Monday, October 15, 2012

Tea Friend 茶友 (cha you)

New tea friends at U of O!
I am so excited because I've met so many tea friends here in Eugene. After participating in the ASUO Street Fair at the University of Oregon. It happens twice per year, in the Fall and the Spring, on 13th Street in the heart of campus. I say all of this because I feel that, as far as fairs go, to this point (October 12, 2012), it is poorly marketed. Why? It actually doesn't have to be well marketed due to its location. It actually blocks students path, distracting some and feeding more than a few, as they try to get to class.  But still, as a business person, who enjoys the concept of marketing, it seems like an oversite.

I graduated from the U of O in the Summer of 199? Wow, that's a bad sign. But, here I am, back on campus, just outside of Friendly Hall. After all of my education, I turned out to be the street vendor that students can boss around if they don't understand manners. And I am here to tell you, if you really make it in life, you will be a street vendor, right here on this very campus, where you currently go to school. Well, I guess that's what success meant to me because there I was...a campus street vendor of tea. Actually that has a nice ring to it.

What does it mean to have a tea friend? Is a tea friend someone who you sit around drinking tea with all day or night? It might be, but here is one version of a tea friend. It can be compared with poet friend or, 詩友 (shi you). A poetry friend is one who you take turns sharing poems with. A common interaction between poet friends might be that one of them would read or recite a poem that had a particular theme. Then you would continue on that theme or expand upon it, leading to something else. Tea friends share infusion after infusion of tea. There are no rules about sharing, and this is not a normal way of drinking tea with friends. I see behavior most like this when I drink tea with other tea vendors. It is almost as if we are taking turns sharing the tea and sometimes it is relaxing, but sometimes it is competitive, as if to see who has the better tea. Some play to win, others play to participate and share. It is usually with the aim of a mutual enjoyment of life. Say one person has a nice Yunnan black tea 滇紅 (dian hong), there are many quality levels available (see Tea Matrix 1A) and some are harder to find than others. So part of the fun is if you have one or someone else has one that is of exceptional quality, it is almost as if the game is called to a halt and everyone just takes part in fully enjoying that tea. Like a tasting format, going from lower quality to higher quality is more enjoyable.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's your favorite kind of tea?

Some Answers to an Impossible Question by Josh Chamberlain

People often ask me, “What is your favorite tea?” When I look puzzled, sometimes the question is rephrased as, “If you could only have one kind of tea for the rest of your life, what would it be?” I always thought that was a hard question to answer. But recently, I
have figured out a way to answer this somewhat impossible question: I would choose only the good kind (see the Tea Matrix 1A comparing tea type and quality below). 

I've noticed that quality and type can often be confused. There are so many types of tea.  Even excluding herbals, which I often do, we are left with thousands of choices. The type of tea is not so important, but the quality of the tea leaf is of upmost importance.  Do you like bad iron goddess oolong?  Hardly. Do you like good, great, or amazing iron goddess oolong?  Yes, of course. I love it! Teas of high quality have a common thread even if they are different types.  

I definitely get on tea kicks and become obsessed with a particular tea for a period of time. It is like I cannot get something about that tea out of my head and find myself compelled to brew it again and again. This is not unlike having a favorite song and wanting to hear it over and over again. Making that tea again is the only logical choice because its characteristics are what I am relating to at that particular moment. It is not unlike choosing a person to discuss an important matter with. You choose that person based on what you know of them already, what you think they are going to say, availability, closeness and so on. You could say that the same is true for tea.  

Imagine this: If you could only talk to one person for the rest of your life, who would it be? Now we have the answer. If I could only talk to one person for the rest of my life, it would be a person of high quality. When deciding on favorites, I focus on quality over type. 

That being said, I don't mind the question. Let's talk about tea. Know tea types and subtypes; know the seasonal variations; know farms, regions and elevations; know processing methods; learn how to properly brew tea. Tea is an agricultural product; all of these factors affect the quality of the final product, each creating subtle variations. After you know about this and more... you’ll discover that there really is no favorite. I love you tea!