tea culture in terms of interest groups, but it does cross over from production considerations into discussing how national isolation led to it being very challenging to obtain this tea.  The same Chinese guide who brought Dennis Rodman there picked it up for me, so it probably really is from North Korea, but you just never know for sure.

That's probably plenty to mention, and most of the interesting places we've made it to.  I've been to Hong Kong a few times (3, and passing through once?), but didn't focus enough on tea there for it to warrant a post about cool shops or unique tea experiences.  The first two visits were a long time ago, before my tea interest ramped up, and the third was part of that trip to Shenzhen that I did mention, and we were in mainland China for longer that time.  

We've visited other places in South-East Asia, and limited tea themes have came up, but nothing on the same order of these other ventures I just covered.  Singapore's Chinatown is definitely unique but we cycled through a number of Singapore visits before I was as into tea too, in the first half of my 13 year stay here in Thailand.  The same is true for one short trip to Malaysia, and I actually found tea from Cambodia in a trip there but it wasn't much to get excited about, low-grade stuff.  It's nice that I was doing direct comparison posts that made no sense that early on, six years ago.  I still do that.

Thanks for reading along with me, and related discussion, or the positive comments, if any apply.  If you've made it this far at least the first scope did.  If you've got an interesting story you would like to talk about, or see covered here, look me up, probably best at this blog related FB page.  Even if it's not about tea I'm not that touchy about random contacts, and definitely not overwhelmed by the demands of fame just yet.