Thursday, July 12, 2012

Puer class in session at J-TEA
Tea Education: Summer Classes at J-TEA 
by Mical Lewis

In the last month we've had three classes at J-Tea: Tea 101, Puer Class, and Oolong Class. They have all been great successes, not to mention a lot of fun. We would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the customers who attended these classes. This is the first time we've attempted to streamline our curriculum and we appreciate your assistance as we refine our methods. Our classes can only get better from here.

With all of our classes thus far, our goal is to demystify the process of making tea by sharing our one easy method to make a great cup of tea anytime and with any tea. We're also dedicated to teaching you skills to help you navigate the tea world in general, so that no matter where you are you can find and make yourself a good cup of tea. Bottom line: we want to help you discover your own personal likes and dislikes about tea and to give you a real feel for this amazing beverage. After all, taste is a personal thing that you develop over time. And the only way to develop a taste for tea is to drink more of it.

There are more classes headed your way so stay tuned.

Coming up in July and August:

Dong Ding Class: Learn what makes tea grown on this Taiwanese mountain so awe inspiring

Formosa Class: Discover how leaf-hoppers make this tea so amazing and why

Tea Stories: Learn the fascinating histories behind the names of our teas

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tea on the Road: Reuniting with the Guywan
On a recent road trip I was happy to reunite with an old friend, the guywan. I hadn’t planned to be reunited with this vessel in such a way. In fact, I didn't have much of a plan for how I would be drinking tea on this particular trip. I was making a solo journey of about 1,660 miles and I brought a minimal selection of tea tools: a guy wan, a thermos, and some tea. Somehow, I knew that this would be enough. Yet, I didn't connect the dots that I would be drinking straight from the guywan. Or I guess what I didn't imagine is the positive impact that this reunification would have on the trip.

I enjoyed many simple elements about this process. First on the list: how well the guywan fit into the vehicle’s cup holder. This particular cup holder was thoughtfully placed on the end of the wide central console armrest. I never thought I would refer to a car’s cup holder and a guywan in the same sentence, but this just reminds me that life is never actually how we think it is going to be. But let's not digress. After a few practice brew sessions, I had it down. I was drinking brew after brew, switching the leaves by scooping them out of the little bowl, tossing them on the floor mat, doing a quick rinse using as little water as possible, and then using that to water the leaves I had just dumped on the floor mat. Then I added a different type of leaf and started again. In this way, I would brew tea for hours at a time.

Lessons from Brewing on the Open Road
Use less tea; about 5 grams is enough. If the tea starts to get too strong, you have two choices. Drink strong tea or add hot water for a milder version. Sip the hot infusion and as it cools a bit, drinking will become easier. I find I can take sips from very hot things and if you feel comfortable doing this, I totally recommend it. Sipping away, I noticed that the tea cooled as time went by. Eventually I was down to the last drops. Sometimes this would be very strong. For the first couple of brews, I didn't relax enough to realize that instead of drinking such a strong infusion, I could just add water. But eventually I did have this revolution. Then I could choose. I could either drink the strong stuff if I was feeling tired and needed a boost, or I could add a bit of water and keep it going.

I have a large thermos with a tight seal because I feel that this is one of the tools that really helps me enjoy tea on the go. Regarding the thermos, I recommend purchasing a brand new thermos and using it for hot water only. Never put anything other than water in this thermos. I filled it up before I left and the hot water flowed for a full 24 hours following. In fact, I found that I enjoyed the tea for the second 12 hours even more. By then, the water temperature had dropped and it was more tolerable for drinking (tea) and driving.

Speaking of hot beverages on the road, there is some danger involved in brewing and driving. If possible, train members of your travel team to assist in driver's tea preparation. Added risk aside, I felt as though I benefited greatly from this miraculous tea rediscovery. Instead of feeling bored as miles loomed ahead of me, I felt both alert and relaxed. The miles faded away as I enjoyed whole leaf oolong tea of various types and strengths. Really, tea is the perfect driving companion.  
Leaves sit dry in cup, hot water is added, leaves unfurl and open and are happy to be in water, as if coming back to life.